Friday, November 18, 2011

Self Critiquing

Robert Genn has a terrific suggestion about self critiquing our own artwork on his twice weekly newsletter.

You can get a copy by contacting him here.


  1. I found Robert Genns letter interesting, and arriving in my inbox on the heels of lesley Riley's newsletter about validation, my brain mixed the two concepts. Crituque and validaton are in some ways on opposite sides of the coin. When you recieve harsh criticism, you must still be able to find the validation to not give up. Whether this all coems from within, or from the larger world does not always matter, but the two concepts need to keep in balance. I have put more thoughts on this subject on my blog, if anyone is interested.

  2. Hi!
    I saw your post on the art quilt list and have just joined Robert Genn's letter list. I'm eager to see all of his questions and insights.

    As for me, yes, I ask myself questions about my work. Yet, I ask more questions BEFORE starting a piece or project than I do afterwards.

    My number one question is:
    What do I want to SAY with this piece?

    The success or failure of my work often depends on whether some sort of meaningful communication takes place. I tend to work in series, so I tend to ask myself, "How can I better communicate an idea?" and "Do I want the message to be obvious (text) or more mysterious (lack of text but with some symbolic references)?" and "How will someone different from me (age, race, education, background) react to this work?" and "Does this piece add to the series by restating the concept from another perspective?" and "Will anyone 'get it'?" and "Will anyone even care?" From there, I generally spiral down into depression and feelings of worthlessness ... so, I guess I profit from a "good list of questions" too!

  3. I think the whole process of developing a concept, then organising the media and techniques to use in bringing it forth are in sum one long process of self critique. I proceed, change something, go back, put aside, abandon even, because of my constant interaction with the physical manifestation of my ideas. I really don't do too much more by way of analysis and self critique although I am constantly thinking about what I am doing in the immediate and in the long term overall. I guage whether people 'get it' or 'care' by comments they make or questions they ask about my work. The ultimate positive critique is handing over a cheque :)

  4. I too subscribe to Genn's newsletters, and this was a good one. When I read his suggested questions, I realized that I have asked some of them of myself from time to time, but not with any attempt at rigourous self-critique. I work very intuitively, and sometimes after a time spent on my design wall, a piece that didn't feel right is taken down and tweaked till it improves! I think that I am learning to be more intentional with my designs, with the work I am doing in my City & Guilds program, and I am going to take these questions in hand while doing that work, in the hopes the combination of study and questioning will produce good fruit!

  5. I subscribe to his newsletter as well. I think it is hard to critique when you are in the midst of the designing and sewing. I can often be much more objective after 12 months.
    The list of questions to ask yourself could help to speed up the process for me.

  6. Thanks, ladies. Your comments are continuing the conversation and it has engendered a number of comments from those on the Quilt Art list. I have not formalized a series of questions yet, but I see how they could be very helpful. At best I seem to do some self critiquing at different stages -- beginning, during production, before quilting, but rarely after it is done.

    Unlike those of you who can work very intuitively, I need a plan before I begin. I work directly from plant specimens for my designs. So my first critique is in the plant selection process, the arrangement of elements of the specimen, and sketches to capture details and areas of interest. Before going forward with creating, I ask questions about the subject, will it hold my interest until I am done? What do I need to do with the design to create balance, areas of interest, repetition, contrast, etc. As I am working, I am more likely to be asking questions about color, line, value. Before quilting, I generally go through most of these, especially the questions of value,rhythm,contrast. These can help me in selecting quilting thread color and value as well as in planning what details will be highlighted with embroidery stitches at the end. Probably the only question I consistently consider at the end, is "Is the piece as good as what I envisioned?"

    Formalizing these questions, and doing a self critique at the end would be helpful, but perhaps not right away. I would rather not kill the flush of excitement that comes with completion.

    Margaret, would love to hear your feedback on these questions as you continue through your City and Guilds program.

    Thanks all, do you have more ideas for self- critiquing?