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Critiquing Your Own Paintings

Critiques are interesting animals; some are big and hairy while others are small and cuddly. Like judging in an art competition, they are all dependent on the artistic paradigm of the person doing the critique. Sometimes the best critiques are the simplest ones, like when my wife Teresa walks into my studio and says, “I love it!” as opposed to, “It’s nice.” I can usually tell right then and there the painting is going to be snapped up right away, rather than sitting on a gallery wall for a while.

In the September 2012 edition of 15 Bytes, painter John Hughes discusses critiquing one’s own paintings, including his 5 + 1 recipe for critiques.

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  1. It was fascinating and rewarding to read this treatise after writing my own review, elsewhere in this edition, of the works of Sandy Brunvand and Al Denyer. I still believe what I wrote there, which disagrees with almost everything John Hughes says, but it’s proof to me of why I love art as a topic as well as an experience: both can be true at the same time, because they apply to only two or three local zones in an enormous and infinitely rich human enterprise.
    One thing I would change, though. The title of this system, 5+1, unduly sets Drama apart from the other principles of appreciation, as though it were the ultimate determining quality. Yet it is not. Drama has waxed and waned in art as much as any other quality. Byzantine mosaics lack the illusion of depth, a feeling of weight, realistic color, or predetermined values. They also lack drama. Yet their principles were promulgated for a thousand years, and they remain popular today.
    Maybe it should be called the 6 system. Or the 5(+1) system. Or the Special Six, the Select Six . . . or maybe I should shut up and hope everyone gets that a system for critiquing landscapes and other paintings in the Era Since the Rise of Historical Painting will not answer in every situation.

    Great job, John. Nothing less than what I always expect from you.

  2. Thanks Geoff,
    I appreciate your comment. I think your last paragraph summed it up accurately, this way of critiquing a painting probably applies best to the world of realism even though the same principles of design, color, values, edges,texture and drama might be of concern to the abstractionist. I’ve seen some really fine work in this area and am really drawn to abstract expressionism which I believe has helped the work of many realists tremendously.

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