Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Language of Art

Cairn L   50x50" oil/cold wax on panel ©2011 Janice Mason Steeves

I am heading out to western Canada on Friday to teach a series of workshops.  Over the course of the past two months while I've had my arm in a cast, I spent a great deal of time thinking about,  developing and revising my workshops.

In the Winnipeg workshop, that will take place on April 23, 24 and 25,  I'm going to include a section on critique.  I feel strongly that as artists it is crucial to learn the language of art, just as we learn the fundamentals of writing in school.  The fundamentals of art are not taught in most art schools, certainly not in the art school I went to at the time I went there.  So how can we analyze our own work or the work of others if we don't have a language?  I'm aiming to teach a language.  How often are we in someone's studio, in front of their work, and at a complete loss for words.  We get a 'feeling' for the piece.  We might decide if we like it or not. But most often it's a nonverbal sort of gut response.  One of the only places we might have a critique is in art school, or perhaps in an art workshop.  In this instance, the teacher becomes the expert and gives their opinion of our work.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my friends had a teacher tell her that her workshop painting was "hotel art".  How helpful was that to this artist?  Not likely very helpful.  What did she learn from this?  Not to take a class with that teacher probably.  Could she find a way to improve her work with this sort of critique?  Not likely.  Was it discouraging?  Very. That's not to say that all teachers critique in this way.  I guess I am opposed to the set up that one person is the knowledgeable one and the other is more or less at their mercy.

I'll be teaching a section about the language of critique in the Winnipeg workshop, how to accept critique, what words to use, how to look at your own work, what to look for in the work of others.  I'll be sure to write a blog post about it, and maybe have a few of the students comment too.

On August 25 and 26 I will be teaching a workshop in my studio called Learning About Critique, where I will go further into the language of Critique--how to see our own work and the work of others.  I hope that the critique class will meet afterwards to continue their critique/support group with the skills they learn here, or form their own small group.