Monday, December 13, 2010

Everyone's A Critic!?

I took my daughter to National Portfolio Day so she could meet art schools she is interested in attending. I always thought she had talent, she's been drawing since she was a baby. In fact her drawing at age 2 led her to the Center for Academic Precocity.

She gets straight A's in Art, has taken extra-curricular art classes and is the president of the Art Honor Society and volunteers for Free Arts.

I know I am biased. But I thought the schools would be somewhat impressed...

She brought a portfolio with drawings and paintings.

Now, mind you, she's an honor student, taking AP classes, with great grades...and when not doing homework, she's in a band [and writes music], lies on the couch and has pretty normal life. So, I suppose she should have spent more time making art or taking more art classes... perhaps her portfolio was a bit slim?

Is she the most talented 18 year old? Probably not... I wasn't expecting her to be swept up museum curators upon entry.

I expected a little more consistent feedback. Oh, no one told her she was awful, or wasting her time, but I was surprised that the critiques were completely contradictory!?

School one - Do more figure drawing. Not from photos, from life. Your paintings are your worst work. Work on shading. Your drawings in graphite are your best work. Forget Fine Art, go for Illustraton. Not impressed, but the critic is in the photography department. Do more drawings and send them in [uh... deadline for application is NOW-ish?] not exactly encouraging, but not bad... at least they had a conversation and he was not discouraging her.

School two - Do more still lifes. Your paintings are flat. No other feedback.

School three - Very positive, actually really liked some work [paintings] and gave her some hints on improving work and how to edit her portfolio for submission. They talked at length about the school, the town the school is in and how she would fit in. But, this was never a school she considered.

School four - Your paintings are your best work. Your work is best when telling a story. Come visit the school. [I know this school values academics as highly as art work]. It was worth waiting over 2 hours in line for that...

The lines for the other schools she was interested in were WAY too long,  so we were out of time. I wouldn't say she was discouraged, though - she was given a lot of good ideas, inconsistent as they were. She has a lot work to do - too bad finals start this week.

BTW, she wants to be an Art Teacher.

If you think I"m a whining, unrealistic Mom - NO - I know she will be faced with criticism throughout art school - same thing with any artistic endeavor. And I know better than anyone you need to develop a thick skin and a strong point of view.

In college, my life drawing prof absolutely ignored me the entire semester. Would not look at my work or speak to me, gave me no feedback whatsoever... until the final critique, when she said my drawings looked like cartoons...[thanks for all the help, bitch!] and one painting prof told me to stay home and create 12 paintings...that I didn't need his class [lazy me did so, got an A, but didn't learn a flipping thing from him!]. And I would suggest not taking Art History at 7:00 a.m. - they dim the lights and a monotone professor will put you right back to sleep during the slide presentation.

I was wondering what would have happened if I had taken MY portfolio in for review. At every art show or gallery opening, viewers positively swoon over my work, but I can image the comments from critics now... don't worry, I can take it.

Here's some I've had in the past mostly from galleries that actually SELL my work:
You should paint celebrities.
You shouldn't do close-ups... put your subjects in a room.
Your strongest work is portraits,
Ah, your work is just pretty pictures, it needs to be about something.
Don't put writing or words in your work.
Work bigger, much bigger.
We can only sell smaller pieces.
Don't paint celebrities.
No one like portraits, can you do landscapes?

Do you think being an artist is easy? Do you think being self-employed is a dream? No bosses?
Ha - a self-employed artist has a million bosses - critics, gallery owners, art-collectors and everyone who sees your work in person, everyone's a critic!

Get ready, daughter!


Doug Steward said...

Worst and best advice I ever got was in my collage 101 painting class. Instructor walked in at the beginning of the first class and stated that we would have to produce 12 paintings by the end of the semester. He then looked at everyone and stated "Paint is paint, so paint." He then swiveled and left the room.

We did not see him for the next two classes.

Made all of us Art Majors in the class pissed off. So we all ganged together and taught each other how to paint. He ended up being a pretty good instructor at the end. Made some really good friends and learned that its not where you go to collage but what you wrest out of any situation.

Hmmm and I'm still painting, go figure.

Anonymous said...

amen sandy..good luck with your is a hard road we know.. you are a great writer, by the way..

Chris Rothenbach said...

Geeze, that sounds miserable. I laughed at your comment about Art History. I dozed off and my notes were scribbles no matter what time of day I took it.