Thursday, September 9, 2010

Regarding Criticism...

Hello everyone and thanks for your wonderful comments on my last post. I'm glad to see that I have been able to help out a few readers with some resources for dealing with day jobs we can't stand!

Today I was inspired by a post from commenter Kerri to write about a great resource for dealing with criticism toward our artwork...


the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.
a critical comment, article, or essay; critique.
any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc.: historical criticism; literary criticism.
investigation of the text, origin, etc., of literary documents, esp. Biblical ones: textual criticism.

For the purpose of today's post we will be dealing with definition number 3...

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At some point in our lives we will have to deal with or have already dealt with criticism in our lives in regards to our creative work, whether it be writing, painting, dancing, singing. And it is difficult enough when we can be so hard on ourselves and the work we create. In fact, I realized that I was being hard on myself for my last Creative Color Challenge I submitted by calling it "a mess, but a floral one"...

oops...did I really say that??

Yet, many of you loved it and Louise certainly loved it enough to include it in her weekly wrap up, not to mention expressing hopes of seeing more sewn items in the future. She must have been picking up on my creative air waves because I have been working on just that...

a little sneak peek at what I was up to this Labor Day weekend...the final results will be posted later...

But I digress! ;)

I once worked with a performance art group that came down very hard on me for expressing my authentic story and it was an extremely difficult and painful process. It's not something I would want anyone to experience, so when I came across this creative and revolutionary process for providing constructive FEEDBACK to artists, I was thrilled!

From Liz Lerman's Dance Exchange Website, where you can buy a copy of the book that contains more info than the original article I read...

To get an idea of how this process works you can read from her original article about this process HERE. What is wonderfully creative and revolutionary about this process is that it doesn't have to apply to artists only, it can also be used in personal relationships.* The books by-line states you can use this process for anyone creating "anything you make from Dance to Dessert"!

In short, here is the process:
  1. Affirmation
  2. Artist as Questioner
  3. Responders ask the questions
  4. Opinion Time
  5. Subject matter discussion
  6. Working on the work

Here's how the steps work if done in a group setting:

In step one, you begin on a positive note, which we all want to begin with naturally. And your group will give you what they appreciate about the work that resonates with them and this is where lots of wonderful AHA! moments happen and you realize that your group "gets" you.

In step two, the artist asks questions of the audience/group but they do need to be specific to the work being created. If you were creating a dance, you might ask about a certain movement at a certain moment in the music and if it makes the impact you are striving toward; your group will be able to answer to your question.

In step three, the group has the opportunity to ask questions about aspects of the work they may not understand and this can be helpful if there is an important point we want to come across in our work. For performance art, I usually have a story I am trying to convey and I want to know that the audience will get that. This part of the process is also helpful because if there is a confusing aspect to the work being created, that is what a "critic" would speak to and not in the positive way that will be helpful to the artist...asking questions will shed light on anything unclear about the work being created and this can diffuse negative criticism.

Step four may have the potential to be a danger zone since opinion is just that - someone's opinion of what they saw and how they felt about what they saw. It's subjective, but the way this is worked out is the 'critic' must ask if the Artist wants to hear the 'criticism' before they are allowed to speak out. I believe this helps to diffuse possible defensiveness that may arise in the Artist. In my experience with groups that have used this model, negative criticism rarely comes up since everyone is invested in creating great work and wants the same great and helpful feedback when it is their turn to go =-)

Step five can be optional if working in a group, as well as step six, since both steps are dealing with the Artist's work at a different level than there may be time for in a group setting.

I was so thrilled when I discovered Liz Lerman's method for "critical response" though it came after my terrible experience, but find it I did and I love to pass along great information if it helps anyone. If you are working in a creative group and you don't want criticism but constructive feedback this resource is for you. I do not own a copy of the book but it does contain more information on how to work with this process in a group setting with a facilitator, which is important to have. I think this process would also work well in the classroom...

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I wish there was a way for us to work with our own internal critics, but I haven't found one yet! But maybe we can use step one of Liz Lerman's process with ourselves to quiet our inner critics - if we can learn to be more appreciative of OUR OWN EFFORTS, we will be able to see what great work we are already doing...

Will you try to be less critical of what you create this week?? I will if you will!

* - I may need to consult my copy of the article to use this method with my boyfriend!! ;)


humel said...

I'll try, I promise I'll try :-) Just as long as you're in with me xx

chrissy said...

you always lift the spirits and get the pom poms out for us....thank you.
and i for one, LOVED the sewing...i resorted to sewing with purple too!
happy to see where that purple flower is landing.

Gwynnie B said...

I practiced not complaining for one day. Very hard to do, but I did it. Then I carried it over to the next day. Now I'm on my 4th day and I slipped! I complained about my hubby to a friend, who was complaining about her hubby. It felt good to have someone who understood, then it felt icky.

I noticed that when I complain about something, I'm really criticizing me at some level. Not very healthy or very pretty! But it's something I'm finally aware of so I can work on it.

You always approach things up front, which I admire, and by sharing this post you helped shed light on something we all have struggled with, either as the criticizer or the critiqued.

danielle said...

Oh Monica...this is a biggie for me... I will try not to criticize my cooking, my hair, and my efforts to juggle everything all the time... Thank-you for reminding me to me kinder and less critical of my daily tasks...and hair! lol!