The Painter's Keys Community For Artists

Search the Painter's Keys:

« Handling edges

· previous clickback ·

Lessons the arts teach »

· next clickback ·

Join the world's largest art community and get the twice-weekly art letter.
Subscription is free.

Absolutely free, no strings. You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter and be joining the world's most active art community.

Robert's worldwide gift that artists love to get.

Restoration of <i>Ecce Homo</i> fresco in Borja, Spain
Restoration of Ecce Homo fresco in Borja, Spain

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner



The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor number exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.



Public apology needed?

August 24, 2012

Dear Artist,

Today, Paula Cravens of Columbia Valley, B.C., Canada, wrote, "I recently attended a gala art reception where they gave out awards. One of the participants had a super-realistic style with no visible brush marks. The judging committee questioned her in front of people. Eventually, the committee awarded her a prize. Negative comments were overheard. The artist was upset by the questioning of her integrity and the effect it would have on her reputation. She has requested a public apology. How would you feel if such an incident happened to you? What would you do about it?"

Thanks, Paula. As a frequent juror, I'm siding with the committee. We jurors are often confronted with excellent work that seems to be other than what it's represented to be. On more than one occasion it has fallen upon me to phone an artist to get some info.

And on more than one occasion I've been met with anger and indignation. One time there was so much sobbing and tears on the other end that my own cellphone got wet. All I was doing was inquiring as to how the work was produced. One time a work purported to be a watercolour turned out, upon examination with an Agfa-loupe, to be a giclee. Another work that knocked the jurors' socks off was a direct copy of an illustration in American Artist Magazine. Still another artist fessed up to "colouring a big photocopy." Only some of us jurors knew what was going on.

This is just one reason why every jury ought to include at least one who understands technique and technology.

In the situation you mentioned, the artist was present and in a position to explain her process. It's perhaps unfortunate that things were said in front of others. The further negative comments were probably a ripple effect, but the juror's concerns were probably legitimate. I've worked with jurors of all stripes but I've never met a mean one. In my experience, they're a naturally curious bunch.

Contesting artists need to realize that their work might be studied and picked apart. Those who don't feel fit to endure questioning of processes and integrity should not put their work into juried shows.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Artists shouldn't enter competitions until they are tough enough to realize it is only opinion and not a reflection on their worth. It is equally dangerous to lull yourself into thinking you are great just because you place in a show." (Mary Moquin)

Esoterica: "I'm cancelling my entry!" shouted a lady after I innocently asked if her work was a photo or an acrylic. I explained that our jury was puzzled. Besides, the hanging committee needed to know where to put it. The lady also told me what I could do with the jury. Speaking of cancellations, we just had a (medical) cancellation and have a seat left on the helicopter of life. Please feel free to give me a call to discuss the possibility that you might like to go heli-painting in the Bugaboos this September 3rd to 7th. My studio number is (604) 538 9197.





More entry form details!
by Duane Dorshimer, Raleigh, NC, USA


Juried show entry forms are the problem! None of the entry forms that I have completed have asked how Tobacco Barn, Page Rd, Wake Co, NC<br>acrylic painting<br>9 x 12 inches by Duane Dorshimer Tobacco Barn, Page Rd, Wake Co, NC
acrylic painting
9 x 12 inches
a piece was completed. They always ask for what medium and dimensions, but never how the materials were assembled. I would suggest to save everyone some time, stress, and embarrassment up front; jury forms should ask for details including method of application, materials list, and description of what parts of a piece were not fabricated exclusively by the artist. I believe that this is increasingly important when judging visual art as technology is, has, and can be applied in the creation of dubious "works of original fine art."



There are 2 comments for More entry form details! by Duane Dorshimer

From: Dwight -- Aug 28, 2012

Having been involved in both preparing and judging shows, Duane's idea is way too much information to digest for people who are working on any show of medium or large scale. Some shows I've been involved in, one way or another, have had hundreds or even thousands of entries.

From: Duane -- Aug 28, 2012

With respect, I disagree with Dwight's conclusion that a detailed description of materials and creative process included on an entry form would be "...way too much information to digest..." based on Dwight's experience that "...Some shows I've been involved in...have had hundreds or even thousands of entries." Several respondents to this topic have described similar challenges in correctly classifying artwork medium. adding materials and creation methods on a jury form can only improve the integrity jury process and the quality of the resulting show. If Dwight's point is that such an addition would be too cumbersome or difficult to manage, I would argue that "anything worth doing is worth doing right".


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Learning by entering
by Alev Guvenir, Istanbul, Turkey


When you finally put your work in front of a juror, you have already achieved a lot. It means you are Fenix<br>oil painting by Alev Guvenir Fenix
oil painting
strong --you believe in yourself and in your work. It is easier to deal with technical criticism. In the end you learn a lot. You may hear negative comments, but it helps to clarify your personal choices. They are only observations and suggestions. You are in charge of what you do and free for your choices. The artist should be a maestro. Should have some level of ego to stand behind her work. If you are following suggestions all the time, you are not creating, but following prescriptions. You do what you do because you love it. You make a difference with your personal preferences. Learn from others, but stick to your own choices.

I think the artist here doesn't need an apology, because she already received it. The committee accepted their misjudgement by eventually awarding her a prize. She should enjoy this wonderful achievement.



There is 1 comment for Learning by entering by Alev Guvenir

From: Regina Sabston -- Aug 29, 2012

Love your painting.


Website Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Apology needed
by Karen Baker Thumm, MI, USA


Yes, I do think this artist deserves a public apology for the jury questioning her before an audience. Kentucky dreamer<br>original pencil by Karen Baker Thumm Kentucky dreamer
original pencil
She is right that it may damage her reputation. Although I see nothing wrong with juries contacting artists PRIVATELY to question them about their work, it was both unprofessional and tactless to question her in front of others in an awards ceremony. I, too, would be very upset if this happened to me. It's one thing to subject oneself to a public critique of one's work but an entirely different matter for one's integrity to be publicly questioned as in this case. It's one thing to point out why one work won an award and others didn't, but quite another to basically ask the artist in front of an audience if she cheated. There is an enormous distinction between these two situations. As an audience member, I would also have been very uncomfortable.



There are 5 comments for Apology needed by Karen Baker Thumm

From: suzanne j. -- Aug 28, 2012

well spoken!!

From: Jackie Knott -- Aug 28, 2012

From the wording of the letter we don't know if two people heard the discussion, or the question was posed during a formal critique in front of twenty. Possibly her reaction created interest in the conversation. At that point she lost control of the inquiry; she could have said, "May we please go over to that corner and discuss this privately? I'd be happy to tell you about it." She set herself up.

From: Nancy Cook -- Aug 28, 2012

It isn't really clear in the letter, what the scenario was. The situation was described by the artist, and could have been 90% her projection (projection being a common and necessary quality of the artistic temperament). Until the juror's point-of-view is told, all discussion on this topic is moot.

From: Mikki -- Aug 28, 2012

What a wonderful drawing! I can almost touch that beautiful little guy or gal! Congratulations on your work and your words!

From: Hal Bain -- Aug 28, 2012

I think the question should have been asked in private rather than public. The judges should have enough sense to ask the questions in private and if the artist is surprised should not be asked to control the venue. Again sensitive acquisitions should be handled in a sensitive manner.


Website Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Clear guidelines needed
by Don Rankin, Birmingham, AL, USA


I have served as a juror on many occasions. In the past few years there has been an unbelievable outpouring Bob Benge<br>oil painting by Don Rankin Bob Benge
oil painting
of questionable works. One almost always encounters the copyist who either thinks they are smarter than everyone else or, even worse, one who is unaware that they have transgressed. Recently, I viewed a show where a painting was accepted as an original when it clearly was a digital print. In that case I fault the organization and the juror. They should know better.

Today we have new applications of art and digitalized work is a reality. Jurors need to be aware of the trends, and organizations should provide clear guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not. These are teachable moments. I work alongside some very gifted digital people. Most of them can paint masterfully in a traditional manner as well as manipulate a computer program. They know their respective media. However, when they display or compete they don't try to blur the lines. They explain their process. It boils down to honesty.



Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Juror's social skills questionable
by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada


Presentation is everything. Fine food poorly presented is not as appealing as it should be. The same would Techno medusa<br>illustration by Richard Gagnon Techno medusa
illustration
apply to questions from jurors. If questions are poorly put, it should be expected that folks will be offended. Working in a world of technology I deal with 'geeks' on a daily basis and while 'uber' intelligent, their social skills leave something to be desired. I have met many painters that while unbelievably talented have trouble in public. Put them on a jury and, while perfectly qualified to judge work, they may not be able to handle the people side as well as could be expected.

Perhaps sales people or psychologists should be selected as juries. The artists would not be offended but there would be more paintings in shows that would look like Herb Tarlick's suit.



Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Tactless jurors
by Lynn Digby, Ohio, USA


The problem with this particular scenario is the tactless way the juror publicly questioned and cast Katherine<br>original painting by Lynn Digby Katherine
original painting
doubt on this artist's honesty. I am all for questioning the artist when clarification is needed, or if there is some doubt as to the credibility of the work. But to do so in public before the facts are determined, and to do it in such a way that others hearing it might get an impression that turns out to be quite false, is indefensible.

A juror is going to ruffle feathers in any competition. There is always going to be some kind of disagreement about how the show was chosen, and who won what prizes. I think you expect that. What you would not expect is to have your work publicly suggested to be a cheat, a copy, or a plagiarized work, unless there is certain proof that this is true.

I must agree with this artist. If what I understand happened, she most certainly deserves an apology. And she (and anyone else, for that matter) would be quite foolish to enter any competitions where this sort of thing was allowed to go on.



There is 1 comment for Tactless jurors by Lynn Digby

From: Sarah -- Aug 28, 2012

Well put. Many jurors in local art leagues have zero experience in the process of teaching art or judging art. The artist puts his/her ego on the line when submitting works, so rejection is painful. But to be questioned publicly and insensitively is beyond the pale. I was interested in those who rush to blame the victim.


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Stretching the idea of 'art'
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA


I was at a showing recently and, quite bewildered by what I was looking at, I began to ask a few questions. Found<br>original photograph by Peter Brown Found
original photograph
The artist's process starts with an original collage which is enlarged as a giclee, over which she adds a good deal of actual painting. The resulting images were stunning, dream-like, and powerful, but I did not really know what to think about them.

Technology and art have always been close allies. And, I have never been a purist or shy about using mechanical aids such as an overhead projector, transfer and tracing paper, etc., but, I couldn't help feeling that this artist had gone too far. But, where is that line?

This question will only get more and more complex as technology advances. Our common definition of "art" will likely be stretched and stretched again. A hundred years ago, people thought that photography would replace painting. It didn't, but it now seems that these new reproductive technologies are at least undermining our concept of painting. Does the image in the frame justify the means? I don't know, and I do not envy art jurors these days.

(RG note) Thanks, Peter. I agree. Eschewing technology stunts creativity. But artists need to identify media properly. In the example in my letter the painter had called her work a "watercolour" and wanted it to be included in the watercolour section, when in reality, as a painted-over photocopy, it was "mixed media." Some jurors need to know this sort of thing in advance.



There is 1 comment for Stretching the idea of 'art' by Peter Brown

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Aug 28, 2012

Please forgive my effrontery in advance. I love this...and if I were to give it a title, it would be "Last Laugh", Photograph of a Stone Collage.


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Ignore them both
by Mary Moquin, Sandwich, MA, USA


In the poster by Eleni Kalor Koti, an artist is sitting back to us working on a drawing. On one shoulderIgnore them both<br>digital poster<br>by Eleni Kalor Koti
Ignore them both
digital poster
by Eleni Kalor Koti
is a character telling her the work is amazing, on the other side one that says it is awful. The punchline is "Ignore them both." That just sums up how confident you need to be in your own work. Jurors' opinions can only provide an inkling of guidance; artists must follow their inner compass with complete focus and conviction. Take the advice/criticism in, analyze it as impersonally as you can, and then if it resonates as true, incorporate the advice/criticism, otherwise don't give it a second thought.



There are 2 comments for Ignore them both by Mary Moquin

From: Helen Opie -- Aug 28, 2012

What a great right-on poster! For my general living I have this stance re criticism; if I hear it from more than one person, I take it into serious consideration; if it is a single comment from one person, not at all like anything else I've ever heard, then I'll think about it, but more to file it away in case I hear that again, which then signals me to ponder and consider changing. If one person tells me a part of a painting is 'wrong', I try to see what they're seeing, and if i cannot, then I dismiss it; if I can AND agree it needs changing - remembering that some people's idea of how I should paint is not at all how I do - then I may change it - and I may not.

From: Regina Sabiston -- Aug 29, 2012

Great idea for a painting...and yes Helen, I agree with you.


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


The wisdom of never exhibiting
by Joseph Jahn, Nibe, Denmark


I attended an opening of an artist friend one time with my wife and her friend who are both non artists. Abstraction with Sparrow Hawk<br>oil painting by Joseph Jahn Abstraction with Sparrow Hawk
oil painting
In the course of the evening my wife mentioned that she did not like these works as well as the artist's earlier works. This was overheard by the artist's wife and the next day the artist asked me not to have my wife or friend make such comments at his openings. I said my wife or her friend could express their opinions on any subject they wanted in any venue that suited their fancy, and thanked the artist for his friendship and never visited or talked to him since.

Many such incidences occur in everyone's career, at least anyone that produces art that matters. Defending your ego is less than attractive in most cases. Security is always a painting well done and a day of productive work. Knowing art history and the critical outrage that rained down on artists such as Manet helps. Standing near one of your paintings in a public showing is almost always interesting, and for the over sensitive not recommended. The only way to avoid negative critiques of your work is to never exhibit.



There are 2 comments for The wisdom of never exhibiting by Joseph Jahn

From: sharon cory -- Aug 27, 2012

Bravo for defending your wife's right to freedom of expression. And another wonderful painting.

From: Anonymous -- Sep 03, 2012

I did try to post his yesterday and it never appeared -- if it's off in moderation land, please use the previous post. My main point is that when you are at an opening -- a friend's opening especially -- it is not OK to express negative opinions where others hear it. It is only an opinion but there are potential buyers there who may be on the edge in their decision. You are there to see a show but also to support your friend -- close or otherwise.


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Paying the price later
by Mark Wangberg, Wallingford, PA, USA


I teach in a very rigorous AP Studio Art program at a Pennsylvania high school and about 8 years ago Lick me<br>mixed media by Mark Wangberg Lick me
mixed media
I was confronted with the work of one of my students who was suddenly doing much better work than was normal for him -- more accurate, realistic figurative work... I couldn't figure out why all of his work was done on such thin paper, they were always wrinkled... I even asked him why he didn't use thicker paper or canvas for these acrylic paintings... No real answer came from him...

A few years later one of my students in the same class said to me -- "Didn't you know? He always painted on top of inkjet photos he had taken!" I felt kind of silly, and also perturbed that he "got away with it." But, I did find out how hard he had to work in college to really do that kind of accurate drawing and painting... i.e. he paid for his laziness with harder work later, and with the added threat of failing a college class.



There is 1 comment for Paying the price later by Mark Wangberg

From: Jim Carpenter -- Aug 28, 2012

If it is any consolation, he probably was working pretty hard to make the paintings over the photos look as good as they did - good enough to fool the AP Studio Art teacher. And you can be pretty sure that when he was in college his eyes were opened to his HS failure despite the grade he received, and I would not be surprised if at some point he said, "Now I wish I had listened to Mr. Wangberg."


Email Add Instant Comment Share this with a friend


Gordon MacKenzie workshops Held in Langedoc, France.  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Gordon MacKenzie workshops
Held in Langedoc, France.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Jean Ives, BC, Canada



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Pamela Kaufmann of Detroit, Michigan, USA, who wrote, "No doubt the jury was demonstrating no malice and was just gathering information. While it may be a bit inquisition-like to question the artist publicly, artists should, nonetheless, be able to speak about their art articulately and describe their process and inspiration without embarrassment or indignation."

And also Ortrud K. Tyler of Oak Island, North Carolina, USA who wrote, "Oh Robert, I thought by know just about everybody knew that not all artists are good (but different), not all jurors are knowledgeable, not all juries are balanced and life it not fair - but interesting. Luckily I have been juried in and out by some very good jurors and learned that it is always just the opinion of one. If you want unconditional compliments, ask your mother. Mothers are obligated to love everything their children do."


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Public apology needed?...

From: Trish Booth -- Aug 23, 2012

I was at a reception for a museum group show where five of my original paintings were included. Someone remarked to me that my brush strokes weren't visible. I'm not a fan of thick paint and I do a lot of "shading and fading," in fact, I take great pains to NOT let my brushstrokes be visible--just part of my painting style.

In my opinion brush strokes are over-rated, though it would never have occurred to me anyone would try to pass off a giclee as a watercolor or some similar subterfuge!

From: Katherine Tyrrell -- Aug 23, 2012

I am 100% in favour of artists being questioned as to their methods when a jury has a query about a work.

However I do feel that doing such questioning in public - in front of others who are not part of the jury process - is wholly inappropriate.

From: Faith -- Aug 23, 2012

Now this is a touchy subject. What about all those artists who project images onto canvases and then colour them in, or trace, or use a grid to get the proportions of their subject right, or a camera obscura, for that matter? Is that all genuine stuff, or are we already in the realms of creative reproduction?
We live in a world where copying, faking etc. are possible with unbelievable accuracy thanks to modern technology.
As a juror I think I'd be very suspicious of hyper-realism, but not just because of lack of impasto or conspicuous brush strokes. You can take a giclée and add a few signs of a painting having been produced "properly".
And I agree with Katherine. Questioning an artist should and can be done privately before an artwork is hung. Surely it's in the juror's interest not to be embarrassed by such undignified scenes.
How many competitors have ordered their entries from Asian painting factories? Those paintings are often entirely "genuinely" handicrafted and available to buy ten a penny via the internet and certainly without any questions being asked. Or the Bob Ross creations I see at amateur shows where an audience can be expected not to know how the paintings originated... and maybe elsewhere with some crafty editing. Yes, art galleries fall for them, too.
I don't think there's a complete solution to the problem. It's a mistake to believe that all artists are ethically sound, any more than all medical doctors are!
One possible solution might be to require every artist to include a catalogue of work with the provisor that any of the artworks included would be available for closer examination. That might at least reveal the way the artist works and the likelihood of a painting being genuine. Or it might act as a deterrent!

From: Mike Barr -- Aug 23, 2012

Dear Robert
The problem of 'fakes' in shows has become viral.
Here in quiet old Adelaide the increase in the amount of works painted over printed photos on canvas is worrying. The real concern however is that judges are not picking them up. One such small work was awarded the 'packing room' prize at a Rotary show a few years back. The Rotary staff where amazed at the quality of the small pastel painting off a lady that hardly ever paints- they thought it was miraculous, but as experience in art will attest, the miraculous is usually something too good to be true. A reference to the artist's other work will soon sort out if it is the real thing. A series of stunning paintings by a new artist to Adelaide lost all credibility when her other work was seen - it was pretty ordinary.
There are tell-tale signs that all is not well with a painting. Most super-realism is traced and painted over to start with, but stuff that has been painted over a printed photo on canvas can be picked out pretty easily when you know what to look for. One artist that had works shown in a major regional Rotary show this year made the mistake of carrying on painting the excruciating detail on the sides of the canvas. Obviously the original image had been wrapped around the edges. It was a dead give away! Such artists will also copy the out-of-focus parts of a photo too in the exact manner as the camera did. Real artists know how to 'de-focus' parts of a work without making it look photographic.
One of the greatest give-aways though is colour. As we know the colours produced by the camera, particularly the greens are pretty aweful. Fakesters, copy the greens slavishly off the photo beneath making it look, well - just like
a photo!
One of the greatest attempts at faking it was seen recently on an Australian community art site. An artists had posted two photos of girls faces and claimed he had sketched them! They became the most viewed art on the site and many people left positive comments on the amazing 'art'. However, even the most hyper-realistic sketch does not look exactly like a photo. Thankfully it is now possible to search for the same photos elsewhere on the web and guess what - yes, these images were out there and they were not sketches. In fact they were not just the same pictuers, they were the same images, pixel by
pixel! The 'artist' has since disappeared off the site but the 'sketches' still remain if you are interested in having a look. It's interesting and should open everyones eyes to what is going on.
http://www.colourinyourlife.com.au/gallery-projects/4152-beutifull-girl-ii-in-pencil
cheers
Mike

From: Faith -- Aug 23, 2012

Thanks Mike for confirming my worst suspicions.
One question: Is hyper-realism possible without photos or other technical aids?

From: Beverly Theriault -- Aug 23, 2012

As an artist who paints in a realistic style with no exaggerated brush stokes, this letter was an eye opener for me. It never occurred to me that anyone might think I was faking it simply because I love painting realistic details. Any suggestions as to how a person can avoid this suspicion without compromising their style?

From: Laurel -- Aug 23, 2012

I too, believe that questioning the artist should always be done in private. Artists are just that, 'artists' (and may be used to critiques by the time they are good enough for a show), but should not be expected to field last minute cross-examinations at gala receptions in front of friends, families, employers, and patrons like a criminal suspect. This alone could cast doubt on and devalue an artist's work at the most damaging time possible.

Perhaps all entry forms should have a space for the artist to describe style and technique; followed by a paragraph stating that the artist may be called for more detailed information, or to show examples of other work. A judges choice of wording and explanation leading up to the questions can make the world of difference as well.

From: oxana -- Aug 23, 2012

Здравствуйте!
Вероятно, придется вызвать нотариуса, и снимать весь процесс живописи на видео))
Куда катиться этот мир?

From: Ginny Piech Street -- Aug 24, 2012

I say this an artist and, on occasion a juror. Art is subjective.  As an example, three different sets of jurors would choose completely different artists for the same exhibit.

The first thing to learn is "Don't take it personally."  This is the business side of art.  Our goal is to keep it separate from the passion that drives us to make art.  

From: Anonymous -- Aug 24, 2012

I agree with Oxana....I think!

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges -- Aug 24, 2012

On two occasions I met up with artists faking it; the first was at a peoples choice exhibition where a local photographer took one of his images, reproduced it in photoshop with "Paint Daubs" to make it look like a realistic painting and printed it on canvas and framed it.
He was upset when I put a note beside the image stating this was a photograph on canvas and ripped the note down. I asked him why he wanted to fool people into thinking it was a painting and his answer was "Win at any cost".
The second was at an art festival where a young artist was showing portraits of people that were amazing. Through questioning his process I discovered that he took photographs, blew them to a large formatted size in greyscale and then painted over them. Technically he did the work but where is the pride of mastery here? My struggle to be a better artist includes learning to draw and paint the subject to the degree we can recognize it as what it is.
I guess my real pieve is that this type of trickery takes away from those that struggle for excellence by their own hand.

From: Suzette Fram -- Aug 24, 2012

The line between what is 'acceptable' as a tool to help an artist, and what is 'trickery', or even worse 'forgery', is very fuzzy and grey. Using a grid for example is a time-honoured method of reproducing a drawing or photo. Tracing with a lightbox or a projector is also commonly done, the argument being that, as long as you are tracing your own photograph (the composition is your own), you are simply speeding up the process, since after all, you still have to paint the thing. It is a painting, not a drawing.

In the case of printing a photo on a canvas and painting over it, as long as it is your own photo, and you cover every part of that photo with opaque paint, is it still not a painting? If you should cover that photo with glazes where the actual photo's shading, etc. are still visible, then that would make it a colourized photo.

So where is the line between acceptable tools and trickery? Not always easy to tell. Of course, using someone else's work as a base is never OK. But there again, with the Internet, one does research and finds a lot of material as 'reference', it's sometimes difficult to then produce 'original' work from such reference, and not simply copy the Internet photo. You can adjust the Internet photo and change it, but how much change does it take so it's no longer a copy of someone else's work. (Surely, not every person who paints elephants, or tigers, has actually stood in front of the animal to take their own photo.)

Fuzzy, grey, obscure line, if you ask me.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox -- Aug 24, 2012

To whomever this artist (female) was...

boo hoo boo hoo...

I hate to break it to you all- but every single artist on the planet should- even has to- be able to stand up in public under any and all sets of circumstances and defend/explain their own work. Period. End of discussion.

If you can't stand the heat- get out of the kitchen.

Sooner or later, especially where you are entering juried exhibits, somebody somewhere is going to question you and/or even challenge you on something. You can't handle that?

boo hoo boo hoo

Nobody will like all of your work all of the time, and somebody is going to want to know how you did it.

If that hurts your feelings- you need to ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.

From: Marilyn Smith -- Aug 24, 2012

I would welcome a juror's questions-I would know they are truly interested in my work and how it was rendered. There are a lot of "tricks" to do art now and one must be 100% ethical if entering shows.

From: Katherine Tyrrell -- Aug 24, 2012

@J. Bruce Wilcox

By all means defend the right of jurors to ask questions - but why insist that this be done in public?

Let's consider an analogy. How about if every person who has ever entered an examination for the purposes of gaining a qualification was required to answer exam questions in front of their friends and family and people they didn't know from Adam as well as those who are acting as their examiners? Is that OK by you?

The reason I'm saying that a jury process should be just that a jury process - in private - is because not everybody is articulate when forced to answer questions in public. Should we think any the less of them because of this? I think not.

If a "viva voce" is to be a required part of the jurying process then I think artists are entitled to know this before they enter

(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viva_voce )

From: Juliette Seymour Sands -- Aug 24, 2012

I'd seen the work of one local painter often. Sizes varied, but it was generally ink and watercolor, or watercolor. One thing perplexed me-- well, two actually: Why, when the coloration was adequate and the drawing was good, was his signature (of block printing) so raggedly from work to work. Then someone told me she'd attended a local vo-tech drawing course to learn projection techniques, and he was in the class. Over the years his adequate coloration has become decent. The drawing is about the same, but as my eye improves I see the signs of projection. I don't have any problem with drawing aids per se, but I wish he'd learn how to make a decent signature, or copy his best efforts.

From: Nancy Hagood -- Aug 24, 2012

I totally agree, that is why we have judges!

From: Laurel -- Aug 24, 2012

Use of tracing, projection, and painting copies derived from photographs should be stated in the artists entry. Provide checkboxes on the entry for the categories. Include: Completely freehand, basic grid, trace, paint-by-number... Categories can be judged with similar methods.

What bully made a rule that every artist must endure inappropriate timing for scrutiny. Every person has the right to be treated professionally, and with dignity. If contenders are expected to make a statement, then all should be asked ahead of time, and shouldn't be singled out at the last minute.

An ego-driven pontificator or insecure competitor could use a public opportunity like that to devalue legitimate quality.

From: Carla O'Connor -- Aug 24, 2012

I know only too well the hazards of some jurying. I was chairman of awards for AWS and was fooled with an entry labeled original watermedia, when in fact it was an ink jet print of two separate photographers work combined. The technology of today's e-world certainly has hazards to striving artists today. As jurors, we are now forced to question works submitted for authenticity of source and process. A sad comment of our times.

From: Rain -- Aug 24, 2012

What about being asked those questions? Photographing your work as you progress through the different stages of your painting. Having witnesses to the actual painting process of painting. Painting and doing demonstrations. And people who see the completed work both in person or viewing jpegs refuse to believe that they are real paintings painted manually, by hand. What do you do or say? What can you do?

From: M Frances Stilwell -- Aug 24, 2012

I wasn't there, but if insinuations were made in public after the fact I think the jury was remiss in not questioning before they made their decision.

We're not talking about what "is normal" in the profession we are talking about kindness to fellow human beings.

From: Rodney Mackay -- Aug 24, 2012

The creation of paintings should never be a contest.

From: Laurel Johnson -- Aug 24, 2012

Inquiries are best made in private. We had a painter copy a National Geographic picture and submit to a show -- when questioned (privately) he said "yes, I copied it from a magazine". I asked if he could replace it with an original, and he said: "I have a painting of an African prince"... Were you in Africa? Did you take the picture? "Well, er, no." End of discussion.

I wish jurors would make a quick comment if they reject a picture, such as "confusing light source" -- just so you have a clue as to why your entry was rejected.

From: Moncy Barbour -- Aug 24, 2012

You are correct in your answer to this lady. I have been in shows and have walked away with everything and then not a thing. Who am I anyway to think to be above.

From: Jane Frederick -- Aug 24, 2012

I just watched the judge (a nationally known artist and instructor) in a local pastel society competition award "Best of Show" to a painting which was rejected from another local pastel club's juryied show. Which just goes to prove how different juror opinions can be.

From: Julie Trail -- Aug 24, 2012

Competitions are best entered in an effort to measure your progress as an artist in relation to others. Judges always have a personal bias, as they should, so never take judgment as a criticism of your passion. Your passion is what drives your art, not the evaluation of its success. Never let a judge touch that passion. Take the words with a grain of salt and move forward!

From: Trisha Adams -- Aug 24, 2012

You've given a very good response. The super-realistic artist should have looked at the questioning as opportunity -- a forum to have people understand her work and methods better. If the artist teaches classes or gives demos, this can mentioned, too.

If an artist's work is photographic-looking, they should expect to be questioned. If it were me, I would post a YouTube video of me just to be more transparent.

From: Rita McMillian -- Aug 24, 2012

I understand the thought process of the jury and certainly agree that it is the jury's responsibility to question any technique for its authenticity.

I do want to bring you to task for not assuring that your inquiry remained private. This speaks to the lack of integrity of the jury and its process. Your investigation should have never been allowed to leak out.

Since a thief will always try to cheat, it makes sense that in a professional competition an expert should always be present to make clear and unbiased assessments of the authenticity of any work of art.

Clearly, this is the duty of the jury who must be held to the same high standard as is expected of the artists.

As an artist I have observed that creative people are often sensitive and passionate people. As a nurse I know that to mock any person for crying and being upset is to ignore his or her basic humanity.

In any case, the question of this artist's honesty will follow her for the rest of her life. It will certainly effect her ability to make a living. If she is innocent, you have done her a grave disservice.

From: Kathy Weber -- Aug 24, 2012

I used to work in-house as a greeting card illustrator, and naturally we looked at our competitions' products all the time. Hallmark, of course, was very influential to us.

Some years after I left the greeting card job, I ended up in an annual juried, somewhat prestigious show in Pennsylvania, though I won't say where. ( A fellow artist who lived there convinced me to be in it.)

I didn't go to the show after it was up, because I live a long way away. My friend brought me a catalog of the show when he came to visit. Flipping through the catalog, I saw a piece that was a copy of a Hallmark card (the card was better!). There was absolutely no mistaking it- it was a picture of cute mice dressed up in Victorian costumes, having tea. I had seen it numerous times at my job because the art director liked it and used it a lot for reference.

All I could do was laugh, but I'm still amazed that someone would do that.

From: Priscilla Ferguson -- Aug 24, 2012

Any chance the questioning could have taken place in a more private setting? I don't mind answering questions about my work; however in my experience as a juror, we usually have taken the artist to one side to make any inquiries.

From: Donna Hohenschuh -- Aug 24, 2012

What bugs me is that there is not enough integrity out there. I have seen paintings, which I saw were done in a workshop, entered into a juried show. Artists who are conducting workshops should start the workshop out with a little discussion on this subject.

From: Tinker Bachant -- Aug 24, 2012

Some artists are like little children, thinking whatever they produce is a masterpiece. One has to be critical of one's own work and be honest about it. Let it sit for a few days and go back with "new eyes". I've often found "what was I thinking? " places and changed for the better.

From: Leslie Edwards Huméz -- Aug 24, 2012

You're absolutely right, Robert, to point out the difficulties with which jurors are faced. As an infrequent juror and curator myself, I'm a busy sculptor who understand the difficulties from both sides.

Committees and jurors have artistic and moral responsibilities and in that light, any juror or group of jurors worth their salt should have had the good sense to contact the artist prior to the opening. If they were unable to reach the artist, they should have had the courage to bite the bullet and made the decision to withhold the questionable piece from the exhibition. Period.

Interrogating an artist during an awards ceremony is an unconscionable procedural faux pas with possible legal ramifications, as well as being potentially damaging to the reputation of the gallery itself. While this committee does not owe an apology to the artist for questioning the work per se, they certainly must make amends for doing so at an inappropriate time and causing her public embarrassment.

I'm siding with the artist.

From: Barbara Youtz -- Aug 24, 2012

Several years ago I started doing the critiques for our plein air summer painting group. Since some of the people are as good if not better painters than I am and it was difficult to know just how much and what to say about their paintings. I finally decided to be more of a facilitator to the process. We have an understanding that negative comments are out and constructive comment are in. In other words, what's good about the painting and what could make it better, not to mention what could make you grow as an artist.

I am always evaluating myself as to how well this helps people improve and grow as an artist. We also share new techniques, materials, shows to see, etc. I am a firm believer in practice and try to encourage everyone to paint as often as they can. I suppose my main goal for the critique is to encourage each person in the group to enjoy painting so much that they want to keep painting and growing as an artist.

Putting your work up in front of your peers takes some courage and I don't want to abuse that trust. I feel that the friends I paint with are all becoming so much better as painters from year to year. It has been rewarding to be along with them in this journey. I would appreciate any suggestions or comments you might have about the process of critiquing artwork in a group.

From: Sharon A -- Aug 24, 2012

Tough one. The jurors have no need to apologize for questioning the artist about production method and technique - they were only doing their job. But the fact that she was questioned PUBLICLY doesn't sit well with me. They could (and should) have taken her and her painting to a more private location to ask their questions, then (possibly) have asked her to give a public address to briefly explain her process in case public rumblings had been heard. That would have served the same purpose, but would not have been so embarrassing and intimidating as being "grilled" (and seemingly accused) publicly.

Jurors NEED to question what they see. I was recently at a plein air paint out with wet-paint sale at end of day where one of the participants was working on a canvas that was 24 x 36 or larger, and the canvas was completely covered - with photographic detail - early in the day. All of the other artists had the expected canvases (or watercolors) in sizes under 16 x 20. It turned out that this guy was a photographer who had just barely started taking painting classes, and his technique was to photograph the subject and print it out on large photo canvas then paint directly onto the canvas, matching the photo underneath, or at least passages of it, with few brush strokes evident. This day, he painted the vegetation ... trees, leaves, shrubs, flowers, grass ... but left the building untouched. So his "finished painting"
was part photo and part painting. BUT this was NOT revealed to those attending the wet paint sale unless they specifically asked, and many commented that his painting was so realistic that it looked like a photo.

Jurors not only have a right to question, it is their JOB to do so! But they also need to be discreet and sensitive.

From: Kaye Guerin -- Aug 24, 2012

In my humble opinion, all of this stems from ignorance of what art is. This ignorance seems to be gaining momentum with the cultural accent on technology rather than human creativity as having cultural value. I entered a local art competition several years ago in which the first prize winner was an enhanced photograph of curled paper. A black and white, no less. Needless to say, it was very discouraging. While visiting galleries in Bellevue, WA. I noticed a lot of collages in which "artists" had simply pasted digital images onto a surface and added some texture. No skilled drawing involved here! Yet they made it into galleries. Young people are buying $300+ Nike tennis shoes...it would never occur to them to invest in a painting that will last a lifetime. Thanks for your insights into the art world. I may decide to go back to being "the art lady", my volunteer job in which I went around to the grade schools and gave 1 hour presentations of fine art to the kids with slides of the master artists. I'm sure it was the only exposure they ever had to fine art.

From: Dora Gourley -- Aug 24, 2012

It is hard to have your work picked apart, but on the other hand, there are artist out there who will try to tip the scales any way they can. If you are not guilty of wrongful painting, then there is no need for tears. Ha, I loved your comment about your own cell phone getting wet from the artist tears on the other end of the line. Good one.

From: Pat Stamp -- Aug 24, 2012

I am a potter/sculptor and live in northern Ontario. Several years ago I was accepted in the One-of-a-Kind Christmas Show in Toronto. After I had my booth set up several people (other artists) asked me where I was from and why they hadn’t heard of me before. Two exhibitors reported to the show management that I could not possibly have done the work, the inference being that nothing that good could come out of northern Ontario.

After Christmas I received a letter from show management telling me that before being allowed back I had to prove the “ authenticity and originality” of my work, provide a description of the process I used and produce photos of works in progress and my studio. I was furious and very upset until my husband pointed out that I had “right” on my side. I provided the proof along with a letter from the head of the art department at the college where I taught part-time. I was quickly accepted back. On set-up day the following November one of my original inquisitors was openly shocked to see me. She got very upset when I told her what I had to do to get back “in.” After my work was all set up she came and bought a $200 piece. That was her apology.

From: Antoinette Hamilton -- Aug 24, 2012

I once helped jury a show. One of the images of a painting really rang alarms in my head. It was a direct copy of a National Geographic cover that I recognized immediately. The artist later called me to ask me what was wrong with her painting. I told her the painting was well executed, that it was just the choice of subject, a published photo. She didn't argue with me. I still felt bad for her but also amazed that she would do such a thing.

From: Elizabeth Schamehorn -- Aug 24, 2012

Because I have been on juries, and have had work in many juried shows, I've been thinking about jury process for quite a while. Because of the wide-open world of art-making these days, I think that guidelines need to be set in the submission requirements; for example, "All works must be freehand with no use of projections or other tracing methods. No student work." If rules such as these are written into the contract, then artists should expect to be questioned and should not object. If there are no rules, then artists and jurors should assume that anything goes; the work should be judged only on the finished product, unless there is evidence of blatant plagiarism.
P.S. I never object to a juror's decision - until I am out of earshot, talking to other artists, maybe over a beer...

From: Diana Wakely -- Aug 24, 2012

I personally judged at a local fair and was faced with a painting that wasn’t a painting. The person had taken a coloured print and added some strokes in watercolour. With photocopying of high quality and on watercolour paper a judge has to be on their toes. It is amazing those who extend the rules get so upset when confronted. I guess that is why I am painting with multi-media – no doubt that it is an original.

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 24, 2012

As Shakespeare said," I think he doth protest too much..! I believe most submissions in local shows are genuine works of art but, I too have seen art that were copies of others' photos. Well known photos at that. I was in a show where the artist used females from a very well known girly magazine. Too many artists today use aids, like projections instead of drawing the image themselves. Many also use reference that isn't their own.
You have to consider the situation with these regional or local shows. I don't want to speak badly about anyone yet many artists will never be in the forefront of national or international fame. Many paint for the enjoyment and only want local recognition. I wouldn't put too much importance on winning anything in these shows. I have thrown out many,many ribbons from my early years that were a great ego booster, but mean nothing. This may sound callus but its true. I've said it before and it bears repeating again- You and only you are the judge of how good your work is and if it's a copy and you get a prize- be happy.

From: Mona Youssef -- Aug 24, 2012

Thank you for the balanced and wise point of view. As an artist and occasionally, international jury, I walk in both shoes; the artist and the jury. Sensitive is required to make a good jury who is assigned not to destructively criticize but constructively do the job. I’ve met a cruel juror who used improper language commenting on an artist’s artwork. When the artist wanted to sue the jury for the verbal insulting, the jury asked me to save her life as to how she could cover what she said. Walking in both shoes, I stood for what is right and truthful, so I advised the jury to apologize or to get ready for a court case.

From personal experience, years ago, as an artist, I was asked in an international exhibition, by an art citric and art journalist, about my paintings, how I painted them and if they were photorealism! I said “ No, but they are actual oil on canvas” She asked if she could touch them, admitting that touching was not permitted. With a big smile and confidence, I said “Be my guest”. She even flipped the painting over to see it from the back, I was smiling still. This art journalist became my good friend until today and has wrote me an amazing comment on my paintings that I treasure and posted on my “Testimonials” page http://www.monayoussef.com/biography/testimonials.html

Having said that, such attitude can’t be excepted from all artists for the fact that some are more sensitive than others or too fragile and simply can burst in tears not knowing what to say or how to handle the surprise confrontation. The right word at the right time is like a gold apple on a silver plate. Jury’s work goes beyond the experience of understanding technique and technology.!

From: Margot Comstock -- Aug 24, 2012

No apology needed, no apology deserved. No way.

From: Linda Bass -- Aug 24, 2012

Makes me understand Robert Henri and the Ashcan School a little bit better.

"During their often rowdy, fun-loving, but serious, student years, the Henri gang brought excitement, vibrancy, and purpose to the Academy. Later, they also brought change to the hierarchical structure of American art. From among their ranks came the proponents of radical ideas about the traditional jury system governing art exhibitions in America. They advocated non-juried exhibitions open to all serious artists. They did away with prizes in their own exhibitions. They epitomized the spirit of artistic independence." from an article on The Ashcan School and the work of The Eight.

From: Barbara Boldt -- Aug 24, 2012

When one enters a juried show, especially with close to photographic appearance of the original work, one has to be prepared to be questioned. Today we see so much manipulation of giclees, appearing to be original paintings, to know that one can be taught to make one's photo look like a painting, it is no wonder that jurors have to be on the alert! We must feel confident about our technical ability and integrity, so that a juror should not be questioned, doing his or her job!

From: Jesse Silver -- Aug 24, 2012

This story reminds me of an experience that I had many, many years ago. At that time I was working in a photo-realistic style and had submitted a large canvas in a competition held in Petaluma, California. The day before the show was to open, I happened to pass by the exhibition space to see if I could get a advance look at the installation.

I could hear the jury heatedly discussing a work. Several voices were saying that the work under discussion should be awarded "Best In Show". Their opponent was yelling that it was a "bastard painting by a bastard of an artist" and that he would resign if the work was given any kind of a prize, He wanted the painting tossed out entirely. As I continued to eavesdrop I suddenly became aware that the painting under discussion was my submission! The jury finally agreed to keep my painting in the show, but not award it in order to keep the peace with the lone dissenter - who apparently held some special status with the show. Since then I've won several awards and have enjoyed a long career as a professional artist. And I've never forgotten that experience, which was very useful.

Here's my feeling about awards: An award, plus $1.95, will buy you a cup of coffee.

From: L. McD -- Aug 24, 2012

I strongly disagree.
The artists are expected to be professional but the jurors are not? Dressing down in PUBLIC?
I think the simple fact that she has called for a public retraction of the comments and assertions on her work shows that they were not.

From: Inese Poga-Smith -- Aug 24, 2012

Visual perception is very unique and individual. There's no other person who can see absolutely the same in absolutely the same way as you do. Like fingerprints ... Some people distinguish between many 1000s of different color shades, some noticeably less, and this varies for each colour."

From: Tj Scott -- Aug 25, 2012

I learned to paint using a method for realism. We used a 'slow dryer' that is also 'self leveling'. It was to give the student drying time. There are many slow dryers for oils out there on the market. It is unfortunate but maybe artists who paint in this style need to record a WIP? It seems to me that there should be a way to tell if a painting is a painting and not a print off. Would not pixels show up if magnified? Hopefully someone will come up with a solution so some poor artist who has labored endlessly, their integrity is not called into question. I hope jurors will find an answer soon:-)

From: John F. Johnson -- Aug 25, 2012

I submitted a picture for a fund raiser at a prestigious museum – it was labeled as a Photographic Illustration. The picture was printed on canvas and gallery stretched. There was to be an artist’s reception the night before the auction, which I looked forward to, because I wanted to see my picture alongside all the other donated paintings and photographs, and I wanted my friends to see my work, too.

I arrived at the reception and looked all over for my picture, but couldn’t find it. I finally tracked down the coordinator for the event who said, “Oh, I was going to call you tomorrow; we took your picture down because it was a giclée.” [Why they couldn’t call me before they took it down is a mystery to me.]

I asked to speak to the director, and informed her of the difference between a giclée, where an artist has their work reproduced using digital tools and techniques, and the giclée inkjet printing process, which most photographers today use to print their photos and photographic illustrations. I told her that most if not all the photos that were being auctioned were printed with the giclée process, and that mine was, too, and pointed out that they had actually left hanging a giclée of a painting. Jurors need to know the difference.

I was disappointed that my work was not seen by my peers, though the picture was re-hung in time for the auction. I did not submit a picture in the following year.

From: Kent Wilkens -- Aug 25, 2012

It is difficult to understand why the jury would question in front of people. Was the jurying done in public? Has art now become American Idol-ized?

From: jill bukovnik -- Aug 25, 2012

Hi Paula,

In our small town of Invermere, BC, somethings happen & are said & then gossiped about, that maybe more "seasoned" jurors in larger centres would not cause.

She took a risk with a jury that was not discreet or sensitive towards her as an artist. They should have taken her aside and questioned her. She was brave to even enter her art to be juried.

I have found that "jury & staff" can be disrespectful as if they have carte blanche over the artist. They should choose their words with kindness & think before saying anything. By doing this, the artist might not have been embarrassed & asked for a public apology.

Why they do not learn from their mistakes, says something about their ego.

From: Comments moderator -- Aug 25, 2012

For those who might be wondering what the above comment in Russian by Oxana might be, here is the Google translation:
"Hello!
May have to call the notary, and shoot the whole process of painting on video))
Where roll this world?"

From: Rick Rotante -- Aug 26, 2012

The entire process of making art has coming into question. Why do (real) artists work to produce art using traditional methods, vise-a-vie- authentically, mechanically by hand, without aids, while posers produce work for the trash heap? I believe the reason is the same - recognition and respect. If you produce real art the old fashioned way, one hopes to gain the respect of society and of course their peers. Many, many would-be artists don't have the skill, the training or know-how to pull off a work of art, so resort to trickery or fakery to get a result. They may even fool most of the people some of the time, but making 'real' art results in producing a body of work, an inventory. Over time, the fakers will get tired or worse be found out and will be weeded out while real artists will prevail. We should be diligent in judging art for galleries and shows, but the fakers will sneak through, once or even twice. In the end they will not prevail over the long haul. I always think we should be judging artists considering a body of work and not one piece placed into a show or gallery. When you look at fifteen or a hundred pieces, the proof will be in the pudding and all will know if this person deserves to be called 'artist'.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox -- Aug 27, 2012

On Saturday evening - world-famous author Dr. Mardy Grothe publishes his 'Quotes of the Week'- this text below from this last Saturday, that I'm reading and posting here on Monday morning.

Hope that's OK- Dr Mardy!!! All copyrights are his!!!

And I'm forwarding this to him...

More info: www.drmardy.com

It is interestingly enough- all about criticism- and his "nicists" comments cracked me up.

THIS WEEK'S THEME FOR CHIEF PHILOSOPHICAL OFFICERS:

"Are You More--or Less--Critical Than You Should Be?"

If you're like a lot of people, you may view "criticism" as a
fault-finding process, and possibly even see critics as a collective group of nit-pickers. The original notion behind the activity of criticism, however, was not to point out errors, but to judge something (or someone) against a standard of comparison.

This was the view of Aristotle, who was described by Dr. Samuel Johnson as "the father of criticism." In his famous "Dictionary of the English Language," Dr. Johnson's entry on Criticism quoted John Dryden:

"Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle,
was meant a standard of judging well."

Viewed from this perspective, criticism is a good thing, and may even be essential if there is to be improvement or progress in the world. Winston Churchill was thinking along these lines when he wrote:

"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.
It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.
It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things."

This all sounds good in theory, of course, but in practice, things get a bit more complicated. In the real world of human interaction, criticism is often intermingled with abuse by the bullies and tyrants of the world. Or, on the other side of the continuum, it is avoided altogether by "Nicists" (my term for conflict-avoiding people who want everything to be, well, nice). In fact, I believe it is fair to say that people in positions of authority (parents, teachers, and bosses) tend to make one of two major mistakes when it comes to criticism: (1) they do too much, or (2) they don't do enough.

Of the two tendencies, which one is most true for you? After answering the question for yourself, query some of the people who know you best (spouses, children, and employees). You might phrase the question this way:

"I read recently that people tend to make one of two kinds of mistakes, they either criticize too much, or they criticize too little. In your view, which one most accurately describes me?"

As I've suggested a number of times in past issues, when people start talking, go into Active Listening Mode. Before you do anything, though, take some time to peruse this week's collection of quotations on this important theme in human life:

"Criticism should be a casual conversation."
W. H. Auden

"The rule in carving holds good as to criticism;
never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon."
Charles Buxton

"Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough
to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots."
Frank A. Clark

"It is much easier to be critical than to be correct."
Benjamin Disraeli

"It is a barren kind of criticism which tells you what a thing is not."
Alfred Whitney Griswold

"Don't abuse your friends and expect them to consider it criticism."
E. W. Howe

"Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead."
Proverb (Chinese)

"People fed on sugared praises cannot be expected
to feel an appetite for the black broth of honest criticism."
Agnes Repplier

"Criticism often takes from the tree
Caterpillars and blossoms together."
Jean Paul Richter

"Criticism is painful when it’s not done with love."
Alice Walker

From: J. Bruce Wilcox -- Aug 27, 2012

To Katherine Tyrrell-

No analogy is necessary. And you can't blur the truth by bringing one up.

This is a jury process. You entered. Period. You therefore set yourself up to be asked questions. Period. In public or not. Period. Once you entered you lost control of the process and your own expectations. They became moot. You don't get to control the process. Period.

If your feelings got hurt and you can't grow up- you too sensitive thing- you... then stop entering juried exhibits. Period. Because you can't handle it.

From: Steve Amsden -- Aug 27, 2012

That weeping self-pity for being questioned about a person's technique is absurd. What about all the other artists who were deemed not good enough. How do you think they feel? I did a number of juried everything but stopped doing them because they mean nothing. The artist always knows their own worth and will sell lots of art and then simply leave his body of work to the next generation, who'll have to store masses of art. And then sell them for some good dollars. The best artists are the dead ones.

From: Joanne Moffitt -- Aug 27, 2012

When there are groups of people competing there are so many good and bad issues at hand which can lead to a lot of negativity. No matter what, I believe it is important to be emphatic and acknowledge her disappointment and pain. This can be done without defending the status-quo, although perhaps it is time to evaluate the way things have been done.

From: Anne Nielsen -- Aug 27, 2012

When I first started painting I was impressed with some work of a successful local artist. Asking about the subject matter, which was very "old world" looking, I was told it was all his own work. After much personal studying, I learned he had been copying old masters painting almost to the brush stroke, and passing them off as his own work.

Another successful local artist, winner of cash awards from a local art competition, told me directly, his work was totally original. Later, I found an obscure magazine with limited circulation, with the EXACT picture in it, as an advertisement. It took cash out of the pockets of non-copying artists and put it into the pockets OD a cheater.

I have to then admit, before I understood the rules of painting vs. copying, I copied a picture and called it my own. When I later learned the difference, I felt badly. To this day I still feel shame for "stealing" someone's intellectual property, even in innocence. I now use my extensive imagination. To make sure that I am not ever in that same situation again. I have come to understand, that an artist who must copy others work and pass it off as their own, are hurting themselves as well as others. They are not making themselves a better artist, no honing their creativity, they are just copying the work and ideas of others.

From: Eugene Kovacs -- Aug 27, 2012

Yesterday, I participated in an arts walk show in my district. There were approximately fifty artists painting live on the sidewalk. For the first time in my life, I sold one of my pastel paintings made on a piece of paper. One person came by and wanted to buy my painting right away, although it was not on sale but only for the exhibition. She offered me a price and I agreed easily. Nevertheless, many great artists participating in the arts show could not sell their paintings. However, the tattoo work made on children sold fast.

In brief, I am happy and that gives me the courage to pursue the way I am painting.

From: Marianne Phelps -- Aug 27, 2012

A person who represents themselves as an artist should have the integrity to be honest when entering competitions. This is probably highly idealistic, but the jurors should be tough on standards. With today's technology and history of dishonest prize winners, it is part of a jurors task to keep it honest. It reflects poorly on all artists and professional groups to have people get away with something dishonest. If any juror questions an entry, it is for good reason. I have my own view on use of technology, a never-ending debate these days. It is part of being honest and having integrity in my view.

From: Kathy Zerler -- Aug 27, 2012

It is important to be open to comments/questions, and not to be a prima donna about one’s work. Being defensive blocks learning. I once had the unexpected gift of being “the fly on the wall.” An art quilt of mine was admitted to a juried show on Key Largo in Florida, where I do not know anyone. During the opening reception, I was wandering around the exhibit. When I returned to my own piece, two women were standing in front of the quilt saying things like “Do you think this is hand-quilted?” (It was.) “How did she get that tiny printing on there?” (extra fine permanent marker) and other such curious comments. They stayed for quite a while and I got an earful of truly honest and inquisitive feedback. They were having such a good time discussing my quilt that I didn’t want to intrude, and never did introduce myself as the artist.

From: Christine Fleischmann Seaver -- Aug 27, 2012

Recalling my first two years in art school, it was tough at first to have my art work picked out and poked at in front of others but it was a necessary experience in the end. I became more conscious of my efforts as an artist through listening to my peers observations and mentors comments. It's somewhat of a test of emotional endurance to put yourself out there. There is always the risk of negative feedback to the artist, whether it is rejection, a bad review or the unexpected, such as a misprint of your name in a published article.

From: Jean F Stark -- Aug 27, 2012

After reading the article, I can see the need for juror's to have hard questions. Copies, giclee's and other things like this probably should come with a fine and penalty, like athletes on steroids. While hard questions may be difficult on the artist it's tough to see art get into a show because the artist was so realistic in the ability to copy what clearly was a projected image, or to know the image was a copy of another work. Artists who work hard to develop their own techniques and ideas IS what artists do. We need to be able to know how valuable that work is, to speak to it. Let the questions fly and learn from them. As for insults and insinuations go...people either have manors and diplomatic skills or they don't."

From: Judi Pedder -- Aug 27, 2012

I have been at special events by jurors who were willing to speak about their choices, or not, and why.
To me, most what was said was a lot of pure nonsense and not the least bit helpful. There was a real mix-up of some rejected work being discussed, and some included pieces.....

Here's what is important: Think of the positive side: you can list the juried show on your CV (if you have a piece/s selected) and nobody will remember who the jurors were, which pieces won prizes or which were rejected!

I do not think it was appropriate for a juror to question an artist in public......very unprofessional! Anyway, it was just one person's opinion and that is hardly worth getting upset about - unpleasant, yes, - listen and move on!

From: Luz Maria Perez -- Aug 27, 2012

If the juror had some doubts about the entry, that artist should have been called privately beforehand. I do not see any reason to embarrass anyone - if the artwork is in question perhaps it should not even be considered. In my opinion, any copying of another artists work is quite recognizable and unforgivable; however, technique (as in the case of no visible brushstrokes) should not be held against the artist. If the juror believes this to be a giclee, then the artist should be questioned beforehand.

From: Loraine Wellman -- Aug 27, 2012

It's only fair to others in the competition that there be "due diligence" on the part of the jurors. But I also think we all need to relax a bit about competitions. It isn't the final word or end of the world. Here is a quote on competition: "Perhaps someday all of us may let go of the compulsion to win and thereby finally find out how to *play*. Neuroscience has demonstrated that play, which may begin at age three months, is connected to an intense burst of brain development. Humor and playfulness were always pathways to growth, and still are once we are no longer driven so feverishly by the competitive urge" - David Richo in "When the Past is Present".

From: Zoltan Czik -- Aug 27, 2012

"Competitions are for horses, not artists." (Bela Bartok).

From: Theresa Bayer -- Aug 27, 2012

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, to find that gambling is going on in here. So if you want honesty, tell them is has to be done freehand. And if you must question the integrity someone's work do it in an appropriately private setting. Otherwise your own integrity may be questioned in turn.

From: CarolineA -- Aug 27, 2012

As someone who often wonders whether to put my work up for competition or evaluation, I think very carefully before doing it. Its not the constructive criticism that worries me, that is why I would enter my work after all; its how easy it is for jurors to easily give offence, even where none was intended. Its inevitable that any incautious remark will get back to the person its about.
FWIW, anyone who is a juror at any sort of competition or show needs to put a zip on their mouth and think before they speak. The insult was made public, even if that was not the intention, therefore the apology should be the same and hopefully the artist has not gone home bad-mouthing the jurors and the show. Its good PR as well as good manners, and you certainly catch more flies with honey than vinegar!
Its exactly why I rarely enter shows. Its happened to me too.

From: Freda Alschuler -- Aug 28, 2012

I have been painting portraits for years and find it always a challenge sometimes frustrating and sometimes rewarding. I have never thought of cheating with painting over a photograph. This would be easy, I will try it once....!! A true artist www.fredaArt.ch

From: linda roth -- Aug 28, 2012

A lot of artists are pretty fragile and that makes sense, art is personal. But I don't understand why a contesting (ambitious) artist would get upset being asked to expound about their work in front of an audience UNLESS there's something was not kosher about the process, UNLESS the artist was so reclusive and inhibited that their skin never got thick enough to handle criticism, which is commonly handed out in art colleges and workshops and classes daily. I don't think a public apology is warranted. She got into the show. --But now I wondering if she got into the show because she got upset over being queried? Did the jury cave, or did she come through with a satisfactory explanation? The only apology she might be entitled to is for being caught by surprise by the question posed in public. A heads up might have been helpful.

I've been asked to explain my work when I was young and got a little uppity, but did so quite well and fielded negative responses too. I didn't get into the show, but I also didn't hold it against the jury for asking me to explain my work, myself. It was a lesson. A good one. If you're going to be competitive, you have to expect to be challenged. You have to be prepared to assert your aesthetics and their authenticity.

From: Kent Wilkens -- Aug 28, 2012

A lot of opinions, most in general agreement that jurying needs to be done with tact and discretion, but needs to be done. The original post didn't give enough specifics to determine if lines had been crossed. Sometimes people ask questions not to find the truth, but to put things into question. As for Juries, Roberts comments should be taken to heart by all who participate in the "competitions" its purely a matter of opinion, beauty being in the eye of the beholder. One of my most recognized works was rejected from even being in the show by a Jury. There is no better Jury than a person who doesn't just comment "that's nice" but actually takes hard earned cash out of their pocket to purchase your work, and then takes it home to hang with pride for the next several decades. In our gallery we have posted a little sign "We consider all of our customers to be experts, beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

From: Jane Forth -- Aug 28, 2012

If originality and the ensuing process of creative work is an important value of your art ethics and aesthetics, then questions of what your work involves, should not present issues to one personally--I would believe. To be fair, however, I also think that much more is put on visual artists today to be articulate about their work and if questions regarding work do come up, to be able to speak intelligently about one's work. Dialogue, I think is a great avenue for artists. I once had a collector tell me that there are many artists out there, but scratch their surface and there isn't much there.

From: Kent Wilkens -- Aug 28, 2012

The fresco issue if a new work would be of interest. As a restoration one would think that the restorer would maintain the original integrity of the work, rather than create a new work. The original was a work of genius, where the "restoration" would be better described as a defacing. I cant help wondering what the original artist would think of the cartoon that was plastered over his work.

From: Bob Ragland -- Aug 28, 2012

I have been saying that for years. I have been an Artist In Residence in schools from time to time. My last gig lasted 14 years. The program was killed off in 2009.

From: Monika Dery -- Aug 28, 2012

I agree with you wholeheartedly as there are artist out there today who believe that painting one or two brushstrokes on a giclee turns it into an original piece of art...very devious but makes the artist lots of money, and apparently isn't illegal.

When I was president of the Alberta Community Art Clubs Association several years ago we had a situation at a zone art competition where the jurors questioned an artist's rendering of a big cat (Ocelot or something similar). Of course, no copies of other peoples' photos are allowed so they asked if she'd been to Africa and had painted the cat from her own photo (which she had.) The artist produced her photo and she went on to win a prestigious award. She was not offended.

How does one create a painting in acrylic or oil without one single brushstroke visible? The writer didn't explain that. I'm very curious.

From: Roger -- Aug 28, 2012

I have heard negative comments about paintings of african subject matter on several occasions - mostly implying that the artist could not have possibly been there in Africa to source those subjects. In many cases I knew for a fact that the artists in question have indeed visited Africa. It blows my mind how jurors make such dumb assumptions that someone "could not have possibly seen the source in person". I hear this argument very often and I make a point to respond strongly against such assumptions.

From: Mineke Reinders -- Aug 28, 2012

I'm a little surprised at the number of people commenting here who see no difference between a legitimate critique of a work of art on its merits, and charging an artist with fraudulent practices in public. Being able to accept criticism and submitting to accusatory questioning are quite different things. By all means, a juror suspecting that a work is not authentic should question the artist, but in private and before the gala reception.

An art contest is not a court of law, but the principle of innocent until proven guilty should still apply. Our current technology makes it easier to cheat, and it's unfortunate that there are apparently quite a lot of people desperate enough to do anything to win, even if that means cheating. That doesn't make the jurors' job any easier (I've been a juror, I know the predicament) but to single out an artist for questioning in public I feel is arrogant and in bad taste. Better to err on the side of decency.

From: Elizabeth Allen -- Aug 31, 2012

If the work is created with honesty and integrity there should be no need for the artist to feel defensive or offended when questioned about methods. When asked "How do you create your art?", I do not take the question as an affront but rather as genuine interest expressed by a viewer who can not understand how the painting came about.






BOOK OF THE TWICE-WEEKLY LETTERS--10 YEARS OF MORE THAN A THOUSAND UNABRIDGED LETTERS

$35.00(USD or CAD) plus $25.00 shipping in Canada, $35 in the USA, or $40.00 to anywhere else in the world.

TWL Letters
  • To purchase with a credit card or PayPal, please choose your location from the list below and click 'Buy Online'.

  • |
  • Here's a quote from Robert's letter on first publication, November 27, 2009: "It's my sincere wish that you get real and lasting value from it. It's your book, really, and I'd like to thank everyone in our Painter's Keys Community for the inspiration that makes these Twice-Weekly letters happen."

The Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letters, 960 pages--ten years of over a thousand unabridged letters including an 82 page index. Six by nine inches and more than two inches thick, this beautiful book is hardbound Red Cayenne with a separate dust-jacket, a red ribbon, and shipped in a custom protective book-box.

To correspond regarding your book order, please write: sarah@saraphina.com


Robert's worldwide gift that artists love to get.

Absolutely free, no strings. You'll get the valuable twice-weekly letter and be joining the world's most active art community.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE FREE

Last modified: Sep, 02, 2014