Sitting in judgement of another’s artistic efforts should to be taken seriously and done with sensitivity. Everyone that picks up a brush or pastel stick is hoping to communicate with his or her audience. But, since we are so close to our works, we often lack perspective. This leads us to seek the advice and approval of artistic peers.
Two common means of receiving this input is through critiques and by entering exhibitions. It is imperative to understand our intentions before doing either. Are we looking for technical advice that may resolve a painting dilemma or are we looking for validation for the hard work we have done? Both are valuable but very different in expectation.
With a critique, we are interacting on a more personal level. A dialogue is established to gain advice and clarity. Be direct with the critic. Communicate your desires: Is it specific to the nuts and bolts of a certain painting or are you looking for conceptual guidance around the direction your paintings are going. A good critique can facilitate both (click here to see my earlier blog on the subject).
The goal in entering exhibitions is to receive the approval of painting peers and to gain exposure to a wider audience. When pastel was considered a minor sketching medium, groups of visionary artists banded together and formed several societies. These societies then mounted exhibitions to gain exposure. This has lead to dozens, if not hundreds, of “pastel only” exhibits every year across the United States and other countries. With the current popularity of the medium, the number of entries has risen. Being accepted into one of these exhibitions can no longer be taken for granted. Often as little as ten percent of the entries are selected. When it comes to the prizes, even fewer will be recognized. This should not discourage entry but add to the validation of acceptance and make us work harder.
Whether we are seeking criticism or entering a national exhibition, it is valuable to remember it is merely one person’s opinion. I was reminded of this recently when ask to be the juror of awards for a major national exhibition. The work was stunning and the task of placing awards daunting. After considerable time and effort, the award pieces were chosen. A few months later, I was in attendance at another major national exhibition and noticed that the painting I had selected as best of show was in the exhibit, no small feat considering the number of entrants, but had not received even an honorable mention. This didn’t lessen my opinion of the painting but instead reinforced my belief that whenever we place our work out for criticism or judgment, we are merely receiving one opinion on any given day; so keep it in perspective. Congratulate yourself when you win, console yourself when you lose, but remember tomorrow is another day in front of the blank surface.
MORE RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS
Did you know that the instruction Richard McKinley has shared in the Pastel Pointers blog and magazine columns has been collected into a book? The book by the same name is available now for pre-orders and will be ready for shipping in late November. Click here to check it out in the new, expanded NorthLight Shop.