Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fear of Getting Feedback

A Quiet Place 2  16x16" Oil/cold wax on paper © 2013 Janice Mason Steeves

A few weeks ago,  Rebecca Crowell and I wrote a co-blog post about Visual Language and the Art of Critique.  Later on, I  posted a followup conversation called Writing, Creativity and Critique: A Conversation, with two writer friends of mine:  Kim Echlin and Sandra Campbell, who meet regularly to give feedback and support to each other in their work.  They commented on how crucial this sort of feedback is to them. I received a number of emails in response to both blog posts.  One thing that came up in various ways was a general sense of fear at going through this process.  Perhaps the fear is justified because of harsh feedback from an instructor in the past.  But people also wondered if their work would be honoured for what they were trying to say and if suggestions for change would affect them negatively.  Many feared that putting words to this process would take away from the work.

I believe that if feedback can be given in a sensitive, playful way, and the artist can learn to loosen their personal attachment to the work, the process can take them into a place of great understanding about themselves, their work and methods. 

To help the artist get to that place, they must feel safe with the instructor and the group they are in. In my Visual Language and the Art of Critique workshop we'll go gently and step-by-step into the process of giving feedback, learning how to speak about a painting, sitting with a painting to hear what it says, and being present as the artist talks about their work.  As Sandra Campbell said in my last post, "… the acceptance of subjectivity in perception is fundamental to creative sharing, an understanding that there is no right way to perceive a work in question-that the uniqueness of our response is what is valuable and interesting.  Listening is fundamental to this dialogue."

Unlike Sandra and Kim, most of us don't have another artist who is working in the same media and at a similar level who is also interested in this form of sharing.  The workshop offers artists an opportunity to be truly present for each other; an experience which can open new windows of understanding. Our work is about visual communication.  To be heard and seen is what we search for.

This 5-day workshop, Visual Language and the Art of Critique will take place at Cullowhee Mountain Arts, in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina from June 24-28.  To register please go to the website:

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