the value of a critiquing group

When I first began showing my art, I didn’t know about critiquing groups. I spent hours in my studio alone, working through problems with eyes too tired to see what was wrong. It was a solitary life to say the least. I could rework a small area of a canvas for ten hours straight, only to wipe it out and start over the next day. I felt alone in my struggles. It was frustrating, exhausting and hard work. What I needed was someone with a fresh way of seeing what I no longer could.

When I moved from Philadelphia to the New York City art scene, I didn’t know any of the artists in the area. I was even more isolated than before. One thing I discovered over the years, working alone did not advance my art. Ideas need to be stimulated and exchanged. They need to be questioned in a way that opens up new insights.

This is why I decided to teach a drawing class at the local adult school. It gave me a place to talk art. Many of my first students were young mothers who had art backgrounds and were coming to class just to keep up their skills. It was an exhilarating time. My classes grew as my students kept coming back. At some point the class became more of a support group than a standard classroom experience. We started showing our work in local libraries and restaurants. There was power in numbers, especially when looking for places to exhibit. We soon found ourselves invited to exhibit at Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Merrill Lynch, ADP and Squibb.

Eventually, we became a critiquing group. No work was done in class. It became a show-and-tell where we discussed the positives and negatives of each other’s work. It still amazes me how everyone started to grow from the experience. It didn’t matter if the artist was abstract, conceptual, or realistic, everyone advanced their art. I could never predict when someone in class would drop that gem of an idea that would trigger some new direction in my own work.

If I have one of those working blocks that stops me, there’s a community of artists I can call now. I'm grateful for this. It's important to my creative process.