Episode 10: Critiques

  • @laurel-aylesworth No. I just have an instagram account. I am not currently marketing my work. I am a full-time art teacher and in grad school. So this is my diversion from what I should be doing. 🙂 You can follow me if you want to see my work. @chrisakinsart

  • Jake, Will, and Lee,

    I love the podcasts, guys. I listen to them on my drive to work.

    The discussion you had regarding critiques brought my thoughts to those negative critiques I've read about the works of other very accomplished artists. Norman Rockwell comes to mind. So does Thomas Kinkade, Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, and even Charles Shultz.

    The critiques of all of the above mentioned, well known, artists' work has been ruthless. And yet, after their deaths their works are revered. (And, yes, I've even been to a Charles Shultz exhibit at an art museum.)

    I sat next to a guy at a baseball game some years ago and he was yelling the most horrible insults at the guy playing right field. His sentiments were clearly reflecting his loyalty to the opposite team and he had, in no way, any interest in furthering the skills of the player.

    If a critique is to be constructive, as it should be, then the real question is how do we know, as artists, if the critic offering the critique is doing so with a teacher's heart and genuinely interested in helping the artist improve? If so, then the next question is, "How do I use this information?"

    Critiques can be critiqued, too.

    Just yesterday I was at a restaurant. It is a "sit down" restaurant but they also offer an "all you can eat" salad bar. The two women across from me were loading up on the salad bar. I mean their plates were piled as high as Richard Dreyfuss's mashed potatoes in the movie "Close Encounters."

    When they couldn't stuff their faces any further they asked the waitress for a "take out" box. The waitress informed them that "take out" boxes are not offered for the "all you can eat" buffet (after all, it is NOT the "all you can eat AND THEN SOME" buffet!).

    So the ladies became angry. They asked for the manager. I heard them telling the manager that their waitress was rude and unprofessional. (I had the same waitress, by the way. She was as sweet as can be.) Then I saw one of the ladies writing something very wordy on a napkin. Oh my gosh! The waitress was going to be reading a horrible critique!

    Horrible and horribly self serving.

    I felt bad for the waitress. Would this cause her to quit? Would this ruin her day?

    So, focusing back on art, I knew a very talented portrait artist. He worked in pastels. He had an easel set up at a local art supply store and I used to watch him work. I learned a lot by just watching him.

    One day I asked him if he was part of the local Artist's Guild. He said he applied but was rejected. I asked why and he said they told him his work was too "photo realistic." I knew what they meant. His work was VERY photo realistic. But it was also beautiful and I'm sure the people who have his works hanging in their homes think so as well.

    Here's the part that gets to me. That same Artist's Guild invited a portrait artist from New York to show his work in their gallery for a full month. Among the oils were also some pastels. Brilliant work, no doubt, but why did the Artist's Guild dismiss the talents of the local artist at the art supply store?

    I guess my point is this. As artists we must simply create. We're never going to please everyone anyway.

    One last thought, in Harry Chapin's song "Mr. Tanner" he tells the story of a baritone that sang beautifully. He worked as a tailor as his day job and saved up enough money to rent out a performance hall where he gave a concert. The reviews in the newspaper read, "Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards. His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
    consistently interesting. Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order."

    Harry Chapin then writes, "He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends. Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
    Excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed. He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes."

    If we truly are made in God's image, then as children of The Creator, we must also have a natural desire to create.

    If you are creating, then keep it up.

    You three gentlemen are making a great contribution to the lives of those you touch. Even the assignments you illustrated that you "hated" doing has given great joy to those who have seen your work.

    Thank you for what you do and thank you for sharing your wisdom and guidance with young people aspiring to become as great as they can at their craft.

    Remember, just before dying, Leonardo Da Vinci said “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”


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