Sunday, March 20, 2011

Everyone's A Critic

You know the old saw:

Those that can-- do.

Those that can't-- teach.

Those that can't do or teach?

They're critics.

And I have to admit that saying went through my head as Dan Kany, an art critic for the Portland (Maine) Press Herald asked to see me at the artist reception I was attending this past Friday night.  I am a participating artist for a month at Bayview Gallery in Brunswick, Maine in a show entitled Local Color.  Bayview is one of the most prestigious galleries here in Maine, in my humble opinion, (That's how IMHO looks spelled out) and I was more than happy to have a few of my paintings in the show.  Mr. Kany was there to offer his critique of the exhibition.  He is a pleasant chap, and totally ruining my misconception of critics, he was spot on in what he had to say about my work.

Now, I have always felt that the one person I have to please with my paintings is myself.  If I don't particularly care for a painting of mine, a thousand people telling me it's great means there are a thousand wrong people in my view.  Conversely, if I feel I succeeded with a painting, a thousand people telling me it's crap is still a thousand wrong people.  And don't get me started on asking loved ones about my work.  According to my beautiful partner Ellen, I have yet to not paint a masterpiece.  (My kids, however, to show their total lack of respect for their father, will gleefully point out any error they think they see.  They are almost always wrong).  But mostly, people want to be nice, so they don't criticize my paintings to my face.  So that essentially leaves it up to yours truly to best assess what works or not.

Therein lies the trouble.  I can only gage my success with a painting on what I wanted to achieve.  If I fail in that, to me, the painting is a failure.  But my viewer doesn't know what I had in mind, all they can see is the final result in front of them.  They may actually like the passage I thought was wrong.  And that's where Mr. Kany comes in.  He pointed out each and every passage in my paintings that he felt were off.  And do you know what?  I knew it.  Passages I labored over and worked out as best as I could, but knew that there was still an undefinable "something's wrong" with them, he pointed to with laser precision.  But he also explained what was wrong with them.  Painful as it may have been to hear it, I was still delighted to hear him offer a solution.

He published his critique in today's paper.  Yeah, some of it stung, but he did forewarn me.  Hey, honesty takes no prisoners.  Funny thing, though.  A patron came over, and in discussing one of my paintings with me, pointed out her favorite part:  The very passage that Mr. Kany felt was wrong.  Which left me with a conundrum:

Which side of the thousand was she a part of? 



Kay said...

great post! I have only had the silent opinion of juror rejections since I left school in May of 2009. I have a hubby who likes everything I do. A son who wishes I would do something abstract so my paintings would sell!!! I managed to get into a few local small shows that no one saw so that didn't help! Lucky you to have been critiqued by someone who could actually back it up with the know how!! I used to like it when class critiques actually worked with others catching me in my mistakes or weaknesses but it rarely happened because no one wanted to hurt anyone's this case the old adage " if you can't say something nice, don't say anything" is of no use to the artist

Susan Roux said...

Thanks for posting a link to the review. I missed it. I don't think he was that harsh on you. As you know I love your Mirror, Mirror painting. I hope you continue to paint interiors. You do an amazing job! Kudos.

Patty Meglio said...

It's interesting to hear what an artist says about a review. I think one of the reasons that I go to workshops and look for teachers who I admire is for the critiques. Getting a good critique from someone who is an art expert is so important and so valuable. I feel like I learn so much from this. Keep up the good work and don't be afraid to ask.