Art teachers and workshop participants have differing opinions about the value of critique sessions in which all the students’ drawings or paintings are placed in front of the class, the instructor points out strengths and weaknesses in the pictures, and then members of the group are invited to comment. William Hook prefers not to hold these sessions at the end of each day or on the last day of a workshop because he finds the students have such varying levels of skill and experience that it isn’t fair to compare one to another. Other teachers forgo these group meetings because they are sensitive to the fact that some students dread having their artwork reviewed in front of the entire class. Nevertheless, the vast majority of teachers find it helpful to review the degree to which the students have understood and applied the information provided during the class or workshop, and they use the occasion as a way of praising the students’ accomplishments while identifying areas in which they can make improvements. For example, Jack Beal always says something encouraging to the artists who participate in his workshops, even if it is only to identify the progress they made over the week they studied with him in Oneonta, New York; and he points out ways they can get better at composing their pictures and presenting personal interpretations of the subject matter.
I’ve participated in a few workshops and have been anxious about the comments the instructor might make as he or she got closer to my picture, so I know what it feels like to have my paintings criticized. I was certain the instructors and workshop participants wouldn’t be cruel to the guy who was reporting on their workshops, but I was nervous nonetheless. I listened carefully and remembered everything that was said, especially the recommendations for making improvements. In the end I was glad I participated and felt I was given some useful advice, so I have positive feelings about the entire process. Still, I would be interested in the comments you might like to make about leading that kind of review process or being one of the people whose artwork was critiqued.