Last evening I went to painting class. Several of the students, as well as Angie, had been to the conference this weekend, so there was much discussion about what had been seen, heard, and done.
I had already spoken to one of my fellow students about my thoughts about the Saturday juror critique and knew that reactions to his style of speaking had been mixed (to say the least).
Fortunately for me, Angie had attended the same critique I did and had (apparently) done a better job of listening to the juror’s critique. She said the juror had really liked my work, and the comments that I had taken as dismissive (“You can’t go wrong with primaries”) were really complimentary; she knew this because she had seen him juror the show for the awards.
She was also able to explain that what the juror had meant by “too pretty” had to do with the horses’ eyes.
When my image flashed up on the HUGE screen in the critique room I dimly remember a flinch at the long, curved eyelashes on the horses. I very vaguely remember thinking to myself I should fix that (horses actually have eyelashes that are very straight, think, and downward.) In the excitement of everything else I forgot about this.
Angie translated his comments and helped take emotion and a little sting out of the critique. And so I changed the painting.
The changes are very subtle. If I didn’t have a before and after, I’m not sure I could prove I did anything.
As artists we try to paint with emotion. We take an idea and labor over it, putting all our skill and drive into the execution. But at some point an artist has to take a step back and evaluate. It’s difficult. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “But in the photograph it was like this.” It doesn’t matter. Each painting is new, completely separate from any reference photos. As an artist I am not trying to show off how closely I can copy a photo; I’m trying to share an experience with a viewer who I potentially know nothing about.
Angie often says that photographs can do things that paintings cannot. A photograph only shows what was there at particular point in time. Photographers can manipulate many things to effect composition, light, and subject; this effects mood and what the viewer perceives. Painters have to create everything; we can be just as manipulative as photographers, but viewers will look at each thing in a painting and understand that the artist put it there. They are less forgiving of the occasional piece of mis-information; when was the last time you saw a power plug in a painting, but so many photographs might have the edge of this common item in a corner.
I heard last year’s spring juror, Mary Ann Beckworth, say this: “Even if its right, it’s wrong.” Paintings have to be correct for the viewer.
I really thought I had taken Burridge’s critique well, but after listening to Angie last evening I agnized that I had only heard how he said what he said, not what he said.
I still have a ways to go with accepting criticism.