For many of us, giving our work over to an individual or a group to be analyzed is scary, but so much can be learned by having someone not intimately connected to you evaluate your work. An unavoidable truth in the art world is that all through your career all kinds of people are going to say all kinds of stuff about your art. Some of them will even tell you to your face. Others may write about it, post about it or gossip behind your back. An artist not only has to learn how to handle this nonstop blitz of feedback, comments, and criticisms, but also how to gage and respond to what is said, and most importantly, how to not take what is said personally. To get the most out of a critique, it is important to decide Before submitting your work to a critique, what you really hope to gain from it. This is where some honest personal soul-searching can be useful. Most of us always try very hard to create the very best art we can. We put the total sum of our skill into every painting or sculpture. Unfortunately, when we ask, “how do you like it” we do usually hope for an endorsement of our efforts instead of an evaluation of what is technically wrong. Evaluate the person doing the critique. An important determination you need to make about responses to your art is whether a comment is based on the individual’s personal tastes or is instead based more on their overall knowledge and understanding of the type of art you create.
Decide what you like about your painting before asking for criticism or reviewing a critique. The better you know what it is you like or dislike about your work beforereceiving criticism, the better you will be able to evaluate what is being said. Listen to what is said, make sure it applies, and then ask yourself: “would it be better changed, or do I like it just the way it is?” Don’t get defensive! Remember; a critique doesn’t have to become an argument to win the critic over to your side.
Seek the opinions of your peers whenever possible. The more respect you have for the critic, the easier it is to accept the evaluation by him or her. It helps also if you attempt to understand his or her biases. We all have them. Some of us are technical sticklers and others like to see the breaking of rules.
Don’t discredit positive feedback. Because we often feel guilty at accepting praise, It is often easier for us to accept negative criticism than praise.
When selecting what to paint or write, we all have familiar subjects or places we return to time after time. For me, when paging through my reference photos to paint a landscape, I inevitably return to a scene with water because I find water movement visually interesting. Perhaps this is why I find my own still life paintings so uninspiring, although I do often admire those done by my friends.
When painting do you revisit a favorite subject many times? I know that I do, despite having heard critics ask, “Why does he/she always paint the same thing” about myself or other artists. I take issue with the idea that painting the familiar will mean you are creating a clone of a prior work since I believe that even if you are attempting to re-paint a scene or subject that you have painted in the past, the painting will be different. you are not the same person you were when you previously rendered this subject so why should your art be the same? it is true that as artists we have the need to stretch our boundaries by working with materials and subjects we are relatively unfamiliar with, our life experiences and what we have learned will shape our work even if we are painting a familiar subject. If you returned to the scene of a previous work and painted the same scene would it be the same?
In my experience, the 2nd painting never comes out the same as the 1stone. For one thing, I have learned new techniques, and grown in my artistic abilities. For instance, I did two paintings, “Hunting The Levee” in 2002 and “A Man And His Dogs” in 2003. Essentially they are the same scene, taken from a single reference photo. However, in the 2ndpainting, I felt much freer to play with the tableau and add and subtract elements from the photo. So yes, I feel that returning “to the scene of the crime” as it were can be valuable to an artist.
What response do you make when some person posts a negative opinion of you or your work on your website or a social network site? Want some tips on what you can do about this without starting a major public feud and how to turn a negative into a positive action?
Congratulations. You now have a brand new web-site (or blog site). You have spent hours designing it and putting into it everything you think will help you make it popular. Whether you created this site in the hopes of developing an audience for your writing, selling your art, promoting a non-profit organization, business or for some other reason your new site is precious to you and you need to share it with the world at large. There are so many ways to do this beginning with sending e-mails to friends and family, advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google AdWords, etc.
Most of these sites have suggestions as to how to reach other members to tell them about your new site. After you have followed instructions from these sites to publicize your work, in a couple of days when you call up your site to see if anyone has actually looked at it, and among the positive comments posted, you discover that someone has written something ugly either about the site, your work or you and posted it on yoursite. This is a little like having someone kick your baby and you are justifiably offended. The question is what do you do now?
In answering this I’m going to make a couple of assumptions: 1) you haven’t done anything to the negative poster to make them want to embarrass you by publicly posting ugly comments to your site, and 2) this isn’t someone you know well because obviously if you were well acquainted with them you wouldn’t have sent an invitation in the first place. If you are like me your first impulse would be to slap back at this person. This is entirely a normal reaction and it is a perfectly understandable, human impulse to strike out at what injures us. However, I urge you not to give in to this impulse. If you start an insult slinging match by posting a nasty response to the negative comment on your site it will only increase the adverse impression of your site with potential customers and visitors that this person has created. It also will make you look unprofessional and probably detract from your sites message which should be about the work or ideas you have presented there.
You cantake positive action when this happens, but first you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Your first action should be to find out a little about who this person is and how they came to visit your site. When you do find out this information I advise you to resist the itch to retaliate by posting something ugly in return on theirsite. I understand you would like them to know how you felt but this will only escalate matters, so don’t do it! Once you know who they are, simply remove the comment from your site and if the site offers this feature, arrange to moderate any future comments posted. If the person posted the comment using Facebook or Twitter, you may need to change those settings also to require comments to have your approval before being posted.
You should realize that if this person received an invitation to view your site the invitation may have come from you, especially if you were innocently following suggestions to increase your circle of influence put out by LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google. All of these sites encourage members to make new connections by checking out other members who are interested in the same things, belong to the same groups, follow the same companies, etc. and send out invitations to connect. These suggestions are not necessarily bad; in fact you may make some valuable acquaintances and good friends by using them. Please be aware however that the old adage about kissing frogs also applies; you may also have unintentionally reached out to some people who practice behavior my mother used to call “rude, crude, and socially unacceptable”. You won’t be able to screen these folks out ahead of time because this kind of character reference does notget posted on their self-created profiles! Hateful people exist and they just love to spread their discord and repulsive behavior onto others. The positive thing you can do I mentioned? Sometimes it helps to visualize yourself blowing a big, noisy, fat raspberry at this person, and then start a “Do Not Send” list and check it before you send out invitations to view your work. Good luck!
I started this topic because I think my experiences with attempting to post an ad on Facebook can provide valuable information for other writers considering Facebook ads for their books. Let’s be frank, the purpose of an ad should be not only to announce a new book, but to sell copies as well. At least that was my purpose because I think whether or not a book is successful should be judged by how many want to read it. Unfortunately, if you can’t advertise its presence, how are readers going to know it’s available to read? If sales of your book aren’t what you are interested in, then you don’t really need to read this post.
With the launch of my new book – A year and a day, I began experimenting with target ads on social media and Facebook seemed like an ideal place to start. The price was somewhatreasonable; they wanted $155 for a month of advertising to users who had previously showed an interest in the type of book I wrote in the 25 countries that I selected. I rapidly discovered that Facebooks platform for developing an ad is notuser-friendly and despite claims to the contrary, Facebook has done little to make it so.
Issue 1– Selecting your targeted interest group: if your users’ interests are on Facebook’s list of interests then selecting them is easy. Too bad Facebook doesn’t provide instructions as to what to do if you can’t find your interest group. However, you CAN type in what interests you are looking for (just don’t expect Facebook to tell you this). Surprisingly, although movies and films areon the list, books and reading is not, so I had to type it in. I did and lo and behold, a list of types of readers came up!
Issue 2– Choosing countries where the ad will appear: since both my book and the ad are written in English, and I have no translations into other languages, I concluded it would be a waste of time (and money) to target any Countries who didn’t speak English or teach English as a second language. FYI have your list of countries prepared ahead of time, because they all have to be typed in manually. Surprisingly, the hardest one to get through the system was Great Britain (England, Scotland, Ireland and Whales as well as some territories) which Facebook kept kicking out. FYI Facebook uses the newer “United Kingdom” which took me some time to find.
Issue 3– Does Facebooks design criteria work? Does it allow you to develop an ad that will encourage readers to click on through to your selling platform? Well, that is really the issue here. If I am going to pay Facebook for an ad, then I expect it to be worth it in sales. How do you compute whether or not the ad is paying for itself? Well, a successful ad should have between a 2-5% return. In other words, if you pay Facebooks minimum of $155 then you should get a minimum of 5 to 10 sales off it the first month. Think this is Low? Get over it. Ad results usually expand exponentially (in other words, the more times an ad appears, the more sales it will generate). Why the heck do you thing those TV ads appear so often?
Before I tried to design mine, I looked very hard at other author’s ads and I discovered something disquieting. The ads for other books I viewed on Facebook made me wonder why the authors didn’t do more to catch and hold potential buyer’s attention. Most times, there simply wasn’t enough information in the ‘sanctioned Facebook ad’ for me as a reader to follow through with a click to learn more. After attempting to work with Facebooks Ad Manager, I now know why so little information was included—Facebook doesn’t allow the kind of ad needed to pull potential readers interest. Since Facebook didn’t include books or readers on its regular interest platform for choosing an audience, I am left wondering if Facebooks management team reads. If they do, they should knowthat while an eye-catching cover image might make a potential reader take a second look, it’s the descriptive text that motivates a potential reader to open a book, or in this case, click on through to a site with a fuller description. While I understand the principlebehind Facebook’s ‘no more than 20% text’ rule in an ad, implementing it is so difficult as to make it practically impossible and still garner sales.
Issue 4— what does Facebook count as text and how is computed? If a link to a site where the product can be purchased is included in an ad, does that link count as text?
Issue 5— how much does an image provided count against the 20% text rule? In other words, if there is text on the photo provided is that included when the 20% text is figured? Does Facebook automatically turn thumbs down on anyad image with text?
Ad buyers are left to guess because the answer to these questions because it isn’t provided anywhere on the Ad Manager Platform, and God help you if you try to find out because Facebook won’t.
Conclusion: It would be much more user friendly if Facebook simply instituted a text character limit rule in the same way its competitor, Twitter does. The fact they haven’t tells me Facebook is more interested in collecting money than anything else. If Facebooks wants its ad buyers to succeed, they should provide a more user-friendly platform to develop them. I closed my ad account on Facebook and will be exploring other social media platforms to advertise my work.
AFTERTHOUGHT: I shared a free preview of this book (just the prologue) with some of my groups and Facebook shut me down for “Illegal Activity” for the weekend. I had to jump through hoops for them to allow me back on my own site. Was it worth it? Maybe, even if it was just for the pleasure of annoying the moguls at Facebook!
Do we apply a double standard in censoring Art? Is there a difference between a Rubens classical painting and Playboy? Most of us think so. Yet some of Ruben’s art is probably more graphic than a Playboy centerfold and his Rape of the Daughters certainly shows violence toward women. Nevertheless, most museums and libraries would have no hesitation in displaying it in a public venue. What then makes the old masters art different from artists who create in the here and now? Should paintings showing nudity, graphic violence like rape, sexual themes or nude statues be shown in a public setting such as a Library, Mall or even an art show at which children are welcomed?
Does it make a difference who is going to be looking at or reading controversial material? Yes, it does. Just as a person isn’t allowed to scream “fire!” in a crowded area for fear of causing panic, as a society we will always need to make judgments as to what is appropriate for our public libraries and other non-profits to display and spend their money on. And yes, in the past governments havebeen very heavy handed on what was considered appropriate. On that subject, the right of Private adult individuals to decide what they will read and see must always be defended. The internet has virtually ensured that the freedom to view and read whatever we want will be protected; As long as it exists, artists and book publishers will be permitted to sell these items (in the appropriate venues), and I don’t think we need to be too worried about government imposed censorship.
Public galleries and non-profits have also felt the bite of censorship because of shrinking donations; private and for-profit galleries and bookstores are also under pressure not to carry controversial materials. A mom shopping with her 10 year old simply isn’t going to make a purchase in a gallery or art show that carries nudes because she isn’t likely to take her child into that gallery or to that art show in the first place.
As a visual artist who sets up art displays in public places, I am very aware of our American society’s standards of what is considered acceptable for public consumption. All societies have these standards of behavior and yes, the standards do evolve with society. 60 years ago, Tarzan of the Apes was considered too sexy for the libraries! What is acceptable in Europe is quite different than what is acceptable in America also. American standards are usually much more conservative than those prevalent in Europe. In this financially strapped time, Libraries and other non-profits and public venues are very dependent on donations. Let’s face it; donors are simply not going to come out and see or purchase art or books they don’t like and they won’t give money to organizations that support these things.
As to exactly why we think a painting over 100 years old is less controversial than one painted this year, well, all I can say is that history seems to cover a multitude of sins.
By the Practical Artist
I was always a little confused as to how certain types of art are placed into certain genres at art shows. For one thing, it seemed to be purely subjective, depending on each artist’s concept of what that Genre was, and some art didn’t seem to fit into any division at all! I did find a definition on the internet: “Genre is the general classification of your image.” One of the best examples of saying nothing while seeming to say everything I’ve ever found! Most artists I know seem to classify their art first by the media used to create it and then by the subject matter. For instance, many artists will describe their work as a “watercolor landscape” or an “oil still life”. From the internet, I also got a list of what was considered genre classifications. In many cases, the definition of a Genre was very narrow. Obviously, not all images fit into the Genre categories and I found myself taking issue with the clearness of the description of some them as well, so I went looking for comparisons of the definitions and sure enough, everyone has a different opinion! Like many fields, the definition of a Genre seems to depend on which expert you consult. I also found about 30 different genres described, with many of them having sub-genres. For this blog, I will confine myself to the genres and sub-genres of interest in the one-dimensional Fine art shown at art shows: Abstract/non-objective, Botanical & Still Life, Contemporary, Drawing, Landscape, Portrait, Realism, and Representational.
Abstract/non-objective art seemed to be images, which did not reflect pictorial reality as opposed to Realism, which tries to show exactly what is seen. On About.com, I found this 1“In its purest form in Western art, an abstract art is one without a recognizable subject, one which doesn’t relate to anything external or try to “look like” something. Instead, the colour and form (and often the materials and support) are the subject of the abstract painting. It’s completely non-objective or non-representational.” I also found sub-genres in abstract art as well: geometric, figurative, etc. In other words, it did seem to me that anything they couldn’t find a Genre for at art shows got stuck here. Occasionally, I found this category confused with Contemporary art at art shows, which as I later discovered was not the same thing at all!
Botanical & Still Lifeis usually art about flowers and plants. However many different objects other than plants and flowers have been used in still life art. I placed Still Life with Botanical because so much still life art does use botanical subjects. Wikipedia defines botanical art as “the art of depicting the form, colour, and details of plant species, frequently in watercolourpaintings. Historically, these paintings were often printed with a botanical description in books, magazines, and other media. Art of this type required an understanding of plant biologyand access to specimens and references. These works were often composed in consultation with a scientific author.”3Currently, Photographs have replaced most botanical art in textbooks or other pharmacopoeia (medical textbook). The second most common subject matter found in Still Life is food and the third is the décor stuff my mother called “dust-catchers”. Still Life in art is all about lighting and composition; keeping a painting of inanimate objects interesting is much harder than it looks, and I have nothing but respect for those who paint this type of art successfully.
Contemporaryart was defined on the internet as “Artwork that has been produced employing techniques made popular after World War II”. This was interesting because it certainly didn’t agree with what I have seen in the “Contemporary” categories at art shows! In fact using this definition, most painting materials available are made using modern techniques all artwork painted by living artists could be considered contemporary. At art shows put on by local art groups, I have generally found art depicting abstracts, non-representational art, expressionism, etc., all in this category. It seems to me that oftentimes the subject matter was being used to define the category.
Drawingis defined as images created with conventional drawing materials – pen and ink, pencil, chalk, charcoal… “Drawing is often exploratory, with considerable emphasis on observation. Drawing is regularly used in preparation for a painting, further confusing the distinction between drawing and painting. Drawings created for these purposes are called studies. There are several categories of drawing: figure drawing, cartooning, doodlingand shading(cartooning and doodling are not usually considered to be fine art). There are also many drawing methods, such as line drawing, stippling or shading. A quick, unrefined drawing may be called a sketch. In fields outside art, technical drawingsor plans of buildings, machinery, circuitry and other things are often called “drawings” even when they have been transferred to another medium by printing.”3 Upon review, I found that although drawing is often considered a Genre at art shows and competitions the internet doesn’t consider it a genre at all. According to Wikipedia “Drawingis a form of visual artthat makes use of any number of drawing tools to mark a two-dimensional medium. Tools can include graphitepencils, pen and ink, inkedbrushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses, and metals (such as silverpoint). A small amount of material is put on a surface or support, leaving a visible mark. The most common support for drawing is paper, although other materials, cardboard, plastic, leather, canvas, and board, may be used. The readiness of drawing tools makes drawing more common than other art media. Drawing is one of the major forms within the visual arts. Old-style drawings were monochrome, or at least had little colour, while modern colored-pencil drawings may cross the boundary between drawing and painting. In Western vocabulary, drawing is distinct from painting, even though similar mediais often used in both. Dry media, normally associated with drawing, such as chalk may be used inpastelpaintings. Drawing may also be done with a liquid medium applied with brushes or pens (Chinese art). Similar supports can serve both: painting generally involves the application of liquid paint onto prepared canvas or panels, but sometimes an under-drawingis first drawn on that same support.”3 For the purpose of an art show, the Drawing category is often divided by medium, with Pastels most frequently considered a separate category all others lumped into “Graphics”.
Landscapeas a Genre was defined as images of landscapes, real or imaginary. This is a category where I wanted to place several “sub-genres”: Seascapes, Cityscapes, interior scenes, etc. I once asked a master artist her definition of a landscape and she told me “anything with a horizon”. Obviously, a street scene might or might not have a horizon line, but a painting of the inside of a house sure wouldn’t have a horizon although I suppose the floor line might be considered in the same definition. This raises another question: does a painting of say a group people on a city street come under the sub-genre cityscapes or portrait/figurative? And what about an indoor scene of a party or a scene in a restaurant that looks out the window to the landscape? Where does this go? Does a scene inside a house or other building come under landscape? If there are people in the scene, does it then become a portrait painting?
Portraitsare images that focus on the personality and representation of a person or animal. This is another category where I wanted to put sub-genres. Portrait implies a single subject, group or object for which that person(s) posed so the art could be created, even if it is a group being painted. Into what Genre then, does a group of people, who are incidental to the painting (there by happenstance) go? For instance into what genre would you place a painting of a street scene or a party or a family dinner where the subjects are imagined? Categorize this for me and put it in the proper Genre:imaginary people, imaginary house, imaginary scene of a modern family on Christmas morning (Mom and Dad in the kitchen making coffee or whatever, a young girl curled up in a chair with an I-Pod or phone, two teenage boys playing a video game on the wide-screen TV and grandparents coming in the kitchen door with packages). It’s not a portrait because the people aren’t real, yes or no?
Realism Artis artwork that focuses on portraying subjects and objects accurately, as they really are. Wikipedia defines this genre as “the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without changingitand avoiding artistic principles, implausible, exotic or supernatural elements.”3Another source, absolutearts.com, says, “Realism is defined by the accurate, unembellished, and detailed depiction of nature or contemporary life. The movement prefers an observation of physical appearance rather than imagination or idealization.” There isa type of art called Photorealism, defined as “the Genre of painting based on using cameras and photographs to gather visual information and then from this creating a painting that appears to be photographic.” I have most commonly seen this art done with either graphite or colored pencil and it allows for more detail. However, some master artists do not consider photorealism to be art at all since the image reproduced on paper or canvas is usually copied exactlyfrom a single photograph. However, I have also seen this done purely from imagination of the artist. If several photos are used as reference material and elements from them combined into a painting, then you have produced Representational art rather than Realism art.
Representational Art in the dictionarymeans to symbolize or to stand for. According to Wikipedia, all art is representational if it shows a recognizable object. “The degree to which an artistic representation resemblesthe object it represents is a function of resolution and does not bear on the denotation of the word. For example, both the Mona Lisaand a child’s crayon drawing of Lisa del Giocondowould be considered representational, and any preference for one over the other would need to be understood as a matter of preferences.”3So if you paint a landscape and leave out elements that are actually in the scene, shift things around or add in things, to make the painting look better then you have created a piece of representational art. Humbling, isn’t it?