On being critiqued……..

by martin davis artist

Well the weeks are just flying by and summer’s almost here….I wish!

Got some news a few days ago that I hadn’t been selected to go on the Sky Landscape artist of the year. Well I didn’t expect much more, the odds against must be astronomical. Maybe I just wasn’t interesting enough or televisual (I didn’t send them a pic which would’ve explained it). Pity though I would have relished the challenge in more than one respect: I don’t paint enough landscapes, so don’t feel I’m at my v best with them, nor do I paint quickly and the time limits would’ve presented a definite challenge, and I don’t usually paint en plein air – or in a group – either so I’d have been well ‘n truly out of my comfort zone. But we all need that from time to time don’t you think? I felt it so much myself that I have joined some fellow artists for some organise plein-air sessions. Really looking forward to that!

Anyway what else’s new? Yesterday I was at the marvellous Leabrooks Artists Forum meeting @ Leabrooks Art Centre in Alfreton. To be honest I attended with some foreboding because I had agreed in advance to submit one of my paintings to a spot of peer group critique! aaaagh!! I can tell you that despite my false insouciance and bravado I was bricking it, it’s one thing to get feedback from the general public, the non-artisan. But to be in receipt of the considered appraisal of a large number of other artists – all of whom I greatly admire as artists in their own right – is quite something else I can tell you.

This is the piece I submitted, it’s called The Portraitist and I normally consider it one of my most accomplished works – not without it’s faults but successful (to me) nonetheless:

The Portraitist

We did wonder (Carol & I) whether the assembled group would say anything much and what we would do if not, but we needn’t have worried. If there is one thing artists love talking about it’s art. It developed into a very lively – you might say heated – debate about the relative merits of the painting. You would not believe the range of differing views put forward, which all goes to show that the old adage about nothing being right or wrong in art is so true. I will say though that the one common thread running through them all though was the sheer even handedness and generosity of the observations made.

Needless to say the notion that I was already well aware of all the failings of the piece of work I’d done were pretty soon quoshed and I came away with quite a few extra ones for my trouble. But I tell you what – what a sobering and straitening exercise it is to go through with it, especially for something like art that is so intrinsically passionate. I discovered that it’s not only one’s driving ability that it’s difficult to accept criticism of!

Thank you to all the contributing artists one and all. Painful but worth it!

ps. on the next blog I will give a sneaky peek of my progress with the “new” painting style – you know the looser, sketchier style I was going to try to adopt? well not so easy, but more later.