Thursday, October 06, 2022

Are you curious about critique groups?

Run-Run collage from artists book by Judith Hoffman
A page from my recent in-progress book, running figures that needed faces.

Years ago when I mentioned critique groups to a friend she said “oh, no! I’m not interested in brutal criticism.” But that’s not what I’m talking about. In the groups I have been in people make suggestions, give feedback and say what they like. They don't attack. A critique is a way to hear what other people see in your work. After working on something for weeks or months, I can’t see it clearly any more. I often come to dislike whatever it is and I only see the flaws. If my critique group likes something I don’t, I reconsider. If they think something isn’t right, I also reconsider. I don’t feel bound to go with their ideas but many of their suggestions are useful. 

Here are some examples of suggestions and benefits: 

1. Don observes that most of my stuff is wonky (in a good way). I loved that and try to get that to happen now. I'm actually not sure I do, but it's a goal.

2. I have a few silhouettes in my most recent book. One has a face, the others do not. Linda (instagram) says “put a face on it.” I try it with tracing paper and think it’s a great idea. So I add faces. 

3. Rae (Etsy) says I have a sense of humor in my books. I think I do, but don't expect others to get it. So I’m delighted.

4. Karen (Instagram) likes my "borders - not borders." These kinds of comments are helpful. I feel a lot of doubt about many things. And thinking of them as bordering on borders is helpfu. I can break more rules, even if they are rules I made for myself.

5. I was writing layers of text on book pages - several sentences on top of each other. L. suggested I blow them up and use them as collage material. I tried this but it didn't work. They look too fuzzy to me.

6. There have also been practical suggestions, sealing drawings with shellac is one I loved.

7. I am fascinated by the creative process. Not the art mumbo-jumbo about Post Modern blah-blah, but how people think, what they struggle with and what comes easily. I get to see this in the group.

8. The meetings are a mini-deadline for me. I want to have some kind of progress to show so I put in a little extra effort when I can. We also have good conversations about creativity and life in general. At the end of our meetings I feel inspired.

There are lots more examples, these just spring to mind.

Sometimes people have suggestions that don’t work out, or that don’t appeal to me. They understand if I don’t take their advice. They may not take my advice, I understand that too. I do the same thing with Jim. We offer each other advice about our projects but it’s fine to ignore it. I also get feedback from a few friends. These trusted eyes are very helpful. It’s important to me that the people I show my work-in-progress know me and know more or less where I want to go with the project. They are people I know and like and trust to be thoughtful in their comments. I like their projects and how they think. If I'm going to open myself up for criticism, some kind of connection is important to me. It's very hard to find that. Covid ruined some of my good feedback. Hopefully that will eventually not be an issue.

Do you have a good source of critique and feedback? Does it work for you?

On the blog notifications - I made a mistake. Apparently if you were signed up for notifications before Blogger changed their widgets, you will still be notified. I didn't read the email from Blogger very carefully. Some of you are getting two notifications. Feel free to tell me to stop emailing you at judithDOTzDOThoffmanATgmailDOTcom.