I’ve just come off of two days filled with group critiques, so I thought I would share some common themes that popped up during the discussions.

Value of Curation

When presenting your work it’s critical to think through the themes present and to consider how you want the viewer to experience your art. So often critiques became hinged on the placement of paintings because care was not taken to create a dialog within the work. Art changes with the context of the surroundings, so it is essential to know why you hang two pieces next to each other and on which wall. As artists, we may not be fully aware of what our work is really about, so it’s important to experiment and rearrange your work until the display flows for the viewer. This is also essential when submitting a digital application. You always arrange your files to be viewed exactly as you intend.


Take responsibility for your paintings. When someone asks you why you chose to create an image the way you did, saying “I don’t know” doesn’t cut it. It’s ok to not know the full psychological depth of those decisions, but there was a reason you did it. The answer can be as simple as “I wanted to see what happened if I painted the face green rather than skin toned,” or “I like boats and was attracted to this particular sail.” It’s important to be aware of your motivations, and exploration is what art is about. We must challenge ourselves to look at our work critically and push beyond the absent minded painter. You don’t need to over intellectualize your work, but you do need intentionality. Be hard on yourself. Not everything you make has to be special.

Leave something for the viewer

Great art holds back. You want the viewer to be able to bring his own energy to the work and complete it in his mind. If all the thoughts are there and spelled out then there will be nothing left for the viewer to discover. It’s more interesting, as a viewer, when you can’t fully understand how a work was made. It’s through that desire and curiosity to know that discovery happens. I felt this way when I went and saw Inventing Abstraction at MoMA. I had never seen the Russian Constructavists’ work in person, and when I was confronted with Malevich’s paintings, I was blown away. They didn’t look at all how I imagined they would from the photographs I had seen. There were so many nuances to discover that I stood in front of those works for minutes on end completely lost in the paint. It was the unpolished, unfinished quality that drew me in and kept me engaged. It’s important to remember that it takes time and many ‘overworked’ paintings to find that balance to create something that can sustain a viewer over time.