I had my mid-semester critique this past Thursday. That’s sort of the last major hurdle before the end of the diploma project. There is an end of the year critique, to which the entire school is invited, but it seems to me that one is sort of a no-lose situation (provided you’ve actually put in the work on the project). After all, the painting is ‘completed’ at that point…
At this point, however, a bad critique can really throw a wrench into the works. Of course, that isn’t always a bad thing. I have had a couple of rough critiques that I’m sure will have been key in helping me to making a stronger painting. They’re just difficult to cope with at the moment.
Before the mid-semster critique, I had a handful of additional critiques, both official and friendly (as soon-to-be MFA-touting artists, we students are quick to give both solicited and unsolicited advice to our peers). Generally peer critiques are much more congenial—though no less honest—than the critiques with the faculty. There is a real sense of camaraderie at a small intense school like the New York Academy of Art. We all genuinely want to see our schoolmates create the best work that they are capable of.
Prior to the mid-semeter critique, comments I received ranged wildly. Here are a few of the highlights:
“Based on the poor quality of your references, you should abandon this painting as soon as possible and start another painting while there is still time to finish one.”
“The background is uninteresting and unconsidered, and the the most important head in the composition is gesturally awkward and should be completely reworked.”
“Did you know that you are painting purple, toeless, android people?”
“It’s coming together—just keep on doing what you are doing.”
In general, people seemed to be unsatisfied with the background and the general color harmony of the piece. Actually, those two things are directly related, since all of the local colors in a fully resolved work will necessarily need to have a touch of the ambient color of the environment.
It took me several days to recover from some of those comments. I woke up one morning, thinking about all of the things I had heard, and it occurred to me that the problems that people had were with how the painting looks… but that isn’t how I see the painting. I don’t have a problem with the color development because I know that the painting is going to change significantly once I move past the underpainting. But everyone else can only see the painting as it currently exists.
This revelation only made me more determined to carry on my work and see the painting finished as it is in my mind’s eye. I just needed to not be distracted by the ridiculous number of critiques we must overcome to complete the requirements for graduation. Unfortunately, this revelation came the morning before my mid-semster critique. However, the actual event went much more smoothly than I could ever have hoped: They actually had some useful and constructive advice for me. Here’s an image of the painting as it existed on the day of the critique.
The most pragmatic advice actually came after the mid-semster critique when I had another (regularly scheduled) critique with Will Cotton, who reminded me that there are a significant number of problems that will need to be resolved once I move into a full palette. So, while the foundation is extremely important, I should finish it up as quickly as possible so as to leave enough time to solve the upcoming problems. That’s some advice I do plan to take…
The most constructive advice came from Bain, who really has spent a great deal of time thinking about my work and giving me advice on how best to proceed with the piece, as well as thoughtfully tempering the jagged diatribes others have loosed at me. Bain, if you are reading, I am much indebted.
The coming week is Spring-Break week, so hopefully I’ll have ample opportunity to work on the painting. Wish me luck.