Part of being a commercial artist is running a business. While there are aspects of this that I’m horrible at and procrastinate on (accounting, marketing) and parts that I very much enjoy (comic book conventions, book fairs, meeting fans and showcasing my latest books, and art), I still have to do all of them. This series of my process blog will talk about different aspects of the business.
One of the hardest things for an artist to deal with is critique. When you are showing the world something you created through blood, sweat and tears, it’s hard to deal with the criticisms that might follow. But part of being an artist is growing through the lessons learned. It’s just the pendulum swing of life.
At SCBWI we were given the opportunity to present our portfolios to professionals in the industry, as well as our peers. At this conference there wasn’t a one-on-one meeting with anyone in the industry, which was a shame. But SCBWI did encourage our fellow writers and artists to look at our portfolios. This got me open to the idea of being critiqued, and when I was presented with joining a critique group in my area of Ontario, I said yes!
As I mentioned earlier, you need to grow as an artist, so it’s important to have ways to learn from your mistakes and to be encouraged for your art. Joining a critique group is a great way to do this! When joining a group, think about what you want to get out of it. You are there to grow as well, so it’s important to find peers on a similar path as you; people that are enthusiastic and who bring work to the meeting. Most importantly you need to trust and respect them! We’ve already set up some ground rules, which helps everyone know what to expect. This should make the meetings enjoyable as well as informative. It’s also going to be a small group, which helps with the scheduling and should allow for everyone to have their time to be critiqued.
In regards to what should be critiqued, for me it’s going to be a picture book story I came up with at SCBWI. This idea came about during our illustrator’s intensive, when we were tasked to layout a 32-page story from an illustration or sketch that you were asked to bring. I picked a drawing from my sketchbook, and while coming up with a story from this sketch was hard, this exercise really helped me flesh out an idea. Since the conference, I’ve developed it a bit more, using the information I learned while there. Because I’m in the embryonic stages of this story, and eager to develop it further, I felt it was ideal to bring this to our first critique group.
Being that this is a new group, we are all trying to bring something that is still early in development. Initially, I think everyone should be on the same page, so that we can get the most out of everyone’s experience, whether it’s the person being critiqued or the one receiving it. For me, it’ll also be nice to see everyone’s project develop. It’ll also be inspirational to get my own story finished.
Either way, you need to feel somewhat comfortable going into a critique, so that you will be most receptive. And when I say comfortable, there’s got to be a willingness of vulnerability. Being critiqued should be a learning experience, and when one is open and honest, then that is when you learn the most. And that’s why I’m here- to learn and grow as an artist.