The Best Artists Are Growing Artists

The Best Artists Are Growing Artists
September 6, 2016 Andrea Muhlbauer

I’ve talked so many times about how crucial it is for growing artists to receive critique and feedback on their work. There’s nothing that will allow you to grow like good feedback. But let’s face it, good feedback isn’t ALWAYS easily attained. So what does a GREAT artist do when no one is around to offer that feedback? It’s all about reflecting. When mentors are gone and peers are busy, there’s only one place you can turn to for improvement: yourself.

To put it simply, reflecting on your own work means treating it as if it was created by someone else. Instead of assuming you remember everything, go back and revisit every question you asked and every decision you made. Most importantly, force yourself to articulate what you wanted to accomplish when making the piece, and compare that to what was actually accomplished in the finished product.

Just like giving feedback, reflecting on your work can never be about what you personally liked and disliked. Or even worse, what felt good. It doesn’t matter what felt good to you, the artist – what matters is how it feels to the audience. This is why removing yourself from the work is so important. If you didn’t know anything about how the piece was created or who you were, how would it make you feel?

Only after you’ve removed yourself from the piece and considered the finished product as an audience member can you start to ask yourself questions about the effectiveness of the piece. You’ll be challenged at first to think up questions that will help you evaluate your work objectively. So, here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Does the piece inspire in an audience member what I wanted it to inspire?
  • Does the sequence of events make logical sense?
  • Does the movement I chose portray the emotion I wanted it to?
  • Does the structure of my piece suit the story?
  • Is the structure or story confusing at any points?
  • Does my piece keep the audience’s attention?
  • Were there any moments that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the piece?

As you begin to construct your own questions, try to keep them tangible. Instead of asking questions beginning with ‘what’ or ‘why,’ ask questions that can be more concretely answered: ‘did this happen, or didn’t this happen?’ The less room there is for ambiguity in the answer, the better.

So now you’ve answered this series of questions and determined how your piece measures up to your standards. Now, you have to figure out how to do better in the future.  The absolute best thing you can do right now is make a plan for revisions – if you had all the time in the world left to work on this piece, what would you do to make it better? You can read more about how to do this here.

Remember that reflecting is a positive experience. If your piece missed the mark, then congratulations! You have a reason to create your next piece, and you know exactly what to do with it.

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