Criticism - WarmGlass.com

Criticism

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Brock
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Criticism

Postby Brock » Fri Mar 19, 2004 8:53 pm

The excellent discussions of the last week have prompted this. I have a question. I'm hoping to stimulate an exchange of opinions, on a subject that has me quite confused. I have seen work that is very rudimentary, or simplistic, praised by members of this board. I rarely offer an opinion on these new pieces, because I feel there just isn't much there yet. I can easily recognize excellent work, but I'm confused by the support for work that really expresses nothing but the fact some glass was melted in a kiln. Believe me, I made many blobs, puddles, and ill-conceived patties myself when I started fusing. Rightly, I received no praise for these simple attempts. Now, it seems, anything posted is praiseworthy. I understand encouragement, but don't we have to be realistic? Frankly, some of this work is on a level with the mawkish scribbles of kindergartners.

My question is, when do we offer real criticism?

Criticism
- the act or art of analyzing and judging the quality of a literary or artistic work . . .
- the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything . . .

Brock
My memory is so good, I can't remember the last time I forgot something . . .

BillBrach
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Postby BillBrach » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:32 pm

Brock,

I agree, it seems every item photo uploaded gets rave reviews.

I just left a forum where this was the norm. Frankly, on that other forum I could have posted a pile of cat sh*t and somebody would have asked me when I was going to put it on eBay.

But, to answer your question, critisim is due when critism is asked for. Otherwise, I just ignore the post and go on.

Bill Brach (pronounced Brock)
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lauren
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Postby lauren » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:37 pm

i think the praises for sub par work is just an outpouring of support from this community. i think it would suck a lot if somebody had the balls to post their picture and nobody responded/everybody panned it.

the people - that do good work and not so good work - who post pictures with just a 'WOOHOO look what just came out of the kiln!' comment i wouldn't expect to be looking for criticism. not that it's not wanted, but it seems to be more of an ego massaging exercise. (that's not bad, and in a lot of cases it's deserved) if, however, somebody posted a picture and then talked about their inspiration, the composition of the piece, what they think are it's high points and low points - then i think it's open season for a proper critique. there doesn't seem to be too much of that going on, i'd like to see more.

when it's a thread where only newbies and lurkers praising the work...well, i think that speaks for itself. but it's also what makes this board great.

yeehaw

Avery Anderson
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Postby Avery Anderson » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:49 pm

I agree that some of the pieces posted do not warrant positive feedback, but could instead, be given some honest and constructive criticism. We all started out the same...simply melting glass and observing what happens. After time..sometimes years....these pieces took on more meaning and technical excellence. No one expects new fusers to create immediate materpieces with perfect volume control and fine finishing. It is hoped they will see examples of well done work and strive for that in their own work. Somehow, this is being overlooked. No one wishes criticism - it can dampen the spirit - but perhaps some constructive comments would encourage the new fusers to see where improvement can be made and how to accomplish it.

Avery (who hates controversy, but agrees this is an important topic in order to encourage and help those just getting into this medium).

The Hobbyist
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Postby The Hobbyist » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:57 pm

I think that what you are describing falls into three categories.

1) An actual request for a critique. I posted a picture of a piece some months ago and made it clear that I wanted "no holds barred" examination. In fact I prefaced it with my observation that I thought the piece was a failure but wanted to know why. I got some polite remarks and some serious comments. The best was an in depth pro and con evaluation by Cynthia Oliver that has made a great impact on how I approach any new work now.

We seldom see any posts that are explicitly clear that the artist wants a serious critique. Most fall into the next category.

2) The "Honey, how do I look?" posting. My wife learned long ago that when she asked that question I would treat it as a real question. (I am socially inept.) So she no longer asks unless she really does want to know. I've never been good at the cliche'd answer to such cliche' questions. But I agree, Brock, that is what a lot of the postings for criticism here, and elsewhere, are really about.

3) "Here's my latest!" or "My new website". This is becoming more common and I occassionally get the urge to do one myself. Hey, we all like to show off what we're doing. I don't think these fall into either of the above categories because I don't think they are intended to get a response, although they usually do. I think they are just exuberant shows of the poster's enthusiasm for their new work and a desire to share it. That and/or a "news flash" update that there are new items on the website. The best example is Dr. Steve's latest thread. Fantastic work that we, at least I, all want to see and like to know there is more on the site. He gets lots of deserved praise and no criticism. Criticism would seem out of place because he wasn't really posting with that in mind.

Personally, I've done a couple no. 1's, I avoid no. 2 and I haven't got my website ready for no. 3. Usually I thrust a picture of my latest piece on my email correspondents in the manner of no. 2 or 3 above. I am working on my website, sortof, so I can stop doing that. It's boorish but we all have a need to share and get strokes. Hopefully soon, if you really want to see what I'm doing you can go to http://www.TheHobbyist.us.

Now I better slink away................................Jim
"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. " Steven Weinberg

Amy on Salt Spring
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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:59 pm

As some of you know about a year ago this subject was brought up in reference to someone's work, NOT someone on the board but someone claiming to be very skilled and charging a lot of money for work that a number of us thought was substandard in skill. The response to this subject was quite surprising to me. I thought we would discuss standards and how pricing comes into it etc. and instead people got upset and called the comments judgmental and said things like "People who judge other people's work are small and petty" and other things in that vein. That made me gun shy to ever say anything critical again--even to someone asking for it. There are certainly a lot of people on this board more skilled and talented than I am (great teachers for heaven's sake--two of them have posted above me!) and Cynthia is great on critiquing so since then I have left it up to her and just praise the work that I think is good and don't post if I don't think its good.
Amy

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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:01 pm

Jim Wolverton wrote:The best example is Dr. Steve's latest thread. Fantastic work that we, at least I, all want to see and like to know there is more on the site. He gets lots of deserved praise and no criticism. Criticism would seem out of place because he wasn't really posting with that in mind.


This is just an aside: Actually Jim he didn't post at all! I forced him into the limelight after I looked at his website and was so impressed with his new stuff. I thought everyone should see it!
Amy

Phil Hoppes
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Postby Phil Hoppes » Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:47 pm

Good topic Brock. Here's my 2 cents.

My thoughts on criticism or the lack thereof on this board I believe stem from three things, one controllable and the other somewhat quite nebulous and a third requires experience.

The controlled aspect of criticism stems a little from what Jim mentioned in that some posters WANT criticism while others are simply looking for praise. There is a difficulty from a reviewer's perspective that unless the poster makes their intention known, one is left to guess what is the intent. Given a choice of the unknown I think most people error on the side of courtesy and either give a positive review or no review rather than possibly upset the person who made the picture post.

The nebulous part lies in the very medium we are all using to communicate and that is a computer bulletin board. I have found myself more than wanting numerous times when communicating with computers in that written computer communication is probably one of the poorest methods of communication when it comes to relating something of emotional value. A good critical review, especially to a novice, requires coaching, good analytical review and through feedback. Some of this can be communicated effectively with text only but it is better delivered when reviewer and poster can physically see each other. What is that saying, as a species we have 200 muscles in our faces for a reason….the face is to be seen so that effective communication can occur. This does not happen with a text bulletin board.

The third or experience part I mention comes on the part of the reviewer. As I said above, good reviews should provide through feedback. MOST important the review should be critical of the work NOT the artist. Sometimes some reviewers may come across as attacking the artist or some fear reviewing as not to be perceived as attacking the artist.

Lastly, I feel some artists, dare I say, should not be artists or should not post their work. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!â€

Bert Weiss
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Postby Bert Weiss » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:09 pm

I see criticism as an act of love. If one doesn't care, you keep quiet and let your opinions lie dormant.

On another hand, one must understand how to evaluate criticism relative to who it comes from and how it is given. My wife and I do not share the same aesthetic. She often tells me that she really dislikes a piece, hates the colors and the shape. Often I disagree and feel the piece has merit.

There are different approaches to aesthetics, some academic and others, seat of the pants; if it looks good it is good.

The people giving praise to a particular piece, I would imagine, enjoy it's aesthetic. Consumers throw money at their own aesthetic. We don't all agree on "what is good" Hence the incredible success of the Thomas Kincaides. Not to mention, the big popularity of dichroic glass.

Some people like pattern bars, others like pot melts and still others like skulls and bones made of glass. To me the real issues have more to do with composition, form, surface, and presentation. The end result is supposed to elicit an emotional response.

I realize at this point that I have written a pretty negative piece about criticism. So I'll change tack and say that we can find the biggest growth opportunities by tuning in to criticism, particularly that of trained people. As a community we are helping one another grow in every way imaginable. That would be an impossible task without caring enough to give and take criticism.
Bert

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Amy on Salt Spring
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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:15 pm

I think what Brock is saying is (correct me if I'm wrong Brock)...okay hypothetically lets say someone posts something that is not very good--bad technique, uninspired or whatever, and all the responses are praising the work is that the right thing to do? Is the board supportive to a fault?
Amy

P.S. I'm editing this since Bert posted while I was writing this. I guess your last paragraph answers the above Bert.

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Postby Brock » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:39 pm

I think what Brock is saying is (correct me if I'm wrong Brock)...okay hypothetically lets say someone posts something that is not very good--bad technique, uninspired or whatever, and all the responses are praising the work is that the right thing to do? Is the board supportive to a fault?
Amy


That's exactly what I'm saying. Brock
My memory is so good, I can't remember the last time I forgot something . . .

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Postby The Hobbyist » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:58 pm

Old people and their anecdotes:

The grade and high school I attended was big on sports but equally big on music, vocal music. It was a parochial (Catholic) school and the church "robed choir" was as highly regarded as the winning athletic teams.

It was customary for Miss K.... to come to all 6th grade classes and audition the students for getting into the choir the next year. Each student was told to stand and sing. I vividly remember the old b... telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I was flat and hopeless, do not try out next year.

From that day forward I have been unable to even think of singing or any other musical adventure. She was probably correct in her assessment but being embarrassed as a pre-teen before your peers is an indellible bruise on the ego. Especially when it is unsolicited.

For anyone to do likewise to a newbie here on the board it may have a very similar effect even though most of us are adults and should be strong enough to handle it.

Jim
"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. " Steven Weinberg

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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:01 am

Jim Wolverton wrote:Old people and their anecdotes:

The grade and high school I attended was big on sports but equally big on music, vocal music. It was a parochial (Catholic) school and the church "robed choir" was as highly regarded as the winning athletic teams.

It was customary for Miss K.... to come to all 6th grade classes and audition the students for getting into the choir the next year. Each student was told to stand and sing. I vividly remember the old b... telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I was flat and hopeless, do not try out next year.

From that day forward I have been unable to even think of singing or any other musical adventure. She was probably correct in her assessment but being embarrassed as a pre-teen before your peers is an indellible bruise on the ego. Especially when it is unsolicited.

For anyone to do likewise to a newbie here on the board it may have a very similar effect even though most of us are adults and should be strong enough to handle it.

Jim


That's not critique, that is just plain mean and nasty. Teachers should know better than that and I certainly hope people on this board would too...but its a valid point. Not everyone knows how to critique without crushing someone.
-A

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Re: Criticism

Postby Steve Immerman » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:02 am

Brock wrote:My question is, when do we offer real criticism?

Criticism
- the act or art of analyzing and judging the quality of a literary or artistic work . . .
- the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything . . .

Brock


I think we should offer criticism when the person asks for it. But, if it is a "Hey! Look what I just made!" post, than only positive comments are appropriate. It's OK to not respond, as many do.

But, when it's a real request for a critique, then the person wants a critique. When I had to fill out the questionnare for BECon 2003, there was a question about what do we find lacking in our teaching, and for me the main thing was real criticism and artistic direction.

I have often privately emailed members of this board asking for a critique of pieces, and I have received honest answers. Sometimes, a piece doesn't work for me, and I want someone else's opinion on how it could be improved. Sometimes it "works" but I can't put into words why - so someone else's viewpoint can help me understand so I can improve and expand on it.

Just like Phil, my training often put me on the receiving end of blunt and often nasty criticism. Personally, I do well with this kind of teaching. Others don't.

So,to reiterate, I don't think we want to make individuals afraid to post their works by heaping unwanted criticism on them. But, if a real critique is requested, I think we should oblige.

Steve

Brock
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Postby Brock » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:06 am

Jim Wolverton wrote:Old people and their anecdotes:

The grade and high school I attended was big on sports but equally big on music, vocal music. It was a parochial (Catholic) school and the church "robed choir" was as highly regarded as the winning athletic teams.

It was customary for Miss K.... to come to all 6th grade classes and audition the students for getting into the choir the next year. Each student was told to stand and sing. I vividly remember the old b... telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I was flat and hopeless, do not try out next year.

From that day forward I have been unable to even think of singing or any other musical adventure. She was probably correct in her assessment but being embarrassed as a pre-teen before your peers is an indellible bruise on the ego. Especially when it is unsolicited.

For anyone to do likewise to a newbie here on the board it may have a very similar effect even though most of us are adults and should be strong enough to handle it.

Jim


That's why I posted the (partial) definitions of criticism. It doesn't have to be a humiliating experience, it doesn't have to be mean spirited, it may just be gentle helpful suggestions. It's part of being an artist, giving and taking criticism, and it's far more helpful than all the well meaning platitudes in the world. Brock
My memory is so good, I can't remember the last time I forgot something . . .

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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:29 am

Because I guess if she had told you that you were an amazing singer and should think about going into it for a living without giving you any instruction, means of improvement or taught you to be any better at singing, it might have been more crushing for you in the end...somewhere between cruelty and compliments just to be supportive lies constructive criticism.

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Postby The Hobbyist » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:36 am

I think there's room for both here.

It is impossible to contain one's enthusiam when you've just finished a new and/or difficult piece. For many, if not most, of us this is the only audience there is. It is completely reasonable to come here and "hang it on the fridge". Those that do so, as adults, know that what they are getting is polite praise but it is still praise and at least someone looked at it and didn't say, "Oh".

For those wanting serious artistic criticism I would like to see a separate forum devoted to just that. Post your piece, with artistic statement if necessary, and invite critical review. I would be one of the first posters and probably one of the most frequent. I don't want and generally detest patronization. I want to grow, within my limited abilities, and that requires criticism. The biggest problem might be getting enough critics that can do as Brock and Phil said, evaluate the work not the person. Find both faults and values. The thing I valued the most when Cynthia critiqued my piece was that she told me what didn't work and why. To me the why is as important as the what.

Bedtime for eastcoasters.........................Jim
"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. " Steven Weinberg

Bert Weiss
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Postby Bert Weiss » Sat Mar 20, 2004 1:24 am

Jim Wolverton wrote:.

For those wanting serious artistic criticism I would like to see a separate forum devoted to just that. Post your piece, with artistic statement if necessary, and invite critical review. Jim


I think Jim has a good point here, but I don't think it requires a seperate forum. We already have a picture forum. I think that people can simply invite criticism when they post. I for one think that we can all learn from the dialogue of what various poeple think about a particular piece or genre.
Bert



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Postby Linda Reed » Sat Mar 20, 2004 1:28 am

Amy on Salt Spring wrote:As some of you know about a year ago this subject was brought up in reference to someone's work, NOT someone on the board but someone claiming to be very skilled and charging a lot of money for work that a number of us thought was substandard in skill. The response to this subject was quite surprising to me. I thought we would discuss standards and how pricing comes into it etc. and instead people got upset and called the comments judgmental and said things like "People who judge other people's work are small and petty" and other things in that vein. That made me gun shy to ever say anything critical again--even to someone asking for it. There are certainly a lot of people on this board more skilled and talented than I am (great teachers for heaven's sake--two of them have posted above me!) and Cynthia is great on critiquing so since then I have left it up to her and just praise the work that I think is good and don't post if I don't think its good.
Amy


I think that is part of the issue. People who ask for criticism (as Jim discussed) are hoping for feedback. Others see someone criticizing work that has not solicited feedback and get shy about posting.

This is a great forum and a fantastic group of people and I am way richer for having met and learned from and been critiqued by some of them. But if we were in an acedemic situation, I'd still be in high school (ha, if that) and some folks on this board are working on their Doctorates... whereas I would hughly appreciate critique from the higher level artisans, I would be trampled if my work was critiqued on a level with those same people.

That's where the judgement comes in. Leveling the critique and the suggestions for improvement to the level of the work... knowing that some people are in the first months of work, some people are part timers, some people are professionals.

Anyone who has been in a supervisory situation has had to deal with remedial critique. A kind of, 'for this level of work, this is what is wonderful and this is what you should be working on...' Because it will be different critiques for different levels. Some people have creative flares, but their work needs technical critique and they ought to know it, some have technical skills naturally, but need to learn to look and listen to life a little more. Some have both and you can just steer them to better information and watch them take off...

This board is popular because for the most part it is encouraging and people don't get down and dirty. Perhas Brad can post an aside at the top of the photo section - if you are looking for real critique, say this, if you are looking for gentle feedback post this... type thing.

I too had a 6th grade music teacher that excluded me from the chorus - there were only about 4 of us that sat in homeroom and weren't allowed to participate in the class musical. To this day I still mouth 'happy birthday' in a crowd :oops:

But I think I am more secure these days with my glass - I know that I am not at the level of many posters and may never be, may never have the time or inclination to devote to 'master level' work... but I also know that for what I do I have loyal customers and friends who appreciate my style and I am above the level of 'mouthing the words'. I could use and would understand constructive criticism. Not ohh my, that sucks. But, 'you know, for someone who owns a wbs, your edges could use some more work', or 'if you took that idea and did it bigger, rounder, thicker, different it would be lot more effective...' etc. Or whatever as long as it suggested more or different instead of just 'ick'.

This board is great and I am glad people are concerned about hurting feelings, but also - it takes criticism to grow. As Jim said, he changed some of the ways he works based on well worded feedback. And as Bert said (Hi Bert!) constructive feedback is a form of love. =D> :twisted: We should all be so lucky and loved.

Linda
"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. ...The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours." ~ Ayn Rand

Cynthia

Re: Criticism

Postby Cynthia » Sat Mar 20, 2004 1:55 am

Brock wrote:
My question is, when do we offer real criticism?

Criticism
- the act or art of analyzing and judging the quality of a literary or artistic work . . .
- the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything . . .

Brock


I provide a critique when I have been asked and have the time to be careful about it. I am cautious about giving them because they can be touchy if the creator/artist/designer isn't open to some constructive criticism. I have no desire to hurt anyone...so if it feels like they want praise alone, I try to steer clear. There is no value in only addressing the positive or the negative alone. You have to have the positive moves acknowleged right along with the missteps in order to learn the why of it all.

I don't know the fine distinctions between criticism and critique, but my approach to a critique is that it is a process of a formal evaluation of the whole. "That sure is pretty, I like the blue. Or. "Man, that piece sucks, why'd ya use that pukey blue" aren't critiques. A critique is about taking what you have created, and learning what works and where you can improve it. The purpose is to learn and grow and improve your skills. It isn't about praise (warranted or not), it isn't about tearing a piece down (warranted or not), it's about pulling it apart constructively (odd juxtaposition) and figuring out how its working or not as a whole so that you can make it work better.

If someone wants a critique, they probably should know what one is first of all, what to expect (so they know when they got it or not) and what they will have to do within that dialog in order to learn from it.

If it's simply a show and tell request or session, and people offer positive comments, then that is about social graces that in kindness one says, atta boy, there you go and keep it up. If you don't like or aren't impressed by what you see there, no response seems appropriate.

Negative comments aren't a part of a critique either. If a piece is lacking in structure, design, balance, line, shape, movement, whatever...it's still important to explain why these elements aren't working in a nonjudgemental way and take that opportunity to teach some design skills or color theory or give some leads as to what might make this piece work and why.

Why give a critique? To teach...or so that's why I do it, plus it's in my blood. I spent so many years giving, getting and learning how to, that it's very hard to turn that critic off (the nice benevolent one Amy, not the evil one...that one has to go).

With this medium, I find it fairly difficult at times to know what someone is attempting to achieve. I confuse myself at times between what is a successful piece of design work and what is a work of art. It's easier for me to see the distinctions within painting, drawing or sculpture. With glass we are all over the board with decorative, production, functional, one of a kinds, originals, sculptural, architectural....The fuzzy places tend to fuzzy up my thinking...but design is design, and if a critique stays within a formal paradigm, it's hard to go wrong.


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