Enjoy the past comments below for Individual mentoring…
I feel very privileged to have been one of the lucky 24 “mentees.” Your guidance was very inspiring and I am so excited to apply your suggestions and get back to “my room and paint!” thanks so much Lianne Gulka Lianne
I was also one of the 24…..Bob, you made my day, week, month, etc. I was very honored and humbled to mentored by one of the greats of this era. Kris Preslan
i only wish i had a good teacher and or mentor. I have been teaching myself watercolor for 3 years-hundreds of failed paintings but the occasional success keeps me going. I have not found any really good watercolor teachers in Calgary. Lots of oil-sometime I think i love the wrong medium.
Wow, all very lucky folks!! I’ve always wished for a mentor, but never found the right person. I guess, being on the shy side, I find it hard to ask. When I went to college and minored in art, the atmosphere was one of “do your own thing”. Formal instruction was frowned upon, and thought to be inhibiting the creative soul. Well, I wish I’d had a little formal training, if for nothing else than to answer questions on technique. I’m now in my 50s, and struggling with color theory. What a pain!! And, the local colleges are all hit with cutbacks, so getting in a class is iffy, at best. Ah well!
I welcome some comments to my work and some suggestions on how to improve them. My pet peeve are comments or suggestions that push a certain style as the only one that is right and unsolicited comments defining my style as this or that, “Oh,you are into primitive art but it doesn’t look like art”.
Did you know you just trained people to be critics? ;) Thank you so much for sharing. I am smiling now but really if I had to “see the doctor” it might not be that funny!
At last! an example of mentoring in the art scene. I am new(ish) to watercolour painting, having started painting as a hobby only two years ago. I have read some ‘how to’ books, watched videos by professional artists and attended classes and workshops. When I ask for an objective critique of my work, I have more often than not, been given advice on how to transform my painting and style to that of the professional. I work in a profession that encourages mentoring [or coaching]and find it difficult to understand why I have been unable to locate such a system for my watercolour journey. I have found only one person who responded somewhat positively when I asked him the question of mentoring. He has been an art teacher as a profession before becoming a professional artist so I believe he understands what I was asking. I believe a mentor would help me find answers to such questions as: ‘how can I improve this …’ or ‘I can see what is wrong here and this is my solution, what do you think?’ I trust that those you mentored have benefited from the experience and they will continue to seek an on-going mentoring relationship. Regards Malcolm Lowe http://watercolourwanderings.blogspot.com/
Guidance by example is the key. If the mentor is himself successful and respected as well by his peers, he may just have a few keys to unlocking best in you. Most mentees want validation, and knowing that someone “higher up” is pitching for you is very valuable. At some point the mentor can be shucked, and the butterfly emerges.
The best mentors, as Robert has pointed out in other places, are books. Back in the age of mentoring and apprenticeship, great explanatory art books were not available. The advantage of the book is that they can be ingested at the speed of the reader, sorted by priorities, and acted on only when ready and appropriate.
Yes, there is in the nature of humanity that they must get together to solve problems. Perhaps art is one of those areas where the “second opinion” is to be distrusted, or at least taken with a grain of salt. If individualism is king, then people must perfect the art of seeking their own counsel.
Thank you Robert, this helps me to become a better mentor.
Those students who take over mentoring sessions with talk, lecturing and their own plans, not listening to advice, are mentor wannabees themselves. There is a weakness (or a beauty) in human nature that those who teach are precisely those who do not want to learn. They are already self-satisfied.
Over this past weekend, September 19th, I coordinated the annual fine automotive art exhibit at the GLENMOOR GATHERING in Canton, Ohio… a concours now in its 17th year, and one of the stronger ones in the east. As coordinator, I am ‘juryfree’. One of my close associates had his metal sculpture at the event and he is capable of really creative works. He asked my opinion of a new work which he felt was possibly THE show winner; my answer quickly, was that it was an abortion. That put him on his heels, but I explained that, when I tell him that he has a ‘knockout’ piece, I mean it – NO smoke, just the frank truthfulness… and that’s what I delivered. He’s still not sure of my comment. No, he did not take any of the three awards for the ten invited artists….
One must be careful when you say rude things, Don, because even the big tough famous boys and girls have feelings. We all make failures. In one jury free environment I was told “Your work is terrific, but this is maybe not one of your very best.” That was bad enough for me at the time.
As artists I think when you put your work out there you need to put your big boy pants on and have that thick skin and accept that some people will be harsh and critical of you and you just have to take from it what is important and let the rest slide off your back.,
It is indeed possible to be honest without being tactless. Tony Robbins I think it was, who said “The quality of your communication is the quality of the response you get.” Surely there are more amiable ways to establish credibility than with a remark that is not only emotionally aggressive but culturally loaded. Give me empathy, anytime. I am a very honest person, but I’m also a believer in consideration and care of another’s feelings. YMMV. Buddha said, “Before you speak, ask yourself three questions: Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” Kindness need not equal deception.
Just found you by way of my friend and fellow artist, Nancy Dusenberry. What a delight. I want to sit with a cup of coffee, nothing else to do but read every word and follow every link! Anita Beaty, Atlanta, Georgia
there is one certain thing in life: When all electric devices (computers, cells, etc) fail or go dormant, you have paper & media material (pencil, ink, paints, et al) & your brain the most important with hand (or foot toes) to draw what goes through your brain & makes you think.
I am sitting here staggered by Don Getz’s reply to his friend. As an art instructor (and perpetual student) I feel it is my duty to present the truth, yes, but in a form that it can be accepted and understood. When confronted with a piece that doesn’t make sense to me I have learned to ask questions for deeper understanding. Confess that I don’t “get it” and ask for the artist’s intent. This way I can learn something and perhaps offer the advice that will help my friend or student arrive at his/her destination.
The feedback I dread getting from my husband is this simple phrase: “Not your best work.”
This gave me a good laugh! The only way anybody grows emotionally it to have their emotions disrupted. If a mentor is just nice- so what. Politeness is over rated. Thick skin? If you’re going to a mentor you better be prepared to hear the TRUTH- not just what you WANT to hear. Yes- it may not be YOUR truth- but why- then- did you ask in the first place? Life is not fair. Nobody will ever like everything you’ve created. Some of your ‘not your best work’ may outlive us all. Having your emotional body disrupted by a mentor’s opinion is an opportunity to continue to grow up. So if you can’t handle all kinds of opinions about your work and your self- then don’t bother asking us mentors in the first place! Entering juried shows is a great way to get a handle on how you are doing- but even then- it’s just a juror’s opinion. And some days that isn’t worth all that much. I mentor people from time to time- but I mentor not how they are ‘painting’ (or whatever) but how they are creating- and living. Live it UP. Let yourself always be growing UP.
Fortunately the “NYBW’s” are outnumbered by the “Awesomes!” Either way, it’s still just one person’s opinion. The truth about feedback is…you have always to consider the source. There is no pure and totally unprejudiced judgment “out there.” So you take what you get with a grain of salt. And keep moving.
@Janet B. very true, someone might tell you that your work is utterly contrived and quite possibly the biggest waste of time they have ever suffered through. You could go home and cry about it and give up OR you could take that very harsh criticism, review your work and think about it objectively. I would rather someone be that blunt about it then to tell me soft things that take my feelings into account, I’m pretty leathery so I don’t need that, I need truth! But as you said, everything with a grain of salt!
I got a real kick out of this letter because I do this every day with my middle school students .. funny how these traits are seen in young pre-teens, too, and the advise is often the same!! Im going to share this with my classes . It should spark some interesting conversation for a Friday!! Thanks.
As I’ve said many time before and once or twice on this site – “beware of experts”. We all need guidance or at the very least encouragement from time to time especially when sales are slim. But too many artists seek approval or acceptance from many of the wrong sources. We listen to fellow artists, family, friends, gallery owners and the public at large. All these sources have alter agenda’s. Or know little about what you know in your heart on what you do and what you create. Now I’m not saying shut out all valid critique when offered. But be wary of unrequested criticism. It’s only someone’s opinion, not a fact or even based on personal experience or expertise. Look to the masters first, then look into your heart and be honest. If you feel it’s good, that’s all the criticism you need. Trust those you feel know something about you and art in general. Then make your own choices. In the end you will be happier than listening to someone “being honest and telling you what they think”.
Being a teacher I hear many say one has to be honest and truthful when you critique a students work or else you are cheating them. There are several issues at work here that I’d like to clarify since criticism has become synonymous with tearing down and seeing only what’s wrong. The dictionary defines critique as ” ..review or analyze critically..” Nowhere does it say tear down or review only what is wrong. “Review and analyze” If you teach, your primary job is to give students the tools to paint on their own ultimately. To be able to review and analyze, or in fact to “critique” themselves. For me, finding what works and what can be improved is critique. Showing a way to accomplish one’s objective or get the results one’s looking for is critique. Showing new artists what it is to look for when trying to paint. My job isn’t to tell them what’s wrong but why something works or doesn’t work. In all forms of art there are fundamental “rules”. These rules are not hard and fast but it’s better to relate them than have the student reinvent the wheel. Of course, as we learn and gain confidence we bend or even break these rules as it should be. But the rules are a starting point. Critiquing a work is showing the student where it can be stronger or how the point being made can be better executed. Critiquing is not imposing your ideas but cultivating the ideas for the work at hand. The new student is unaware of what to look for to accomplish this task. The work for the teacher is to listen and guide and show a method or methods for the student to make their own choices in achieving their own results. When I teach I’m not giving opinions on painting, I’m giving good solid, time tested principles. When many critique today they only give opinions. In my world opinions are like thumbs, everyone has one.
oil painting by Bernard Poulin, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Great piece, Nina!