A few months back I applied for Junction City Arts Council’s Premier Artist Search 2009. It was the type of contest that, like every other art contest… subjective. It is healthy to occasionally subject yourself to criticism as an artist and my hope was for the minor entry fee to get feedback from professionals with fresh eyes. I was successful in that endeavor but it has put me in a quandary for the last few days because I received the coveted feedback. Let me start a out telling you what I received.
Three art professionals were asked to critique the work. Two are unidentified and one gracefully put her critique on letterhead. There were 4 categories for the judges to respond to: Professionalism and technical skills, Originality, Clarity of Style and Overall presentation. Each with a scale of 1 to 5 – making it possible for a high score of 20.
The first unnamed juror was extremely lean on their comments… Nothing on Professionalism?? On Creativity “I have seen similar work before.” (I am really wondering if they haven’t see MY work before.) On Clarity of Style “I see two styles in this body of work & I believe the florals show stronger.” Then Overall: “I see the floral as a much stronger form for marketability. Finally, overall score given 12.5 (Ok so I see their point, did wonder where they had seen bald headed yellow nudes in Kansas though… Maybe just concentrated on the florals. Overall, I am dissatisfied with my feedback from the juror… Money wasted here?)
The second unnamed juror was a bit more insightful. Score marked hand written on top “10” --- oops! “As the artist points out in her statement, the images presented reflect at least three distinct series. While all three have their virtues, the problem is that they are too distinct – so much so that it is hard to see the imprint of one artist on the total body of work. I prefer the simplicity and material usage in the “Kansas Wildflower” series. They are unpretentiously presented, beautifully colored and skillfully rendered. Other than the entire body of work being figurative and brightly colored, it’s hard to discern obvious or even subtle connections. While it isn’t necessarily a weakness to work in such seemingly disparate series, it does make it hard for the viewer to fairly assess or even find the underlying aesthetic of the artist. Some work appears too illustrative, perhaps even appropriate for a children’s book. (Clear concise, constructive. But I’m still wondering if my Tarot series or my nudes are for children’s books, maybe it’s just a right mind type of thing.)
Finally the last critique… worth the entry fee… This one was an identified local gallery owner.
Professionalism and Technical Skills: 4
Comments: Michelle appears to be a really good commercial artist. She has a strong grasp of style, form and function. I am not sure I buy her philosophy, but I am happy to see a strong point of view. In viewing her collectors, I see a list of people that I also respect and have shared as clients through the years. It makes me believe that there is more to Michelle than we are seeing here.
Comments: Her work is a little trite. I think I would like to see her open herself up to more risk taking. She has a good sense of color and use of color in juxtaposition to design. She pulls both components off seamlessly.
Clarity of Style: 5
Comments: Very clear style and direction; almost too commercial. I would advise her to stay away from the floral work. It has been overdone and there are people that do it much better than she does. If she was in my artist stable I would push her to experiment more with color and form and strive for cutting edge subject matter…. Oh the last sentence, I so much want clarity on that statement.
Comments: The talent is there. She is a very good artist. But, I would push her to let go of herself and express the miracle that may be inside her. I believe that there is much more she can be doing that may surprise even her… Good News! Overall this critique filled with thoughtful criticism definitely made it worth the fee.
Oh, the quandary…. Florals or no Florals but cutting edge subject matter. Ahhh, I must remember where I am and that these professionals also live where I do and if I was successful and receiving comment from a professional from the east or west coast… I am sure that my critiques would have a completely different feel, not to mention if I ask my neighbor for her opinion.
But my biggest and most haunting statement was “cutting edge subject matter” Surely it’s more than throwing some stuff together and calling it Steve…. I live in Kansas, in the center of the Bible Belt, this is where my current market is. For the most part, as artists our work is a reflection of our inner being, the environment we live in and our various skills.
It is important to meet your market and I fail to do that locally with all of my series except my florals so they are here to stay for the time being. But, I love my other pieces as well. I completely understand that the majority of my local market will not appreciate them and may not even understand them. These scream at me time to time to be created so then to stay sane I must oblige. In order to finance my work with sales and until my market expands beyond the Midwest my work will continue down a few different paths. I don’t believe I am the only artist in history with this quandary.
I guess what I need to walk away with is the realization that as an artist we are in a regular flux of growth and expansion. Maybe I do need to let go of myself and just let it flow. I am sure in time my work will merge into something that may surprise even me. Who knows where these thoughts may lead… sounds like a new adventure.
I just wish I knew what “cutting edge subject matter” is exactly… Where is Picasso when you want to ask him a question? LOL If you know the answer please enlighten me… I need to know!