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St. John the Evangelist and St. Francis
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A new angle

September 13, 2013

Dear Artist,

Workshoppers seem to want critiques, and some instructors insist on them. I've always wondered about the value of crits. Pattern<br>by Robert Genn<br>acrylic on canvas demo<br>14 x 18 inches by Pattern
by Robert Genn
acrylic on canvas demo
14 x 18 inches


There are several kinds. One is where the instructor crits every work one at a time, either one-on-one or with the group. Another is where the instructor selects particular works that need help and explains how to fix things. Another is to get the students to crit each other's works. Yet another is where only better work is critted in front of the group, the idea being that students learn more from seeing and talking about better work.

Recently I tried something new. I asked a group to crit one of my own half-baked demos. When giving demos, many instructors notice students marvelling at the prowess of the so called "master." Most of us agree this is misguided and not to the point. My group was surprised to get the invitation, especially when I told them the words, "love," "like," "nice," and "good" were forbidden.

Some were too shy to get down and dirty; others were all over it like kids on a broken gumball machine. FYI, we've put my painting at the top of the current clickback. Go ahead, drop me a line.

A lesson for the event was the variety of opinion. One student wanted the foreground completely reorganized; another took issue with the sky. Agreement was widespread. Even though I'd given two full minutes in advance so they could gather their individual thoughts, I still wondered if they were picking up some of the unanimity from one another.

Some students, either beginners or those who did relatively poor work, were quite verbal and often gave interesting and valuable input. I've noticed this before--something to do with the innocence and purity that comes naturally to some novices. Other, more advanced painters had little or nothing to say. Picking up on the vibe in the room, I realized these better painters wanted to get the crit stopped and simply get back to their work.

So I cut everyone off. I'm sure they thought I just couldn't stand it any longer. Fact is, I was marvelling at the input and wanted it to go on. At the same time I haven't yet done anything about what anyone said, and the unsigned painting you see now is the painting they saw. Go ahead, make my day.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "If criticism had any power to harm, the skunk would be extinct by now." (Fred Allen)

Esoterica: If the object of crits is to hone our critical abilities, then we're winning. If it's to give arbitrary, personalized opinions, then it's not so hot. The wisdom of crits may be simply to build the faculty of "authority." It's the "this is wrong and this is how to fix it" faculty. This sort of authority, when carried around by the artist himself, is a deadly app. Not everyone seems to be able to download this app, and "dependent on others" apps may be the norm for some lifetimes. When working with students, my passionate quest is to help those "dependent on others" to press "delete."





Cropped and stretched
by Mark A. Rue, FL, USA


Your twice-weekly emails always get me thinking. Speaking of thinking, I think that "demo" you posted<br>Before (left)<br>After (centre, left)
Before (left)
After (centre, left)
was pretty darn good. The colors are great - you have a wonderful sense of color. Nice clear places for the eye to rest, complemented by areas of activity and interest. But I question the composition. I cropped it and pushed the almost centered tree to the left - I think that makes it more interesting. Then I "stretched it" for a more pleasing proportion.



There are 2 comments for Cropped and stretched by Mark A. Rue

From: Virginia Wieringa -- Sep 17, 2013

Well done!

From: John Paitch -- Sep 17, 2013

Amazing transformation, but stretching like that must be difficult to do with stretched canvas. The lesson is "next time"


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More animals needed?
by Maureen Savage, UK


We all experience a picture in a way unique to our selves so I had to look at the painting. Having visual problems makes it a bit difficult but between the two rocks in the foreground to the right I see the outline of a wolf or husky as though a negative in a photograph. Next to her on the left is space for the cubs. It would be an experience to see on your canvas such beautiful wild creatures looking back at the artist.



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Sunlight or overcast?
by Geoffrey Dorfman, Trenton, NJ, USA


The only thing I might say, because you obviously know what you're doing, (possibly too much so) Lagoon<br>original painting by Geoffrey Dorfman Lagoon
original painting
is that if you're going to offer the impression of sunlight on snow, but treat the rest of the picture as if natural light is not part of the 'equation,' you weaken both approaches. It seems pulled in two directions. Whatever principles guide a picture, however bizarre, ought to have the virtue of consistency. The viewer, (in this case, myself) has to feel you're invested in it all the way. In this particular case either sunlight and shade or no sunlight and shade. At least that's part of my teaching, and I try to hold to it in my own work.



There is 1 comment for Sunlight or overcast? by Geoffrey Dorfman

From: Ron Maskell -- Sep 17, 2013

Always a good idea to decide on the weather before you start painting. Plein air solves this problem.


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Troublesome composition
by Leslie Pruneau, Raleigh, NC, USA


The painting lacks a solid focal point... or 2 or 3. The color needs refining (check those intensities Crowded Spaces 11<br>oil painting<br>36 x 60 inches by Leslie Pruneau Crowded Spaces 11
oil painting
36 x 60 inches
to make it balance). The composition is leaning to the left. Use your "x" intersections with lines/shapes to work the eye back to center more often. That said, the ease in which you painted this demo shows your experience and talent. I love the blaring use of larger flat shapes (which tend to come forward) in the background relative to the smaller, more detailed shapes in the foreground.



There is 1 comment for Troublesome composition by Leslie Pruneau

From: Michael -- Sep 17, 2013

A delightful work -- congratulations.


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No love here, thank you
by Mary Moquin, Sandwich, MA, USA


I had to chuckle when I read this letter. Whenever I do group crits, I always tell people that they Shifting Time, Oil Cove Gallery, Wellfleet, MA<br>original painting by Mary Moquin Shifting Time, Oil Cove Gallery, Wellfleet, MA
original painting
can't just say they "love" something (and the similar adjectives as well), unless they follow that articulately with why they love it. What exactly are they finding pleasing or disturbing? Otherwise it is as meaningless as saying I love chocolate ice cream. I remember one crit that was particularly entertaining, a painting was put up and one woman exclaimed "I absolutely love the colors she put together" I looked at her and said "surprise, surprise, look at what you are wearing!" She was dressed in the same color palette as the painting!

I think it is a valuable lesson for artists to see and hear how their work is communicating to others. Because I believe we are trying to communicate something about our experience through our work. Many reasons that people "love" a painting is totally a personal response, something they find familiar and have an affinity with. Often they may have seen something in the work that I wasn't trying to say. I can't control that, but I can choose to alter the message if too many people misread it. I prefer to ask people how the painting makes them feel. If they don't "like" the color of someone's sky, I ask them why. It is more meaningful to the person receiving the feedback to understand the why, if the why matters to them they can respond, if it doesn't they can leave as is. Sometimes we want to make the viewer uncomfortable with something, sometimes we want things to be less obvious and make them ponder a little. Critiques can help an artist clarify their intent.

It is good to remember that the most popular ice cream flavor people "love" is vanilla. What artist wants to be vanilla?



There are 2 comments for No love here, thank you by Mary Moquin

From: Jim Schwann -- Sep 17, 2013

Vanilla gets bad action because it is white. It is actually a most appealing and delicate flavor.

From: catherine robertson -- Sep 17, 2013

Oh ! It HAS to be Chocolate !!! :>)


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There are no hopeless pieces
by Marjorie Moeser, Toronto, ON, Canada


My first reaction was, "This is not a finished work, just the start of composition, underpainting Guanajuato<br>acrylic painting by Marjorie Moeser Guanajuato
acrylic painting
and plotting in of values." I liked the feeling emerging. The merging of front, middle and backgrounds still need to be resolved. Front tree perhaps could be shifted either left or right of the central axis of the painting for greater interest in all areas of the painting. That row of trees seem to be a bold screen, blocking out the rest of areas behind them, rather than a cunning way of urging the viewer to see through a screen to discover what's behind. I loved the chosen palette. It is a happy painting.

That said, I turn to the question of the value of crits. I have often attended workshops when the instructor's comments were always constructive. She always found something good in even the most hopeless of pieces. (Of course, I don't believe any piece could be totally hopeless. In time, with effort, something good will come of every painting... if only the act of painting itself.) Group crits do serve a purpose, I believe. Most people in a workshop can come away with at least one more valuable piece of information that enlarges their cache of "painting tricks." This can only be a good thing.



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Tree trunks too equal
by Judy Rogers, IL, USA


Recently, I was asked to write an artist's statement. Your comment (above) regarding the instruction not to use "love," "like," "nice," and "good" reminded me of my instruction to myself not to use "inspired," "love," and "blessed" (although I never use that word) in my artist statement. I guess, as a retired English prof, I can get mighty uptight with certain word usage. As a by the way, I would always, at the beginning of every semester, instruct my students not to use those same 4 words (that you had chosen) in their essays. I compared them to swear words, which are also used because they are "handy," i.e., no thinking required to find a more perfect word.

Anyhow, back to the crit of your work. What got my attention immediately (and maybe that's the most reliable response--that initial one) was your tree trunks: 4 and maybe a half of one, all of the exact same width, and then close to height and color. My eyes would not leave that, seeing those trunks as vertical pencils, also without much variation in their direction either.



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Trusting in the artist
by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA


Critiquing another artist? I hate it. I rarely do it unless the suggestion is strictly mechanical, Cheetah snarl<br>digital photo painting by Bobbo Goldberg Cheetah snarl
digital photo painting
matter of composition, form, design, technique. Only when asked, usually repeatedly. Even then, I'm perhaps overly careful to qualify it as my own opinion. In a sense, I'd rather be thought of as a proofreader than a critic.

Why? I believe strongly in the notion that we're right where we're supposed to be, evolving as we choose to or care to. I think we're always near the limits of our perception, trying to evolve. I don't feel right intruding my own subjectivity into the growth of someone else's. I have friends who, for some reason, solicit my feedback. I have a few rules I mostly keep to myself in offering those services when my arm is twisted.

1) I don't know what's led up to this creative moment in a person's growth, or what it means going forward. No idea.

2) A word of sincere encouragement can propel a person for months. Propulsion is more useful than correction.

3) What the blazes do I even begin to know about the artistic vision of another? Would I dare correct Dali? Kandinsky? Not a chance.

4) Important: outer expression relates to inner experience. "Self-expression" is more than just a handy term. There's an inside there with which I am not acquainted. I am loath to interrupt that process.

5) Some people are actually harmed by critique, inhibited, made self-conscious. Some aren't. I'd be more inclined to discuss these things if I felt I could always tell the difference.

While this may seem to paint my view of the artist as a fragile flower, it's seldom true; people can be quite resilient. I just choose to err on that side. When I suggest changes to an artist, I always have a sense of having violated something precious and trying to grow. You don't, to paraphrase Samuel Beckett in " Endgame ," scratch around the roots to see if a plant has sprouted. Better to trust in its growth.



There are 3 comments for Trusting in the artist by Bobbo Goldberg

From: Sandy Donn -- Sep 17, 2013

BG: I'm swooning, as I could not have stated these thoughts more eloquently. Bravo!

From: Anonymous -- Sep 20, 2013

You are right on! Propelling someone forward is more important than correcting them! They'll catch on to the issues that need to be corrected if they have the confidence to do so!

From: Hugo -- Sep 23, 2013

And on the flip side, I was there when an emerging artist asked the most famous artist I know (now knew) for a crit of a whole album worth of his work. For every suggestion the one asking had an excuse, a reason. In the end nothing was learned, but a relationship hurt.


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Gwen Fox Workshops Held in Taos, New Mexico, USA.  <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>.
Gwen Fox Workshops
Held in Taos, New Mexico, USA.

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 Bryan Mark Taylor, San Franciso Bay, CA, USA



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 Christine Braziel of Fresno, CA, USA, who wrote, "The horizon lines need more change; they are too straight. Needs more trees on the left. The trees seem lonely and isolated. Needs texture in the foreground; I would add a little orange, green and blues there."

<br>Bryan's take on the Clint Eastwood challenge.
Bryan's take on the Clint Eastwood challenge.
And also Bryan Dunleavy of Titchfield, Hampshire, Southampton, UK who wrote, "I fixed your water for you."

And also Erica Hawkes of Kelowna, BC, Canada who wrote, " 'Some were too shy to get down and dirty; others were all over it like kids on a broken gumball machine,' made me laugh out loud!"


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 A new angle...

From: John Ferrie -- Sep 12, 2013

The thing about "crits" is its really just an opinion. It is not the word of GOD. And yet, all artists want to hear is "I love it". I get asked to look at works all the time. Some amateur some established. What I always try and do is steer someone towards their strengths. What is more bothersome than flaws in works, is getting artists to wrap their brains around the fact that someone 'might' know better and steer them in the right direction. I always say "i'll tell you what I think, but you may not like it". I know as I am about to turn 52 next month that the bulk of the greatest work of my life is still a head of me. And even though I have painted acres and acres of canvas, I can always be better. What we capture and communicate one day may be something entirely different with a new influence or life experience. Art work comes though us, not necessarily from us. While is does take a life time to understand what we are communicating, the message may not always be clear. The secret is to 'receive" what someone is saying....or put their words in the blender and hit "Frapee"!! Maybe that is just me....John Ferrie

From: Jane Ross -- Sep 12, 2013

Robert, your "New Angle" reminds me of another workshop: one of the most important I've ever been part of (including conferences). Each international participant was invited to present things about their methodology that did not work, and consequently impacted on what their projects were intended to achieve. The gathering [1987] was dynamic and helpful. In addition to the papers, a candid, refreshing book was another result. I continue to be challenged by the "new angles" I learned from the other participants and use those insights in my work today. Jane Ross

From: Marilyn Schutzky -- Sep 13, 2013

I have personally thought that everyone gains from a crit. The student learns more about critiquing his own paintings, what to look for and how to crit others. The instructor learns more about where the student is in his journey and also sometimes a bit from fresh eyes. I consider it a win-win situation.

From: ReneW -- Sep 13, 2013

My initial thought while looking at your painting, Robert I saw what I thought were two horizons. One near the bottom and the other near the top. The horizon on the bottom, in gray, is too close to the bottom or maybe eliminated all together. This would allow your eyes to move up to your second horizon which I prefer. But I would take out the green band and make it an all gray. Maybe snow on some tree limbs would help as well. Also move the central tree to the left , out of the central area. Basically I like the work but it needs a little tweaking with the lead-in.

From: Adele McDonnell -- Sep 13, 2013

I would soften the edge of the dark green band on the lake, break up the too straight edge on the grey foreground, and eliminate the too bent tree in the middle (the one that looks like a misplaced shadow). Otherwise, I think it is great!

From: Jackie Knott -- Sep 13, 2013

This painting is probably farther up (down?) the abstract scale. So much so the natural landscape is lost to imposed lines and shapes; if that was your intent you nailed it. The middle tree overpowers, the horizon trees are cut off, the gray base unfinished; overall, distracting. I would have trouble living with this painting.
If I ever buy a Genn it wouldn't be this one; still, love your brush technique over any characteristic of your work.
I'm smiling as I post this - crits are meaningless, right? The only one that matters is you making all those tiresome treks to the bank.

From: Janet Badger -- Sep 13, 2013

"Show and Tell" is a better way to hold discussions of work in front of a group. Advice is too skewed by the advisor it is coming from, opinions should be avoided, encouragement is all. I'm not interested in other artists' ideas about my work. I already know whether it "works" and works for me, or not. Keep your work Your Own...damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges -- Sep 13, 2013

When I look at your painting I see a good composition that needs a few adjustments. The painting overall has too much middle value and lacks some value changes within the area which I am reading as snow. A major issue is the mint green band between the trees and the slightly darker band above it, these colours are demanding to be seen before the more interesting areas of the image this is flattening out the space on the canvas and pulling the background into the foreground. The brown blob of colour in the center of the image needs work as it quickly becomes a black hole sucking me into it and trapping me there.
I'm glad you qualified this as a substandard attempt because if you intended this to be sold and someone bought it I may as well go shoot myself now and get it over with, lol.

From: Gabriella Morrison -- Sep 13, 2013

"Go ahead. Make my day." A Dirty Harry type of painterly self-assurance. "Even if my "bullet" misses, I can still blow you , "punk", away." But then, Dirty Harry is a fictional character.

From: Mac Grieve -- Sep 13, 2013

Let me know what time you will be home today, so I can drop by and pick up your substandard reject.... you were only going to throw it out anyway!!

From: Ed Zellweger -- Sep 13, 2013

Is that an owl down there against the snow? Cute.

From: Martin van Veenendaal -- Sep 13, 2013

The foreground water doesn't match up with the background water.

From: Dorothy Gardiner -- Sep 13, 2013

I never liked "public" critiques in an art class or workshop. I wanted to hear from my instructor at my easel(which is why Intook the coass)not other students. I found people chimed in - when I didn't admire their paintings. Also, it took time away from painting.

From: Carol Hama Chang -- Sep 13, 2013

My first thought: I am a struggling artist, whereas Robert, you are a seasoned, successful artist...who am I to crit YOUR stuff?? My second thought: Oh my, the foreground is too symmetrical and my eyes go directly to the tree at the centre foreground and just stays there. If that is what your intention is, you have succeeded well!

Having said that, when at a workshop, if my work is overlooked for the crit at the end of the day I feel cheated, I want to know where my painting needs improvement or where it has failed. Some critics concentrate only on colour harmony, others only on the geometry of the shapes, others harp on contrast only and these are the only comments they make on painting after painting. Then there are some who inject their personal likes/dislikes into the mix. ...crits should NOT be subjective. Unless a critic is open minded and fair in their assessment of the image it is unfair to the submitting artist. Most critics, I am happy to say are fair and open minded.
You must be a very good instructor, Robert, because instructors who force their students to think differently open new avenues for their students' thoughts! Another "smack on the side of the head" as Betty Edwards calls it, something to tweak our inspirational hormones....

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Sep 13, 2013

People have found a kitty or an owl in the foreground. I have fun looking for "rogue images' in paintings...and that seems to be one.
I guess any time we see a distinct shape with two dots there is a possibility it is an animal or person!

From: Robert Sesco -- Sep 13, 2013

Critique is simply a fancy word for opinion or teaching. A master would critique his student's work, for example, and the student would either learn from this or not. I believe that 'crits', as they are being called here, have value, not because they come from novices or masters, but because over time the student will 'hear' what needs to be done to improve. I will read a non-fiction book filled with wonderful ideas many times and invariably I will pick up that wonderful nugget that makes the cost of the book so minimal in relation. Why didn't I pick it up on the first reading? Because I wasn't ready for it. Crits would be best if the critiquer would REPAINT the entire painting for the critiquee and SHOW them what they want done instead of rattling off some multi-syllabic filler that is typically used to flesh out term papers. THIS would be the height of crit for moi.

From: Monika Smith -- Sep 13, 2013

With all the art courses, in techniques and appreciation, everyone is a critic. I can only think of the good, ol' days when artists went for it, ignored criticism (for example the Impressionists) and really startled a world of standardized art into thinking differently. So, if the crit is over whether the eye is leading up or down, or the colour isn't quite right, that's like counting angels on the head of a pin. There is no perfection. Even world class artists made second rate work. As a beloved creative writing prof once told me, crit the important guys, national level or world class, they've made it and you are probably not going to tell them to their faces anyways. Use an important work to test your knowledge, belief system, esthetic understanding and emotional response. Because ultimately if a work doesn't give you an emotional response, even for a moment, it's not done what it is supposed to. If nothing appeals but your own work, well, that's about the viewer. Some days a 'great' work makes my soul sing, another, it's wall paper. So, be nice to your peers and don't crit to change the work as if it were what you wanted to do and it's your personal idealization. Never let your teacher touch your canvas, because it's not yours anymore. Learn good counter arguments in a crit and be strong. Critical art language is quite fun to learn. And, for heaven's sake, don't cry if you hear something bad. Take a look at this art critique. There is some offensive language as seen in the title, but it does point out some unfortunate tendencies in the crit world. Cheers, Monika

From: Duncan Lancaster -- Sep 13, 2013

After reading through all the responses so far, both here and in the previous clickback, with all the varied opinions and no consensus, my take out is that an artist shouldn't give a rat's ass about what anyone says.

From: Kevin Gilson -- Sep 13, 2013

Since you invited comments, here are mine. I first viewed your painting on my iPhone and later on my MacBook Pro for a larger size. The reaction did not change with size. The large area of very dark greens just above the center of the scene drew my eye immediately. The areas of orange then captured my eye and lead it immediately out of the scene via the top left along the diagonal created by the orange areas. It took quite a bit of work to get my eye to view the rest of the painting, which is quite nice once that happens. There you are. Hope this helps.

From: Greg Pyra -- Sep 13, 2013

Since so many artists work in isolation it seems most important to be able to self crit IN A POSITIVE WAY. I wonder if artists by the nature of what they do become overly self critical,like it is programmed into them, after years of painting. Maybe the biggest help is to ask what have I learned in this painting? If there is a positive response then growth has occurred. if anything artists need a great deal of positive reinforcement just because they take the road less traveled. Thanks for your many words of wisdom Robert. I have currently a new solo show at Masters Gallery Ltd in Calgary, Alberta.

From: David Sharpe -- Sep 13, 2013

Respectfully, I have to admit I'm having trouble with your drawing....shouldn't the vanishing point be at eye level in the distant plane? Your rock forms in the foreground seem to have a different vp.

From: Jasper Coulombe -- Sep 13, 2013

There is a lack of depth and the sky looks like a brick wall. I wouldn't sign it if I were you lol

From: Andre Satie -- Sep 13, 2013

Leave it alone! It's finished. The line of light at the far edge of the water is a little stroke of genius. Many thanks for what you're doing,

From: Patricia King-Tito (Triti) -- Sep 13, 2013

The foxes are cute!
Philadelphia, Pa.

From: Larry Correll -- Sep 13, 2013

I am new to painting at the age of 73 years. I have a BS in Chemical Engineering and worked in industry from 1957 to 2012. I have just started pursuing a degree in Fine Arts and have never done anything in art. I have always appreciated art.

In regards to your painting the colors are complimentary. It borders on the abstract. I dislike abstract art because it never shows me the true ability of the artist. I think you have to work very hard on realistic paintings to get the detail needed. I include fantasy paintings in realistic art because of the details. Sploching paint on canvas does not require a lot of work or talent.

From: Pat Gebbie -- Sep 13, 2013

On your demo painting, did you know that there are 2 wolves coming up the hill to get you!

From: Gwen Meyer -- Sep 13, 2013

There is another school of thought that says that praising what a student does right helps the student correct the things that are not so good in a positive, confident fashion. I've had both approaches used on me, and to be frank, the positive-comments-only approach has pushed me forward in ways a negative approach never did. I think this is because the very act of painting needs confidence to push its brush. Unconfident painting often makes the viewer uncomfortable. This is true in other creative areas as well.

On your painting? I loved the intimacy the high horizon lent to the painting, and the pattern of color choices made it seem almost like a woodcut!

From: Cynthia Alfaro -- Sep 13, 2013

The only thing that bothered me about the painting was that large tree almost in the center. I cropped the left side a bit, then it was perfect! Gorgeous work!

From: Ruth Jaeger -- Sep 13, 2013

The problem with the picture I can't see past is that it's of a boxer with his extra hand holding his long pipe. He has two bunches dark green hair, a very red top of his face, especially the eye on our right. Green moustache. Grey boxing gloves, and fluffy green trousers. A little posse of greet cats is looking at him from the lower right corner. This is really fun. Thanks for this.

From: Gillian Redwood -- Sep 13, 2013

I was talking to my friend Deborah today about Critiques, and we both agreed that we react badly and hate criticism, and only benefit from helpful advice from trusted friends. However, in response to your request re. your painting 'Patterns', my feeling is that the 2 bands of green are the fox in the woods, and would do well with a wash of blue over them. They seem to cannon forward and take attention away from everything else. But it is called 'Patterns' so maybe there is a creative choice there?

From: Jennifer Pite -- Sep 13, 2013

My eye couldn't find anywhere to rest...it kept racing around the painting and never never found a comfortable place to view.

From: Elizabeth Concannon -- Sep 13, 2013

Very good demo I think because of the drama of color and dark and white used in the composition. I particularly liked the "control" caused by the directionals and the movement into the landscape -- except for the last horizontal which seemed to lose its place -- and I am guessing you did not have enough time to go there with any precise "information", or that your statement back there was that it was so far away that it was not interesting or relevant. Maybe a color not so much like the foreground could be considered.

From: Thomas Jarman -- Sep 13, 2013

You can feel the movement and energy of the actual painting as it evolved in this work, a noble feat in itself, but it's a bit blah.

From: Luc Dormande -- Sep 13, 2013

I think it would be much better as a bigger one.

From: Blake Ward -- Sep 13, 2013

I would like to see further depth as the work (as on line) it appears quite flat. There remains great opportunity to finish the background. Hope that this has helped to make your day!

From: Gera Hasse. -- Sep 13, 2013

I think this crit approach helpful. Particularly because it is an in progress piece. I have the opportunity to see where I would go in a fundamentally good composition. Foreground doesn't work now because it needs more refining to make it the focal point. I only see slivers of sky through the trees. There's not enough sky to criticize. The third background of trees could be slightly developed as well as the background sliver of snow.
Thanks for all you do.

From: Kevin Mullin -- Sep 13, 2013

I’m assuming that the foreground is a shadowed snowfield and that the white horizontal space is a snowfield in sunlight; that the top blueish horizontal space represents distant forest/hills. Then I’m a bit lost (not altogether unpleasantly) in the green and blue bands across the middle (open water, shallower and deeper?), especially where the white shape rises on the left-hand side. What strikes me as most enjoyable is the way the leafed tree branches rise out of their ground – waving such showy but not too wild colors! Yay, yay!

From: Karla Pearce -- Sep 13, 2013

I think critiques do more damage than good. Novice painters will get better as long as they continue to paint. If I do a crit its 2 to 1 on the positive side. Ya, there's room for improvement but your doing really well.. keep on painting.

I can't tell you how many students tell the story of quitting painting for 10 years because of something negative a teacher said to them about their art.

It's easy to mean and critical for someone's own good.. this is a remnant of the old baby boomer approach to hurtful teaching. I'd rather put on my cheering pom poms and sing.. you go girl... you go..

From: Ann Davis -- Sep 13, 2013

Well, I'm not a painter, therefore I can only say what I like and don't like. So I deeply studied the composition. I find it enthralling. Upon close inspection I see a kitty in the front, an abandoned ax behind him....if you turn your head 45' to the left side of the work, there is a baboon face in yellow with a tiny dog biting it's head. In the center I see an orange cyberman with a telephone headset, maybe it's a treeman, not sure. On the ground to the left of the tree lies a grey dog with a black ear and 3 black spots. Obviously this was painted above the snowline because I see green fields in the background, some harvested, some not...and at the edge of the field it looks like villagers and running with torches, I imagine chasing whoever was going to behead the cat. There might be an octopus above the baboon, not quite sure, but all in all I really enjoyed looking at the painting, it was a meditative experience..What a story it tells:)) And yes, I am completely sober:)) Did I mention I can't paint???

From: Janice Bridgman -- Sep 13, 2013

Well here goes......... You asked for comments on "Patterns".

- the 3 orange shapes on left side of painting are equidistant.

- would like to see some white to break up the long green shape between the 2nd. tree on the left and the middle tree. The green shape is rather "heavy" and takes away from the attractive shape of the middle tree.

- would like to see a narrower band of green in background.

- your 4 rocks make a square.

Am sure with a little practice and some whiskey it will get better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You are a GREAT teacher and I look forward twice a week to your letters. Keep them coming!!! Fun,fun.

From: Bethany Shumate -- Sep 13, 2013

You really put out a challenge when you limited certain buzzwords in our critiques. Your minimal painterly style in the picture is relaxing. The muted colors contribute to the easy feeling. Of course, you are very capable of painting attractive landscapes. However, the rocks continually caught my eye. They are positioned almost as soldiers. The foreground and middle ground rocks mirror the placement of each other except one line was placed a smudge further over than the other. They are close to the same size, same color, same shape. Perhaps placing them more asymmetrically, varying the sizes, colors and shapes, and grouping them together in interesting ways would make them look as though they were placed by nature. Your trees would be helped also with different trunk widths and variations in the spaces between them. All in all, the painting would be comfortable to live with.

From: Lynda Pogue -- Sep 13, 2013

This was a great success at a workshop .
I gathered many many art magazines prior to the workshop/course. Each 'student' had a pen and paper ready sitting in groups of 4 or 5. I placed a group of mags in the middle of each group and asked then NOT to open them until I gave instructions. I asked that this be a solitary and quiet excercise... that they don't share anything out loud. Then, they were instructed to go through their magazines and copy down words/phrases/sentences that jumped out at them while describing art. Once they finished one mag, they went to another. I kept walking around the room making sure to exchange mags among the tables. We did this for only about 10-15 minutes max.
Then I asked them to stop and put the mags on the floor. Each person was to look over their own list and circle what they thought were the top 2 or 3 best descriptors of art. One at a time, around their tables each person read from their list...They shared these aloud with each other ... first in their group. Next with the class.They were developing a common voice.
I had coloured paper available and they were to tear it however they wanted and each person wrote, in big bold print, their fave expression...... we created a collage on the wall ........ and this was referred to for the rest of the workshop/course ... and was added to whenever a great phrase jumped out to someone.
I copied the entire list for them and provided it for everyone and encouraged them to continue to add to their own list in order for them to increase their ability to discuss art. Cool huh?

From: Barbara Jacobsen -- Sep 13, 2013

I think your demo is luscious and spontaneous, and of course unfinished.
I facilitate a weekly collage class with a friend at our studio. (Have for 20 years now!) It's a combination of art, self-discovery through images and group sharing. I'm a professional painter and collage artist, though collage has become my primary medium.
At the end of 3 hours we (8 students plus the 2 of us) put our work on the wall and take turns sharing whatever we want. No criticism or advice allowed, unless asked for by the artist.
We get interesting feedback. There are one or two regulars who tend to dominate or try to "analyze" the work no matter how often I remind them not to. I liked your idea of forbidding certain words...might try that. Any other suggestions?

From: Susan L Stewart -- Sep 13, 2013

My only comment on the painting you posted for critique is that I hate that big black blob right in the center of the painting. My eye keeps coming back to it and it's hard to focus on other areas of the painting.

From: Sharon Dennis -- Sep 13, 2013

Don’t quite know if “half baked” meant that it was not fully finished, or because it was a “demo” and done quickly?? BUT the very first thing that caught my eye was the dark mass almost dead center?? Would not have that there, or would tone it down, hard to get my eye to go anywhere else after it landed there. Then the front foreground is a bit hard to understand, are you on a bank that is in shadow? Think that line is too straight, like the painting better if I hold my hand over the bottom and block that portion out?? Isn’t it amazing how we can all become critics when there is no way I could have come up with a painting of this caliber myself??!!!

From: Trudy Broadley -- Sep 13, 2013

When I saw your painting for critique, (and after I had tried to personally critique} ...........I was reminded of an upcoming workshop, and a sneak peek of the instructor's reference material shows her trees in the same style.

My question to you is .."Has realistic art gone out of fashion?" A long time artist friend told me "Real doesn't sell!"... Just in case you are wondering, I am a realistic, tight painter - trying very hard to loosen up!

From: Falcon -- Sep 13, 2013

Gennish style and colours. Warm light on the snow and a peek through the trees at the water while standing on ? pavement?? OK, so we had a good day canoeing, still see some nice greenery at the back of the ploughed parking lot... and those kittys belong to the park manager. Love it and all you do.

From: Richard Mason -- Sep 13, 2013

Looks Like you threw out all the rules of composition that I'm familiar with. The foxes were a little difficult to see. But still OK.

From: Linda Blondheim -- Sep 13, 2013

Part of the problem with critiques is that the critiquers don't know the mission or goal of the critiqued painter. I, like many painters might be in study mode, working on specific areas in our learning process. Critiquing our work might not be appropriate in a given situation. Often critiques, given without tact, can be quite harmful to an inexperienced painter. We need to be careful, sensitive, and thoughtful about this power we have over others.

From: Kristine Fretheim -- Sep 13, 2013

I admit I haven’t viewed many of your paintings; most of the work I’ve seen has been on your weekly letters. So this one… Could be a lesson on design, specifically the design elements of “line” and “pattern”. The forms are very flat creating a graphic appearance, yet strategic use of color shapes— warm and cool, dark and light, small and large— creates dimension. The composition is masterful. Wide horizontals are broken by thin, strong verticals, and both are over-laid by a lyrical, sinuous pattern of organic shapes. This lyrical passage is loaded with energy. It dances across the painting, and though it’s toes are anchored at the bottom of the composition, the warm, bright colors floating across the upper half of the painting keep the energy and movement going. I wonder how a small spot of red in the lower left gray area would affect things?

From: Jan Ross -- Sep 13, 2013

My opinion is the background needs to be lightened, particularly the sky going from blue to almost white closer to the terrain, and more variety of color in the strokes indicating the trees would make for a more attractive and interesting 'read'. If your desire was to paint in a flat, Japanese woodcut style, you achieved that, however, if that was not your intent, more gradation from the foreground to the back as well as top to bottom and touches of the complements of the colors in the foreground would contribute to a better piece.

From: Sue Shuker -- Sep 13, 2013

It's a good thing for an instructor to accept, and to show their students, that one rarely creates a wonderful piece first time around without consideration and making changes. Could take a few hours only, or a year (or more) if it just doesn't feel right. Feel right to the artist that is, not the critics. If we had to paint for our critics nothing would ever get finished.
That being said.... My immediate reaction was that I didn't feel the piece was balanced exactly. I don't mind breaking the rule of putting something right in the middle (the 2 trees in the foreground) but I would be adding a smaller one, or some other distraction, slightly to the right so I wasn't stuck there as much.
I know it's not done yet of course. I know you'll add more layers of colour, slightly different from those already down to add more interest. Maybe not....
I paint abstractly, so what do I know? LOL

From: Sunny Birklund -- Sep 13, 2013

I like the idea of giving the students tools/concepts/art vocabulary to be able to look at their own work and improve it to suit themselves. To be able to look at someone else's work that they like and figure out what they like about it and how to apply that to their own work.

From: Terry Bannon -- Sep 13, 2013

I am not an a graphic artist but I enjoy your Twice-Weeklies for philosophical value and for your skill as a writer. It is in that vein that I ask, since when is “to crit” a verb (or even a word)? Despite the pejorative load it carries, to criticize serves very nicely when neutralized by suitable decoration. Or, you could critique a work which seems tailor-made for art and artists. I admit to doing very little research on the validity of “to crit” but what I did do failed to confirm its status as a legitimate English word. Spell-check rejects it, too. Is it perhaps artist argot, a word that’s hip and in in certain circles?
Although lacking credentials to critique another’s prose, I do feel authorized to criticize (in its purest sense) your use of “crit” when other real words will do.

From: Ann McCann -- Sep 13, 2013

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Love it! That is how I feel about some critiques I have had that were awful and embarrassing.

From: Iain Young -- Sep 13, 2013

I think the painting works fairly well as is, with the exception of the gray band at the bottom. Okay, it's safe money to bet that the gray band wouldn't remain as is, but it's all I've got.

When I first looked at the painting, I felt lost in the gray and white expanse of the foreground. The gray band to the right of the tree--the empty swath of the gray and the hard division between the rocks and the gray--makes the white areas feel unresolved. If it were possible to lop off the gray band, you could almost call it a day.

From: Jacqueline Fausset -- Sep 13, 2013

I can't decide what you're best at... painting or analyzing artist's (human) behavior.

From: Jan Boydol -- Sep 13, 2013

I LOVE this line :

When working with students, my passionate quest is to help those "dependent on others" to press "delete."

From: Marleen Bodden -- Sep 13, 2013

As to your painting, simply too many leaf lines going in the same direction in the foreground, which also cuts the canvas in half with that dominant tree there. Just compositionally uncomfortable to my eye. Colors are fine for now.

From: Judy Hampton -- Sep 13, 2013

I don't paint landscapes and have no idea how to critique this one, but my eye immediately went to the yellow area between the two boulders on the bottom. Looks like a couple of Bobcats sitting there.

From: Lee Mothes -- Sep 13, 2013

I like the painting's abstract quality and brighter colors - I've noticed a shift from your more literal/realistic painting.

Also, I like the green cat glowering out of the lower right.

From: Donna Lauzon -- Sep 13, 2013

I adore your writings and look forward to reading the Genn words of individual wisdom in my email.
To critique a Genn seems almost formidable since I am a novice of 4 years and a fellow Canadian of the Ontario Northland. I noted two things the dark value and the way the lines blocked my entrance into the river view. I did enjoy the red. It woke me up better than the caffeine this morning. One day I hope I can make a workshop.

From: Deb -- Sep 13, 2013

Regarding your acrylic painting and critique; you've used warm and cool colors and repeated them throughput. The values are not extreme and I'm needing to see a deeper value in the foreground, like water or rocks. Otherwise it is balanced overall.

From: Grey Darden -- Sep 13, 2013

The rocks in a square almost equally distance from each other is so strong an influence it prevents me from enjoying the color, leaning trees and back ground. Was that feature intentional? If one rock was removed would the painting be more alive?

From: Kathy -- Sep 13, 2013

As far as a critique, I just can't get into the painting past the orange. I'd be interested in what the rest had to say.

From: Fleta Monaghan -- Sep 13, 2013

We have had a studio painting and crit group going for almost 8 years now at my studio. The group is not fixed, we have new participants, and regulars too who enjoy painting and learning while I throw in my two cents as the instructor and facilitator.
We do the "everyone critiques" style starting with the artist talking about their work first. This talk consists of what they are aiming for, the series they are working on, troubles, victories, etc. This is a great training for being able to talk about their work at exhibitions and to collectors when the time arises and helps to formulate artist's statements too. I sometimes show my work too and find I get a lot of useful tips and suggestions. Sometimes another pair of eyes helps so much. Developing a useful critique group takes time, trust, and practice for sure, as everyone feels freer to speak out, and more confident to take the criticisms without personal insult. I go last if I show my work at all, so if anyone does not give a hoot, they can leave early!

From: Natalie Robichaud -- Sep 13, 2013

As a mixed media abstract artist, I started in a medium and then took a workshop and my medium changed. I took another workshop and it changed again. Does it impact my work if I keep changing mediums or does it add to the collective? Other than it looking like I have split creative disorder ;)

From: Sylvia Weir -- Sep 13, 2013

Definitely looks unfinished. I don't think the color combos are working well. The yellow-grayed greens in the midground do not play nicely against the grayed greens behind them--and the white area looks empty. Are you trying for a pattern of color or shapes?

From: Nancy Colella -- Sep 13, 2013

Well, that was a great post. Wonderful advice for teachers and I laughed at you observation of who says what at these things....meanwhile, I think your demo rocks! The thick paint, brighter colors, and composition all work for me! Sign it and send it off....

From: Sally Williams -- Sep 13, 2013

You said that the painting was a demonstration and so I guess not a finished work. I looked at it through half closed eyes, as I do with my own paintings, and found first that the composition was interesting, with a certain abstract quality due to the horizontal planes.

The second impression was the use of colour which was pleasing and also a little different.

Criticism is something we all do and it can be helpful if it comes from someone who knows what they're talking about. I've even had the temerity to criticize Picasso and other greats! (Not publicly of course)

However, I think it's most important to remember that painting doesn't have to be perfect to give pleasure. Imperfections are what we are all about. What is perfection anyway?

From: Frances Topping -- Sep 13, 2013

The atmospheric perspective works well. The dark foreground brings into the light. I find the dark green band too bright and too focusing. The tree patterns are interesting and engaging and while “real” are abstract which is different. The little splotch of green between the rocks looks like a dog/wolf looking at you. Is this intended? Animals always focus attention when you see them. Interesting use of tiny red dots by rocks. In general I find the whole interesting, engaging and fresh.

From: Barbara Hawley -- Sep 13, 2013

I studied your painting for a few moments and thought about what I saw. My overall impression is that the painting was "top heavy" - all the interest is in the upper half of the canvas - colors as well as how the spaces are broken up.

Then I looked at the brushstrokes, brownish-green with yellow spots on the lower half just right of center and asked "Are those wolves down there?" Now, if it were my painting, I'd go ahead and turn them into wolves, thus solving the lack of interest in the lower part of the painting.

From: Kim Rody -- Sep 13, 2013

I've fretted through critiques my entire painting career. That all stopped when I signed up for four weeks of critiques: an art professor, a gallery owner, a museum curator and an accomplished artist, one a week. For a month, I and several other paying painters got about 7 minutes each on 10 paintings we had hauled in. After four sessions and lots of valuable input, I came out with one consistent message: "You can paint." I think this is what an artist craves by putting herself through that (sometimes) brutal process. That was about 6 years ago and I haven't looked back.

From: Carole Lyles Shaw -- Sep 13, 2013

I enjoy critiques of my work for 2 reasons:
1. It lets me know a little bit of what others think they are seeing when they view my work. I’m always curious about what the viewer is seeing. If what they are seeing is way off from my intention, then I can make decisions about what, if anything, to alter.
2. It helps me shift the way I look at my work. It’s sort of like turning a piece upside down or sideways, or covering a piece up for a few days and then coming back to it. Fresh eyes are like fresh horses—you can go a further into new territory with them.

A technique I use to avoid the group think is to ask everyone to write down their comments, and then they must start by reading what’s on the paper. I usually ask a specific question like: “tell me about the use of contrast” or “tell me about the balance and tension”…a good open ended question also helps focus the initial response.

From: Jan Thomson -- Sep 13, 2013

I've always found that kids are great critics- though they can be very annoying - painting on a busy city wharf while a small boy persistently asked me why I'd left out the helicopter almost led to murder...

From: Sheila Ilderton -- Sep 13, 2013

I have taught art for 33 years and firmly believe in each point you made. I also believe strongly in drawing, drawing drawing. So many of my students of all ages want to get to the paint before they really have learned how to draw. They are like people who will not look at a map to go to a strange city. What a waste of gas. A good drawing is a a map to see layers in space, shapes, values and the best way to save time and energy in the long run. Your letter gives me a giggle at times and sends me to the studio when life tries to slow me down.

From: Dick Edelbrook -- Sep 13, 2013

My kids think this painting is "cool"

From: Alcina Nolley -- Sep 14, 2013

I think the use of color is very effective, but I think the strong diagonals on either side , quickly lead the eye off the canvas. Some light and darks could help with that, to lead the eye around within the canvas. The colors are very close in value, which lends the composition an abstract feeling

From: David Smith -- Sep 14, 2013

Mr Genn, your paintings are a unique combination of straights, curves, gradations and flats that give them a distinct "print" look that makes them so frequently copied but never equaled. Try as they may, I don't think others are able to pick up on the order in which you do things.

From: Livy Glaubitz -- Sep 14, 2013

I have two suggestions:
The most obvious to me are the 4 symmetrically placed rocks of a similar size and value. You could lose one, change the size of one or 2, or change a value. I find the 3 monochromatic bands restful in an otherwise energetic landscape. The only part the bothers me is the hard line between the 2 green bands. You could smudge, gradate, make the top one smaller (thinner) to set it back.
The line between the green and blue above it is wonderful.

From: Norma H Johnson -- Sep 14, 2013

I couldn't get past the illogic of trees learning in different directions and the straight horizon lines. The strong prevailing winds here cannot be ignored. Fun to look at.

From: A. C. McKelvey -- Sep 14, 2013

Have you considered chartered accountancy?

From: Gisèle Lapalme -- Sep 14, 2013

What a challenge to ask your students to critique your work, I will definitely try it with my students event thought I don't know what I'm getting myself into but it will be worth a try. As for your painting "Pattern,', I know the painting isn't finished and know that you would make variation in size and color of the four rocks that have a rounded shape that creates a square pattern. Add a patch of orange to one of the existing one on the left to eliminate the repetition of same size of orange round shapes. and a few strokes of extra green to the diagonal green shape.on the left. to make it more triangular. Ok that's it the painting is done. That's my point of view.

From: Ron Bartczak -- Sep 14, 2013

I didn't love it....
I'm not sure I even like it......
It wasn't really all that nice......
and good may be a little strong......

But I will say....."it ain't bad"

From: Charles P. Sciorra -- Sep 14, 2013

Thanks for the opportunity.

It seems to me that we would need to know a bit more about your reference and your intent before we begin to offer any critiques of your work titled "Pattern". If this was 'out of your head' and not from a reference view or photo, then it would tend to be somewhat uncritiqueable except perhaps for some technical bits and pieces.

If this was from a reference view or photo and your intent was known, some critiques could be offered. Those critiques
would pursue the intent and if you thought you had accomplished it and our understanding of your intent and whether we thought you had accomplished it. Your eyes see one thing. Our eyes may see the same . . . or not. And it may be what we see that you don't see that may be the most valuable criticism. Or not. That would be for you to judge.

As you have tied our hands behind our back by abolishing some positive words, it appears you are inviting your audience to take the negative. If that is the case, I would ask, Why have you directed the viewers attention to an open space? Or perhaps it is not an open space at all but a large arrow, a "V" pointing to the fox behind the boulders. But, I think not.

You do have a way about you. I thoroughly enjoy your words. Thanks.

From: Mary Douthwaite -- Sep 14, 2013

Fun to do a crit, Robert! The two flat green bands of water at the focal point will be more interesting and unified with the painting if you blend some lines / spots of white and dark blue into them.

From: Marc Boehm -- Sep 14, 2013

Boy is this (and the previous clickback) ever a bandwagon and I want to jump on it too. Not shy. Painting is ok but you need to do more painting than you're doing in order to get really proficient.

From: Trevor Aung -- Sep 14, 2013

Is that a Canada Goose down there on the right?

From: Gary Barr -- Sep 14, 2013

"Pattern" has the magic as usual, but noticed covering bottom bowes in foreground trees with the back of my fingers and imagining them being dark as the ones above would have me darken them. Another maybe: crop the image horizontally at the midway point of the foreground snow. Both suggestions would serve to hopefully produce a substantial foreground as suggested by somebody(????). Cheers! http://www.garybarrstudio.com

From: Eugene Scialfi -- Sep 15, 2013

What a can of worms Genn has opened with this letter.

From: Jackie Knott -- Sep 15, 2013

I'm laughing with the 180 degree positive to negative response to this painting; critiques are nothing but subjective! And we still don't know Robert's intent or how completed the painting is. I'm surprised with the "art speak" repeated here by artists. I can't wait to read the featured responses to this one.

From: Mary Sanders -- Sep 16, 2013

I recently attended a workshop where I was compared to the others in a very negative fashion. Initially I was taking the criticism as good information and saw value in the comments for growth. After some time had passed and I was able to remove myself from the situation and look back and be more objective, I decided the critique was not in my best interest and I was a scape goat. I think the person leading the workshop should have been able to make a comment as to how different my style was compared to the rest of the room in a positive fashion and then maybe explained to me that I may "enjoy" an approach that is loose and not so controlled.
When talking with a friend she said all teachers know you lead with a positive, comment on what is not working, and end with a positive. She called it the sandwich technique. Now I am a big girl and I can handle criticism but I also feel that art is personal and if I prefer order and view it as my style a teacher should be sensitive to that. My teachers in class, verses a workshop, have what seems like more skill in these matters than the guru of my workshop. As you can tell I am still steaming from the experience. Am I wrong to be thinking this way?

From: Dolores Jordan -- Sep 16, 2013

Teachers who give good critiques based on first finding out their students intentions (concept) is the most helpful information that can be given them in order to help improve and develop a critical eye in seeing their own work. Using the principals of art to speak about and communicate about paintings requires some knowledge and discipline. The problem is not the critiques themselves, but rather it is understanding the language of art, so we can communicate with each other with meaning. Along, with teaching painting, I also teach "how" to critique ones own work, as well as others, and I have a waiting list of people who want to come to my classes, because of the critiques.

From: Sharon Wadsworth-Smith -- Sep 16, 2013

As an instructor I have employed critiques for many years and found it a valuable although sometimes intimidating form of feedback. It seemed most intimidating for the new students especially in larger class sizes, so I would always start off a critique by finding something good in a persons work. It may be colour continuity, strong focal point, mood and yes, sometimes it was harder to find something good, but in the long run it proved to soften the blow to deliver positive feedback first.
This prompted one of my more experienced students to request a much firmer critique that focused on problem areas only. As I find critiques can tend to be very personal, I instructed the class to think of this as an experiment, and to feel free to critique my work as well. Some of the comments were valuable feed back, while others were definitely based on personal preferences and somewhat hard hitting, especially from the novices. I am not sure whether the new students were trying to sound knowledgeable but they certainly were finding more areas of weaknesses in everyone's paintings. I also know that if you give a person a shovel, they will usually find dirt. Thankfully, no one left the class because of it but some of the students requested that I please go back to my old method of a positive critique.
As an artist we are putting out work into the hands of the public everyday, and yes we may have to face some not-so-positive feedback sometimes. I was having a casual drink with an acquaintance (who had a few more than one casual drink) when she chimed up to say that she no longer liked my new work and why can't I paint like I used to? I laughed it off and thought, why is it that people think that just because we are artists we have an unusually thick skin.
I decided that a critique in inexperienced hands is like a fishing rod in the paws of a kitten. We all want to catch the fish but some of us are just not ready to use the equipment.

From: Rick Rotante -- Sep 16, 2013

I remember when I was studying with a teacher, I would be painting the model or still life. My teacher would come over by my easel and watch for a minute or two. ( know now he was watching my method and technique) He never said "here. let me show you" or Your not getting this or that right, Instead, without telling me how wrong I was, he would show my demonstration how to achieve an effect that I was having trouble with. He didn't tell me how to do it, he demonstrated "a way" to get to the idea - then just say something like "keep going" or "keep working at it." Never did he indicate a way or his way was correct, BUT the results of his intervention were amazing clear and concise and showed me something I didn't see before.
I know there are those who don't like a teacher to paint on their canvas,but in his class we were not making painting for sale and show, we were working problems. The idea was not to finish, but work and rework, wipe off if necessary to start again. This to me is a "crit" without all the criticism.

From: Dee Wescott -- Sep 16, 2013

Foreground rock in lower left should be moved to the right to combine with tree third from left. Rock could be slightly larger. I would consider adding another small tree behind that larger rock (have it go out top of ptg) to give a grouping of 3 in that space.

From: Peter Fox -- Sep 16, 2013

I dare to criticize only what I can equal: Sure wish I could paint so freely.

From: Keith O'Connor -- Sep 16, 2013

The overall linear structure of your painting reminds me of "Blue Poles no. 11" by Jackson Pollock.

From: Margaret McLachlan -- Sep 16, 2013

When I first glanced at it I said to myself that clump of trees and the green behind them are too much in the middle of the painting for me, plus the 4 big rocks are too lonely - need to be clumped together perhaps?

From: Chow En Xian -- Sep 16, 2013

I think this is quite good but I would kill the owls.

From: Norm Halinen -- Sep 16, 2013

Contrary to popular belief, skunks do not make a bad smell, they just make a smell that other animals are not used to.

From: Pam Askew -- Sep 16, 2013

The only thing that bothered me a little was the "square" made by the four similarly sized grey rocks; my eye kept coming back to them when I felt I should have been admiring a different pattern.

From: Susan Holland -- Sep 16, 2013

The shapes remind me of a really pleasant Japanese woodcut print. Clean, defined, decorative, colorful, controlled but charmingly free in design.

I prefer most media to acrylic. That this seems to be at first look a woodcut makes me engage more readily. So this critique is more the eye of the beholder.

From: bluehorsedancer -- Sep 16, 2013

Are you serious? Is it Paint-by-Numbers? Oh, I get it, you're playing around with us! .........aren't you?

From: Russ Hogger -- Sep 16, 2013

I don't do critiques, but I have come across many paintings that have only one thing wrong with them. They were perfect.

From: Larry -- Sep 17, 2013

What, no more gumballs?

From: Carol Kapuscinsky -- Sep 18, 2013

The painting you have up for crit, the colours are as usual in your work, vibrant. My only problem is you seem to have it divided into 5 parts or possibly plains, and I'm a bit confused if you are an abstract painter, or a realist. Not that it really matters, but it is a bit confusing. Otherwise, I like it, as I do all your work.

From: Iola Benton -- Sep 18, 2013

Wow! It is amazing the amount of "critics" that responded after they saw your work. Most of them amateurs. My thoughts of your painting is that it moves me and I find it beautiful... I think the appraising of a painting is an emotional one and you either are moved by the artist´s expression or not. Congratulations on your work, and forgeT the critics.

From: Robyn Eastgate-Manning -- Sep 21, 2013

I like the term 'safe place'. My studio at the bottom of my garden is definitely my safe place even though I live alone! I am so happy there that I often find myself painting half the night since there is noone to tell me to go to bed....great!!! As for my personal quirks which make my work intrinsically mine, I allow a spirituality to work in my paintings. This means they often have misty landscapes or soft edges which dissolve into the white of the paper or canvas. Against this I contrast angles....sharp edges and right angles. I dont feel inspired by rounded curves....I am attracted to extreme angles, eg in a life drawing I focus on elbows, knee joints and jutting chins! This play of opposites is very much my style, misty mountaintops with a peak jutting through. I find that exciting.

From: Doris Patko -- Sep 21, 2013

So much fun to “crit” the “critter”. The title PATTERN is what a lot of your work represents-patterns.
The solid horizontal mid tone background sets the stage; as the eye comes forward the stark white areas are a shock to my eye. The painting absolutely needs this but may be better with fewer white areas? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

From: Carolynn Doan -- Sep 21, 2013

The part of the painting that isn't sitting well with me is the band of darker green on the water. It was the first thing I noticed when opening the image.....even before the warmer colours in the trees. It seems to jump forward in the painting instead of receding. What if you made the band slightly narrower so that it did not have so much of a presence? It is largely the same value as the trees on my computer screen so that isn't the issue. Or, what if it were slightly more blue? All this of course could be moot if my computer screen is reading the colour incorrectly....if so ignore the above.

I could be out to lunch but I sure do enjoy the input from other artists with respect to my own work.

From: Sara Stalman -- Sep 21, 2013

I'm new to painting and my "coach" suggested your twice-weekly letters as a way of joining a painters' community. I'm a retired neuro-psychiatrist, so I find your columns interesting on many levels. I appreciate your honesty. As a critique of your painting, I would venture to suggest that, from my point of view, there are too many colors. Of course, it's just me, but I try to (and plan to continue trying to) use a few basic colors which I, then, combine differently into different hues and values. I wonder if this even makes sense. But to ease the mind of the looker.

From: Emily Moore -- Sep 24, 2013

The color in most of the piece weaves in and out in bits and pieces, and I am drawn in to it. The small peachy light area on the left is scrumptious with those darker colors around it, and the little pale areas at the very top of the piece add to the interest for me. The large almost-white area in the lower half of the painting is hard to get past or around. I think it needs to be about the same value as the peachy area and those bits of color at the top of the painting, so it won't feel as though it is fighting against and draining away all that carefully designed color.

Maybe that area (or is it two adjacent areas of very light color?) is lighter on my screen than it really is.

From: Jim Middleton -- Dec 03, 2013

I would ignore the critics here. Robert, your work is stylized - your style.






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Last modified: Aug, 21, 2014