Surviving Art School Critiques

Have you ever had someone reach into your chest with a cold gripping hand, rip out your beating heart, then dance on it gleefully while staring you in the eyes?  If you have ever attended art school, the answer is yes.  It’s called “The Critique”.   Critiques in art school are simply par for the course, but they can be difficult.  Last week we experienced our first critique in painting class and the experience brought to mind the following tips:

Unhealthy ways of coping with harsh critiques:

1)      Respond to each criticism with “Your momma!”  or “Suck it!”

2)      Drown your sorrows in booze, food, tears, and/or reality television

3)      Blame the medium (bad paint, defective clay, a leaky pen)

4)      Blame the teacher

5)      Quit and become an accountant or a nurse, like your parents told you to in the first place!

Healthy ways of coping with harsh critiques

1)      Separate the sound and helpful advice from the subjective personal opinions or agenda of the critic

2)      Identify how you can apply the helpful criticism in future work

3)      Realize that artistic development is a journey, not a destination

4)      Know that your art means a lot to someone out there, even if that someone is only you; respect that!

5)      Realize that the person critiquing you has their own artistic struggles (Most art teachers are, or have been, working artists themselves, with their own collection of unsold, unloved work collecting dust in their studios.  And your fellow classmates, regardless of how talented, are just students themselves, some of whom may not even end up pursuing art after graduation, so that provides some perspective.)

6)      If push comes to shove, respond to each nasty critique with “Your momma!” and keep doing what you love!

Following are a bunch of pictures of the advanced level students’ presentation in Life Drawing and the first critique in my Painting I class.  The pictures don’t do them justice; the work is phenomenal!

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