A Critical Mind

200x200splashYou’ve got to develop a critical mind towards artwork. You’ve got to start asking yourself questions regarding the pictures themselves as well as the construction, processes, and materials used in creating them.

You’ve got to start noticing what intrigues you, gets you excited about a painting, and holds your attention, when viewing others artwork as well as your own.

When you first start painting, or for that matter exploring a new genre or medium, it’s typical to fall into one of two traps. Either you’ll be too harsh on all your work, or you’ll be too proud, and not critical enough. Ideally you want to be somewhere in the middle. Confident in your abilities, but realising your work can be improved, and begin to understand how you might make those improvements.

Now whether you’re aware of it or not, even when you’re painting frantically just splashing color everywhere, you are still making dozens or even hundreds of little decisions along the way. Somewhere in your subconscious mind the critical brain is at work, saying “Yes” to this and “No” to that. The question is are these informed decisions or not. Have you taken the time to train your critical mind?

Where do you begin? How do you develop or train your Inner Art Critic? Well there’s no one way that’s absolutely the best way. You could take college level courses, or immerse yourself in volumes of books on the subject, but I’m going to offer you some simpler easier ways to atleast get you started. How far you go down the rabbit hole will be completely up to you.

Start visiting museums and galleries and art shows (also online galleries are a great resource). Notice which paintings you are drawn to, those that you just fall in love with, and ask yourself why? What about this or that painting is capturing your attention so much? Then notice the brushstrokes, the patterns, the underlying value composition. Notice the dominate color scheme and how the colors are arranged on the canvas. Pick the painting to pieces, but not out loud, in your mind. Let yourself be very critical of it even if it was done by a master. Ask yourself if you could make it better somehow, and if so what you would change. Imagine recreating the painting yourself, how you might do that.

Set up a Pinterest Account and create a new gallery (called a board) in there, and title it, maybe,  “My Favorite Abstracts” or something similar. I call mine “Art I Love”. Then whenever you find an abstract painting that you love, Pin It. (that means save it to your board) You can create as many boards as you like, so be sure to create one for your own abstract paintings as well. That way others can see your beautiful work.

Visit your board of favorites in your spare time and study the paintings you have in there. Are there qualities they all share, or that many or most have in common? This is how you can become more conscious of your own preferences in abstract art. Because the ‘critical eye’ you’re developing is your own.

Art is highly subjective, and I’m of the firm opinion that as the artist your number one job is to impress yourself with your work. Imagine if everything you painted sold quickly and you had thousands of admirers, and your bank account was full, but nothing you created was making you happy. Nothing you painted made you proud. Personally I would feel dead inside. So paint for yourself, to make artwork that you personally feel good about, then you are successful as an artist.

Watch other artists paint and listen to their own thoughts on the composition of an abstract painting. You’ll probably hear a lot of the same ideas from many different artists, talking about the rule of thirds, center of interest, color dominance, themes, and so on. Remember Repetition Strengthens and Confirms, so let it all sink in, but don’t let yourself become too dogmatic either. You want to keep an open mind about what makes a good composition and design. Remain teachable, like a mental sponge ready to absorb new information, because while many artists will agree on a point, there will always be one that has her own way of doing things, and it just might become your way too.

 

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