Drawing and Critique

Darlene Duncan made a comment on my blog yesterday that I loved.

“A comment without explanation does not help towards understanding or improvement.”

The goal of a critique should be to move towards improvement through understanding, that is what makes it different from a criticism.

I tell people all the time that there is not a wrong way to create, you should just start and do it.  It occurred to me that this comment might seem in direct conflict with the idea of critique, and might be in need of further explanation.

Improvement is a subjective standard.  When critiquing your artwork, it is important to understand the goal or ideal that you have in mind.  Do you want to be the next Rembrandt or the next Picasso, or maybe the next Arina Tanemura.  How you would improve when working towards those goals is vastly different. When I say that there is not a wrong way to create, what I mean is that all styles are valid.

So if I want to improve my drawing, How do I go about doing that?

eyes2 eyes4

Both of these eyes were drawn from the same source.


Each of us translated the same image into what was important to us. Yet on each of them there is something that differs from the original.  I learned that Anime eyes are often open edged,  that the pupils are even larger than I thought and high lights do have a hard edge.

I have spent years working on making highlights without hard edges, so  I did not notice that it has one, and I can say that I would choose to put one.

So if what I mean by improving is to make the eye more in an anime style, the biggest changes I would make would be in the overall shape of the eye.


What I had sketched in as the whole eyeball is close to the size of the pupil, but taller and narrower, while the eyelid slants down more.  By taking the time to look at what I had drawn in comparison to what I was working from, I gained an understanding of  how and why mine differed from the original.  Once I have that understanding, I can choose to either make mine more like the original or just draw eyes in my own way.

None of this changes the fact that I was happy with my original eye, and the fact that my eye was different from the one I was working from does not mean my eye was wrong.

I still maintain that the best way to learn to draw is by picking up something that makes marks, and using it to make marks. and enjoy the process because it is not a matter or right and wrong, it is a matter of learning and understanding. The learning and understanding will lead to improvement.


A somewhat less than creative day, or was it?

I have talked about rhythm and creative ebb and flow being similar to the tide.  It was one of those extremely low tides yesterday.  I did create, lots of signs, fliers and forms for the auction this weekend, but when it came to creating for creating sake, nothing seemed to be what I was attempting to do.  I loved the fractal I created with the star burst.  I was trying to create another, but I could not seem to achieve one I like as much.

I tend to put a lot of creative effort into everything. So something as simple a form for a silent auction will  throw me as I want it to look good.  I found myself being critical of everything I made. I finally realized that I was possible being overly critical of what I was creating, because I had switched into editor mode on all the forms and sign and fliers.

Going back and looking at our work with an eye for how to improve it is important. There is however a fine line between that and just being critical.

I have been to any number of art shows where I wished someone had been more critical of their own work. I remember one in particular that had shadows pointing in two different directions on cactus in a desert and a green thumb print in the sky.  I looked at it, wondering if the thumbprint was intentional or not.  The painting was titled.  “Sky with Thumbprint”  I gave up and asked the artist, who cheerfully replied. “I messed it up and decided to fix it with a  title.”

I find myself looking for thumbprints on my work.  I am a firm believer in accidents of art,  Things that came out differently than anticipated, that were then recognized as good.  I have spent a great deal of time figuring out what went wrong right, so that I can do it again.  But, if it is an accident that I would not want to ever recreate, well then, that is not something I want to call art.  I choose to walk away yesterday, just leave it all and come back later to see if there really were thumbprints in all my work, or just a reflection in the glass.

Exploring and Enjoying

One of the questions I get asked all the time by students is some variation of is this right?

What is the right answer when it comes to art?  Is it right for a tree to be purple?  Absolutely.  The sky and the ground too.

Henri Matisse. Moroccan Landscape (Acanthus). 1911-13. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, Sweden.

When it comes to art, right is what you feel is right.  Many Artists and art students compare themselves and their works to the best works of famous artists.  One of the most freeing experiences was visiting a smaller museum. It only had the lesser works of the major artists.  It made me feel so much better about my own art.

My own art varies radically in style, it always has. I remember being told to give it time, you will develop a style of your own. I have been giving it plenty of time. I think of my style as a style of exploration.   I have favorite mediums and styles that I return to, but my part of my real joy in creating comes from trying something new.  A different style or medium.

Rennata M. Tropeano, Princess and Rocker 27, Print 8x8 inches ©2009 Princess and Rocker027

If I were defining my art by what looks most realistic, the eye more toward the center of the page would be right.  The other eye, is the one that felt right to me.  So naturally it was the one I choose to use while I was exploring and enjoying.  Both images are different, and both are right and both are my style.  Take the time to explore and enjoy without worrying if it is right.