On Friday, as I drove to my Portfolio Review at the Cambridge Art Association, I panicked. Not enough to drive irresponsibly, but enough to get my blood churning and my head full of negative thoughts. Then I had a flash of insight:
I can't behave like this when I am getting exactly what I've asked for".
There it was.
The burden of having to graciously receive the thing I've been asking the universe to provide. I was in search of good and honest feedback on my recent work, and in about ten minutes I would sit down and hear it. Lucky me, right?
My reviewer, Katherine French, was spot on. I found myself agreeing with all of her comments, taking copious notes with the names of museums, galleries, and artists I should see. When she pointed out a weakness, I saw it too. When she had positive comments, I nodded in agreement. "Yes, I thought that was successful!" Her encouragement has set me ablaze with energy and a renewed sense of purpose. Sometimes it's enough just to hear that you are heading in the right direction. That's all I was asking for and I got so much more.
I once told me kids that hours and days pass slowly, but months and years fly by. Somedays I'd like to slow down the pages of the calendar, to have as much time as I could ever want for art.
But I've learned something very important this week: be careful what you ask for.
The subject of evaluations has been hanging in the air recently.
My Mentoring Group met a few weeks ago, on a conference call, and I asked a question about how one should go about getting feedback on a body of work. I was specific about the qualifications for the critic. I wanted the opinion of someone whom I respected, who did not have any personal agenda, and who would understand what it was I was after. My thinking is that unless the reviewer has a grasp on what I was attempting to say in the painting, how could they possibly judge it?
Those of you who listen to Artists Helping Artists (and if you don't, you should give it a try), you know that recently Leslie Saeta and I discussed self-evaluation. That was unexpectedly valuable to me.
I've been so curious about an objective opinion of my body of work that I completely forgot my own responsibility in measuring it's success. It turns out that its a task that is as difficult as you're imagining it to be. But valuable and will likely stay with me as I paint in the months to come.
Seeking an outside opinion is worthwhile, but never spending time listening to your own inner critic is a missed opportunity. It can help you refine what it is you want to achieve in your work.
Happy Patriots Day!
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