Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feedback versus criticism!

Been thinking today. Bear in mind that I am still sick and have a sore throat that feels as if an army has marched down it with hob nailed boots on! Aaghhhhhh! So lots of icecream and hot drinks. Anyway in my weakened state I got to thinking which is always a cause for concern but none more so than when I'm not 100%. It all started when Sue came round and after our foray into town, which was necessarily short due to my expected demise, I showed her my latest piece and asked for comments. Fortunately she liked it so far so I didn't have to cry! grin! But we then got to thinking about asking for other people's opinions to firm up one's own thoughts about work in progress. And how often people weren't totally honest with one. How often does someone say to you that they don't like a piece of work? No, they hum and ha and if they really don't like it you can work it out for yourself but if they only don't like it a little or a small part of it then their praise is not true but they don't want to hurt your feelings so they arn't honest with you. And in this instance it is hard to tell. How many comments have you read on anyone's blog that are real comments and not just sugary or even sycophantic murmurings? Have you ever read an outright 'I don't like this because....' comment? I haven't. And I am guilty myself as I only leave a comment if I feel I can honestly say I like something! I'm scared to offend by someone not knowing where I'm coming from! Yet as a teacher I have to give feedback on students work and it has to be painfully honest. I always try to make it constructive criticism and not just a bald statement of fact. Good critiques can be instant learning curves and provide the impetus for a big step forward. Sugary or no comment at all just keeps one in the cosy warmth of the place you are at. I'm not saying that all comments are bad. In most cases people are very sure of what they are saying BUT they only say good things! Is this for fear of causing offence? Could not a dialogue be sparked by a bit of bite back? Is this also in part for fear of being flamed? It is hard when writing to actually say what you mean so that the person the other end doesn' t take it the wrong way. But if people don't want in depth feedback why put the work up anyway? Why invite comments; good or bad? So we don't all like the same things but this mix is what is good about critiques. After all for those of us who sell stuff it is no different to the buying public who will be made up of a broad mix of tastes and likes and dislikes. They vote with their cheque books! So I'm saying here and now that I know my work doesn't appeal to all of you or even any of you but I would be delighted if you would tell me why it doesn't appeal to you. What you feel could be done to save/change it or any other comment you feel is relevant. I'm not giving you carte blance to vilify me but to be constructive in your approach to my work. I'm a big girl! I can take it! And I might learn from it. I might ignore it. It might even be slightly hurtful but it will still make me think. And thinking is what I make my students do and it is what I want for myself. Someone once said they thought my work was 'quite' good! Faint praise damneth immediately came to mind but if they had amplified the statement it might have been educational for me! So having stuck my neck (and poor sore throat) out what do you all feel? Do you agree or do you think I'm mad? And if so why?


  1. I think everyone has these thoughts. Sometimes we want help; sometimes we don't. When I asked for help on "Asian Blues," I got what I was looking for. Did not want to know if people liked it (I didn't like it), but could it be saved, and if so, what might help...

    Most of the comments affirmed my own thoughts, but some ideas offered me a fresh perspective. Both were useful because 1)sometimes I'm uncertain and need a more experienced nudge and 2) sometimes my thinking becomes circumscribed and refuses to admit new ways of looking at things.

    This is an excellent topic, but my comment is becoming too long. Think I'll take it to my blog and ponder it further.

  2. Well, ok, here's my take on this.

    If someone posts a photo of a finished artwork and just says "here it is", then I tend to be of the school of thought that I'll say something nice if I really like it and will keep my big fat mouth shut if I don't, because in that case I don't think they asked for a critique, they just said "here's what I've done", and if they're happy with it, great. Their quilt, their rules.

    OTOH, if someone posts either an in-progress work or a finished piece and says "I'm not happy with this and I can't figure out why", then if I see what I believe to be the problem or some way to make it better, I will say so, hopefully in a constructive manner. Or if I think it is working, I'll say so and why.

    So I guess for me it depends on if I perceive the poster-of-artwork to be asking for a critique or advice, or simply putting something out there for "yays".

    Does that make sense?

  3. Ah ha, my devious plan has worked...I have turned you to the philosophical side...heh, heh. So sorry you are still under the weather but loved your audio sexy with the marvelous accent. Totally agree with you about critique, we are all so "Sweet" but does it help. However, I also agree with Deb some people don't want to know so I would hesitate unless they asked. As for my posts, I expect you to all speak the can it get better if you don't? Doesn't mean I will necessairly change the piece but I will learn.

  4. Valeri sorry your unwell hope things improve soon,

    I found your post interesting and thought provoking, I am very much like Debr when I comment on blogs unless someone is asking for constructive comments I only comment if the work appeals to me and I have to confess that if there is already a string of ohs and ahs I dont as there is no point in just one more, I also do not always comment if I am short on time and/or I feel the artist doesn't need another confidence boost,

    now I sometimes do not comment on what is a beautiful piece but it just doesn't do it for me that is taste/asthetics, I made a wall hanging once that I did not like but I didn't want to change it and knew I did not like it because of the colour but I push myself to try other colours, irony is that sold as the most expensive work I have ever sold due to the gallery mark up so some one liked it,

    I am thinking more so I too had better continue on my own blog,

  5. I don't think an opinion is the same as a critique. There are times I want an opinion and times I want a critique? When I offer an opinion it is just my intrinsic admiration or joy of having someone share their work with me. A critique is a more directed response I give (or want) to a specific question asked by the creator. Sometimes I feel to give a good critique takes me time to be familiar with the artist and where she is going...something that one has to be intentional about to bring to their blog.

    Not everyone knows how to ask for a critique and a significant portion of those who asks for critique are not actually wanting one but are asking for encouragement...that is something I learned from working in poetry groups and am carrying over with quilting.

    Also, my "not liking" a piece is rarely one-sided or all encompassing and I don't see any benefit that comes from me just flat out giving my opinion of "not liking" as if it is if it wasn't directly asked of me.

    And lastly, because I truly believe art (as life) is really all in the PROCESS I've made a conscious decision to offer truthfully words that encourage the process. I've had at least 2 occassions this week to speak to people who annoyed me in a week that I wasn't feeling very well and at the time it was my opinion that they could serve humanity by jumping off a high bridge...but I refrained (both times) from sharing what I felt was an honest opinion.

    One of the areas that is stretching me as the ring has grown is finding a much more personalized way to praise and encourage when I want to just say "hey, I like this piece!" and its been said by the 20 commenters ahead of me.

  6. I guess this comment should have been my own blog entry its so dang long...sorry Valeri.

  7. Knowing whether or not someone *likes* your work isn't particularly useful (though it is nice to hear praise) because not everyone *will* like your work. Much better, IMHO, to ask for and to give specific critique using elements of design as criteria--"it seems a little unbalanced in this area" "the color contrast is very low, was that your intention?" etc., etc.

    I only ask for opinions from those who I think have a feel for what I am trying to achieve, and I appreciate their honesty. Other opinions (positive or not) I try to accept graciously, but I take with a grain of salt.

  8. I don't feel blogs are a place for critique unless it's directly asked for with a question like "now this doesn't work but why?". Then people are free to be constructive without causing offence. When I put up my things I've been doing it is lovely and confidence building to have a comment or two supporting you, but I'm fully aware it's not everyones taste but this doesn't matter. What matters is that I'm actually "doing" creative stuff now and like my paintings once it's complete it has a life of it's own in the world. It's only my guarded child whilst I'm making it... if that makes any sense :D

  9. I agree with most of the comments above. I do not make any comment unless I can make a constructive one.
    It is difficult to critique a picture on a computer, and it takes time and consideration to do it properly in any case. I think that it should be made clear in a blog if someone does want criticism rather than passing comment.
    I had not read your blog before I posted today, but I've been thinking about how really one has to rely on oneself in the end.