Jessica Masters – Friday Night Guest – February 3, 2023
(Submitted by Sally Williams)
Writers need editors. Actors need directors. Guess what? Artists can benefit from a constructive critique! We were so fortunate to have Jessica Masters join us again, helping us to feel brave enough to put our work out there for feedback.
Jessica is a Canadian artist, specializing in oil and soft pastel, and teaches workshops. She began by reminding us that when it comes to receiving feedback, it helps to leave our ego at the door and it’s not personal! She likes to get a feel of where the artist is at in their practice and to remind us that making art is like handwriting—we’re all doing it in our own way. Our art practice is a journey, with a never-ending finish line and that’s perfectly OK. Just try to not lose your perspective and objective. She looks for authenticity and whether your message is aligning with what the viewer is getting. As a result, she aims to assist the artist in making their message clearer. She articulated the importance of critique vs criticize (there’s a significant difference). Critiques are to benefit and uplift, not to belittle or make the artist feel like a failure.
The questions and concerns put forth with the submissions reminded us we can be our own worst critic, and a critique can help us remember our strengths while acknowledging areas for improvement. Common concerns were “is it finished?” and how to improve the piece, overall. When it came to concerns about colour and contrast, Jessica used her annotate tool to help illustrate areas to revise and how to make the focal point stronger.
Jessica talked about chroma and when to prioritize foreground or background, and the value of neutrals and greys that allow the intense colours to glow.
In one submission, we were also shown the importance of being mindful when using very different photo reference material when it comes to lighting. She also complimented the artist’s confidence in knowing what to change (the artist switched the angle of the background which elevated the focal point).
At times, Jessica re-cropped works to make each piece stronger and expressed her preference for matching the proportion of reference material with the works in progress. She recommended studying artists who use grids to zero in on a focal point and whose work shows the impact of a limited colour palette (e.g. Winslow Homer). Composition formulas were used to examine submissions, with reference to an Artist’s Magazine article on this subject, which can be seen in some of the accompanying photos. Recommended reading ranged from Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting to Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection.
The Q&A included the possibility of forming critique groups within the club. We were coached a little on the importance of language, and how artists critiquing each other’s work will help us in ways feedback from non-artists won’t.
A huge thank you to our artists who submitted their work. Most were landscapes, and one was an incredibly personal abstract piece. And thank you so much, Jessica. The presentation made the hour fly by (more than an hour). There were many “Aha!” moments, helping all of us come away with solutions we can apply to our own work.
You can find Jessica’s work (and workshops) at https://jessicamasters.com