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Our critiques range from the "formal", a written assessment to
"informal" where we all sit around and discuss the work. Each artist
must state their thesis statement, and tell us what they are working on,
how they plan to get to their thesis statement, and any problems they
have encountered so far. They can accompany their statements with
sketches, etc. I am preparing them for the notion that they will have
to explain themselves at portfolio reviews, AND again, that the
difference between an artist with a paintbrush and a monkey with a
paintbrush, is that one of them is capable of aesthetic and intellectual
In the beginning classes, for example, the thesis statements reflect the
specific goal of the lesson. A typical thesis statement on line might
be "I am going to show how line can show tension". The class is then
asked to each give one suggestion to make the piece stronger. The
answers vary, but eveyone must come up with one...a kind of brain
storming technique. The artist may choose to use, combine, or ignore,
but must respect each suggest, just as the critiquers respect the
artist. Even if the piece is successful, I ask the students to consider
"if you had to spend the rest of your life making this piece stronger,
what would you do". Everyone contributes, and guess what? I have found
the work to get stronger, and the bond between the art students deeper.
By the time I have them in my advanced art class, they can't wait for
crits, so that they can EXPLAIN their ideas, and informal crits happen
every day between students.
AND the other by product is,they use their time wisely, because they are
rejuvenated with ideas to make the work stronger.
AND they all get into at least 6 highpowered art schools on the east
coast. Not because their work is any stronger than anyone else's, but
because you can't shut them up! Interviews are "no big whoop" for
them....and if you haven't gathered by now, their art teacher loves to
I am a big proponent of having your work speak for itself, but the only
way artists will ever know if the art is being received, is to ask
someone what they make of it....and then rethink what you had intended
and what has come out....If we use vocabulary, principals and elements
of design, techniques, and the background of art history to make our
art, we certainly have purpose in the piece, whether functional,
aesthetic, emotional, or abstract, and the only way to determine whether
that function is clear is through critiques.