A few weeks back I read an interesting and thought-provoking article in Jane Dunnewold's HeArtCloth Quartly titled "The Art of Critique" (Winter 2007). The general thrust of the article is posing and answering the question "What are my responsibilities when seeking or offering criticism?" Jane includes a detailed discussion of the tools of artistic critique. For example a well-rounded knowledge of color theory, design, etc. are essential to offering a productive critique. She also stresses the need for ethical, detached feedback--not getting into personal attack. I wasn't surprised by any of these points, and frankly it's nice to have a gentle reminder every so often. The point in the article that struck me most was the responsibility of the artist to be clear with themselves and others about the nature of the criticism being sought. In particular there is a clear difference between asking for feedback on a finished piece and asking for assistance in resolving issues with a work-in-progress. This has been kicking around in my head ever since I read it. I recently (i.e., 15 minutes ago) had the experiencing of asking a very open-ended question (mistake #1) at the wrong time (mistake #2) and probably from the wrong person (mistake #3). To be specific: I asked Dan his design opinion about a piece I'm working on when he was trying to eat. It seemed like a perfectly fine time to me. I mean, gosh, I'd gladly talk about art with my mouth full! I value Dan's opinion, but perhaps this particular situation might have been akin to him asking my opinion about which brand of motor oil I think he should put in the car. My answer probably would have been something like, "Oil? I thought they ran on gasoline?" An exaggeration yes, but it makes a point. It's no reflection on Dan. I keep wanting this to be his thing, but it's not.
I wish I could say this was a great learning experience, but I've made this mistake before and I still haven't learned. I'm going to take this as another good motivator for me to connect with some other local artists for this type of support.