Saturday, April 25, 2015

Critiquing Your Artwork with Ileane Taylor

Ileane Taylor
One of the perks of being a member of the Visual Arts Center is attending its Artist Development series. Although I am not an artist, I love these get-togethers. They allow me a glimpse into the artistic process while teaching me a thing or two that enhances my art appreciation. Plus they're just plain fun. The latest session on critiquing your own artwork with Ileane Taylor was no exception.

From the time Ileane began taking art lessons at age 14, critiques were a part of her process. That doesn't mean she has become immune to the sting harsh words (or, even worse, silence) can leave when she asks a friend or fellow artist for her opinion on a work in progress. She is a firm believer, however, that constructive commentary is necessary to grow as an artist.  With that in mind, she gave a quick overview of the components of pictorial expression she would use as her reference point for the rest of the afternoon:  Motivation, Composition, Drawing, Focal Point, Color and Emotional Response.

"My Husband's Hands" by Ileane Taylor
Ileane looked at some of her own paintings with a critical eye before sharing her thoughts about other artists' works. First up was a painting entitled "My Husband's Hands." Ileane's motivation for creating this image was her fascination with her husband's fingers. Over the course of their marriage, they have grown from a size 6 to their current size 12 1/2. She shocked the group by using chalk to draw an arch on the painting to emphasize its composition. (As the artists squirmed in their seats, Ileane reassured them that she wouldn't do this to their works.) Ileane talked about the importance of getting the anatomy of the hands right and the use of lights and darks to invoke a somber, contemplative mood.  Overall, she feels this is a successful work.

"Peaches and Owls" by Ileane Taylor
Ileane wasn't as easy on some of her other paintings, particularly her "Peaches and Owls."  What was she thinking, she asked, when she decided to pair a burrowing owl with peaches?   With a quick scratch of chalk, she showed how the composition of the work is out of balance, with an unclear focal point.  And, she wondered, how long would the little owl's legs actually have to be to reach to the bottom of the plate on which the peaches are resting?  At the end of the day, she said there is "so much wrong with this painting" that she'd start all over again if it were a work she wanted to hang.

Work by Thelma Daida
Thelma Daida was the first artist to share a work for the group's critique. Thelma is an abstract artist, which gave Ileane the opportunity to talk about the difference between intellectual and non-intellectual abstract paintings.  In an intellectual abstract, the viewer can discern images in the painting that provide a reference point.  Non-intellectual abstracts--like this one of Thelma's--rely solely on form, color and line for their impact.  The group liked the work with its strong colors and composition. The focal point is a Chinese character in the upper left quadrant.  There was some discussion about whether the work would benefit from a second character. Ileane's suggestion:  cut one out and see! 

Joy Sanders' lovely work provided an opportunity to talk about light and shadows. The sun shines through the window and hits the woman's back, which would leave her face in the shadows. Similarly, the white chair should be a bit grayer given the lighting in the room. The chair also draws the viewer's eye to the edge of the canvas (which violates Ileane's "no fly zone" rule of not having important elements within an inch of the edge of the picture). So, while the painting might faithfully replicate the reference work, Ileane felt that it would benefit from a bit more attention. 

Work by Joan Balmer
Over the course of the session, we looked at more than a dozen creations.  It was pure coincidence that the last work was unanimously lauded by the group as highly successful.  This fiber work by Joan Balmer depicts aquatic life and mangroves in a balanced, colorful and engaging way.  The use of netting to demark where the water line would be is nothing short of brilliant.  It was the perfect note on which to end the afternoon.

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