Several years back I decided to begin a series of paintings where I revisited earlier approaches I had taken in my work in an effort to expand upon them and forge new avenues for myself. Perhaps the original ideas were failures to begin with or I had overthought the process all together, but my dear friend and fellow artist John Ernatt, upon critiquing these works, pronounced them “a major step backwards.”
He then explained his reasoning in depth. I felt a bit hurt and made efforts to defend the work. After putting ego aside I realized he was right. The work fell short of what he felt I was capable of.
The critique was a springboard into a body of work that became the better work of my life thus far as an artist. No artist can swing a brush, a pen, or take a stage and hit the ball out of the park every time. Art, like life, has an ebb and flow. But with critical dialogue at the heart of the creating process, lessons learned can be incredibly valuable.
A group of working artists in the city was formed of which I am very lucky and honored to be a member. It’s called, simply, “The Coffee Group”. It consists of painters, sculptors, ceramists, an art historian, and a collector or two. We meet for coffee every two weeks. We critique each other’s work, discuss art movements in the city, exhibitions we have seen, and the business and politics involved with art. Often, we invite a guest to speak. We are picky about membership in order to maintain balance. We laugh, argue, cry, and ponder. The support is invaluable. We have become a family and I feel it has created real growth in each of us.
No artist, collector, or person interested in art should be an island of one. We need others to get into our heads and rattle us from time to time! Form a base and a family of peers, with critical and constructive dialogue at its center, and watch your new world turn.