Tuesday, September 29, 2009

finished piece, critiquing our art

Red Petal Peony, 5 3/4" x 15 1/4", coloured pencil on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

It has been a while since you have seen this one as a work in progress. Here it is finished. You might recall that in the past I talked about not being one to work in a series. I had hoped to attempt a series of large, simplified and somewhat abstracted rose pieces. Well, I finished two and then I got distracted by peonies. So here are the four below...The rose pieces are my favourites and I think I will do another one some day. That would make three for the rose series. For now, I guess this is the 'petal series'. :-)

When I returned from the CPSA's convention in Atlanta, I mentioned that I would write about a workshop I attended. Well, it has been a while but what the heck...

The workshop involved watching a mock jury in action. Three distinguished cp artists: Jeffrey Smart Baisden, Elizabeth Patterson and James Mateer made up the panel of judges and the moderator of the workshop was CPSA founder, Vera Curnow. The art being juried was from 25 submissions for a non-CPSA show. There was a variety of styles, subject matter and media. The neat thing about this workshop is that as the jurors examined the projected images, they spoke their thoughts about each piece into their microphones allowing those of us in the audience to watch and listen to the process.

So what are judges looking for? Is there anything here that we can use when reflecting upon our own work?

First of all, it seemed that factors like composition, handling of values and edges, drafting skills etc. were expected to be executed well. Of course it got their attention when they weren't executed well but the judges were looking for more than technical ability. What each judge articulated time and again, is that they were looking for something that "gave impact at first glance". Originality was a big plus. Was there an emotional response?

Work that was well executed was dismissed on the grounds that work like it had been "seen a thousand times". Sentimental work or work that was "too sweet" and "warm and fuzzy" was readily dismissed.

The judges were also looking for consistency in a painting. Was the artist technically consistent across a piece and was there balance? Was there a sense of 'wholeness'? Elizabeth was very turned off by bold colourful signatures. They were too distracting. James often referred to any technical glitches that he saw (as he said, "Don't show what you don't know") and he seemed to focus on the design of a piece and he looked for movement.

Jeffrey commented a few times that the artist needed to do more than record information, she "wanted to be moved". She also stated that she wanted "punch, impact" and "something that would jar my teeth"! Elizabeth commented on how the artist "shouldn't make it a chore for your audience to figure it out". Again and again the panel referred to the mood of a piece, did it make them curious, did it make them want to think about it, was it compelling, was it thoughtful, was there emotion?

Ultimately, whether the piece was a pastel or an oil or an abstract or a traditional painting, what the judges were looking for was to see what the artist was trying to say. What was the point of their art? They commented that the artist should be able to convey why they are doing what they are doing.

This was a very intriguing event to watch unfold. I found their views insightful into the process of jurying. Perhaps their comments will give you something to ponder the next time you head to the studio. What are you trying to say? What is the point of your art? Is your art original, compelling and does it convey emotion?

Of course there is also the reality that work that sells is often sentimental and has been seen a thousand times before! :-) I recently read a comment on artist Aili Kurtis's website and I quote: "Human perception of what is good or bad varies from human to human and from one culture to the next." Think about what has been thought of as good art or bad art over the past few hundred years in Western culture...humm...perceptions do shift and change. For now, I am just going to focus on whether or not my next piece might just jar someone's teeth!

And now for my favourite garden plants, brown eyed susans and purple coneflowers. I transplanted these as small clumps from my former home two years ago. They are spreading and thriving beautifully.

And oh the apples I am getting this year off our elderly apple tree. I am busy these evenings cooking up apples (with butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, lemon juice and brown sugar) to store in the freezer. Absolutely yummy with french toast and pancakes.


Paula Pertile said...

The petals are very "Georgia O'Keefe", and wonderful.

Thanks for the insights into the judging - VERY helpful!

The apples sound yummy!

Lynda Schumacher said...

Hi Teresa;

I was not able to attend the mock jury workshop in Atlanta, and enjoyed reading your description of it.

I think I am rather partial to the rose pieces myself............and I wish I was your neighbor so you could bring me over some of those apples you have been cooking up!

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Paula, hey I will take a Georgia O'Keefe comparison anyday!! Many thanks!!! :-)

Hey Lynda, yes - yeah for organic old growth apples. They are smaller than what we are used to in the grocery store and they have a few blemishes but they sure cook up great in a pie or applesauce or my breakfast saute...yum, yum. I wish you were my neighbour so I could hang out in your fabulous barn!

Jennie Norris said...

What a great post, thanks for sharing - I would love to sit in on a jury process.

I love your petals series, the top right Peony in the photo is my favorite. They are all beautiful!

CountryDreaming said...

Your Red Petal Peony looks to me like a dancer in a red bodysuit flourishing her skirt to show off her legs, with an arm swooping gracefully downwards and her face partially hidden with coyness.

The jurying process sounds cool. It seems the bottom line is a quality image which communicates a unique meaning dramatically and distinctively.

My approach to juried gallery exhibitions is that I only submit work which I would sincerely enjoy seeing framed on my own living room wall. Such that earlier this year, I only submitted one piece to a particular show even though we were allowed to submit three. This seemed to surprise one of the gallery employees who maybe is used to having artists submit as much as they absolutely can just to get their art and name up on the wall multiple times, since it would cost me the same entry fee to enter three as to enter one. However, I personally didn't feel right submitting anything else available from my current body of work at the time.

Love your combo of brown-eyed susans and purple coneflowers! And I want to try your applesauce recipe, it's making me hungry!

Jeanette said...

Your series of petals is wonderful. I love the twists and turns and subtle changes in colour and light.

I can understand the judges' criteria and reasoning and I think everyone who submits a piece for scrutiny knows in their heart of heart whether or not it has flaws, be it composition or technical and should not be surprised if there's a less than warm reception or critique. I believe that every critique I have had, whether good or bad, I really knew in advance. I just needed someone else to confirm it. It helps me grow.

Subject matter does provoke emotional responses in people and that can be so subjective. But I agree the doe-eyed-child-with-the-puppy type of art is just plain sappy and reeks of dime store poster art. While it may have a market, it does make a lot of people cringe.

Jennifer Rose said...

I thought of Georgia O'Keefe just like Paula did. They are all lovely looking and look great together.

I would have loved to attend that workshop. its always interesting hearing how judges think. I can't stand when people send in the sappy art in hopes of getting a prise. yes it has its place but i don't think its in a serious competition.

Jan said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful paintings and your comments on the jury workshop.

We have a lot of apple trees but the deer and raccoons (& even foxes & coyotes!) are getting to them before we do for the most part! The gray foxes will even climb the trees!

Pencil Sanity said...

Your Petal series is wonderful and loved reading the judges expectations. Thanks for the info. I still know very little about color pencil but love using them. There is much to learn.
I have a bunch of apples from the tree that came with the house, but for some reason they are not ripe yet and it is getting quite cold out in the next week or two. I wonder if I can ripen them in the spare room.

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jennie, thanks! And yes,it was very interesting to hear the three judges talk as they examined each piece. Those of us in the audience had a sheet listing the same info as the judges - title of the piece, size etc. and we were to judge along with them to see if we agreed with their opinions. It was a very intense process and not as easy as it might seem.

Well gosh CountryDreaming what a imaginative, lovely image to go with this piece!! Thanks for sharing it.

I agree with your idea of only submitting work that you truly believe in.

Hi Jeanette. Ah yes, admitting or owning the flaws! :-)

I do think it is interesting when what judges are looking for collides with the market place. I have seen many award winning pieces that I 'got' from an artistic perspective but that I would never consider purchasing. Having said that, I don't own any doe eyed children with puppy paintings either! :-)

Hey there Jennifer Rose, thanks for the 'Georgia' comment. I couldn't hear this often enough. :-)

Hi Jan, thank you! Yes I do find that all wildlife seems to like apples. When we first moved here, we had deer everyday eating at this tree in the backyard. Then we fenced a large part of our rear property so our dog could run around like a wild creature and so far the deer haven't jumped the fence. I have been bagging up some of my cooking rejects and the cores and peels to leave in the forest instead of putting them in the compost. There is an apple tree outside of the 'compound' so that makes me feel less guilty.

Hi Maria! I have heard that a bit of frost actually improves the taste of apples but a hard frost isn't good for the fruit. So, if you are in danger of a heavy frost, I would bring the apples in. Even if they are tart, you can use them in baking - just add more sugar! :-)

Laure Ferlita said...

Love the series and would be curious to hear what you're learnings are - I've always been told that to truly learn something about one's art one should work in a series. So far, I'm still a bit too scattered to pull it off.

Loved reading about the mock jury. I would love to see other art societies pick this idea up at their annual shows so that artists have a chance to hear first hand what to strive for in creating show-winning art.

Carlynne said...

Great post Teresa! Thanks for sharing the info about the show, it's good to hear about the comments made. Love your composition on the posted piece also, I'm really fond of the vertical format and design. Nice work!

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Laure. Humm...what have I learned from working in a series? Actually, I haven't learned too much from working on all of these petals - other than that I get bored working on the same subject matter back to back. :-) Just what I expected!!

Carlynne, thanks for stopping by. Thanks also for you kind words, they are much appreciated.

Teresa said...

Such thought-provoking and helpful information... thank you for sharing!

Your "petals" series is so beautiful.

And, do we get the recipe for the apple concoction? :-)

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Teresa, I would share the apple recipe if I had one. I just improvise this sort of thing. What I do is quite simple - I peel and core a few apples, cut them into slices and I then put them in a pan over medium heat with some butter. I add some lemon juice and my favourite 'goes great with apples' spices (ones like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves). If your apples are quite tart then you could add a bit of brown sugar or a splash of apple cider. They cook up real quick and are great with waffles or pancakes. I also add custard and maple syrup. :-)