The previous post in the Cafe, by Clairan about working in series, actually touched on another subject that I think needs some discussion. In her first paragraph, Clairan describes how another student in a workshop approached her about how to proceed on a piece she was working on. That student hadn’t thought it through herself, but instead apparently wanted someone else to tell her what to do.
This seems to be happening more and more frequently in critique groups: bringing in unfinished work, and asking how to finish it. Does this make the piece into a collaboration, instead of a work by a single artist? Does the artist truly “own” that piece?
As Clairan points out, working in series IS work. Hard work. Thoughtful work. Maybe even painfully thoughtful work. But such creative work is highly worthwhile. It forces the artist to think through problems, to experiment and discover, to examine what it is she wants to say and how to say it. If she asks someone else how to complete it, who then is speaking through the artwork? What discovery is made? Is a work designed by committee less powerful, less meaningful than a work designed with one voice?
“We learn by our mistakes” is something drilled into most of us since childhood. Perhaps we were skeptical of that platitude in elementary school and retained that skepticism. Perhaps we’re just too busy and don’t want to waste our time by screwing up (and quilt art is often a big commitment of time and materials). We want results now, not later after we’ve mulled it over some more. And the quickest way to get it done is ask a bunch of people what to do. Perhaps doing what a bunch of people say to do makes it automatically “right”.
Now, I am not against critique groups. I am a member of two in-person kind of groups, and a co-moderator of two online groups. I am in favor of critiquing finished work. The artist can then hear the reaction to what she herself did, and learn from that. (She doesn’t have to agree with it, necessarily, but she should listen to what others have to say!)
What is your opinion on getting unfinished work critiqued, versus finished work? If you’ve had both done, which seemed more successful and why? Does it matter whether the artist is a novice, or well-established, or somewhere in-between?