I went to my first critique session this week with professional artists. These are people who have been making their art for 30+ years, who have taught art at the university level, and whose entire careers have been built around exhibits and venues and critics and awards and catalogs. This group meets monthly in the studio of one of the artists. (His studio was AWESOME, complete with two-story north-facing windows and a loft for storing his many huge canvases.) The artists bring pieces they are working on or have recently completed. To say that I felt intimidated would be a huge understatement.
I brought to the critique one little (11”x15”) unframed collage finished last week. I didn’t work from a photo on this one; rather, I used an old watercolor as the basis, and my goal had been to use up as many small scraps as I could:
There was a dramatic pause as everyone viewed my tiny piece propped up on a giant black easel. Some walked far away; others moved in close. The group leader (formerly the illustrator for all the Beverly Cleary books and myriads of other children’s books) started off by making the same comment as last week’s judge at the Atlanta Artists Center: “It is remarkable how this looks good both far away and up close.” He had two suggestions for improvement: 1) remove the face in the clouds on the right and 2) add on more sheets of paper to take the image out further. He wanted to see more of my imagination. They all wanted to see examples of my work, so I whipped out my “mini-Pad” and showed them part of my portfolio. The outcome: I have been invited to join the group.
I was flattered, awed, and humbled by the experience of being critiqued, of viewing so many other works of art up close, and of hearing about other artists’ processes. “Paradise City” is a trifle, so I’ve decided not to make any of the suggested changes, but I will keep in mind the notion of expanding my vision and going larger in the future. I will release the idea that I should be working faster, and, instead, will let my imagination soar . . .