Critique Group Tips

Posted March 30 2015

When we filmed Polly Hammett in 2004, I was already a member of a critique group. In fact, the group is the very-silent-in-studio audience Polly addresses while painting. It was fortunate to have everyone there. We were able to work Polly’s suggestions into the formal structure of our group almost immediately. We all benefited.

If you don’t already belong to a critique group, I recommend joining or forming one. Here are a few things I believe make a group a healthy, valuable experience.

  • Keep membership between 7 and 9 artists. You need to know your members well and understand their goals. More than that and your meetings can take forever. Fewer and you have too much depending on too few people.
  • Members should be similarly serious about their art
  • Have regular meetings, once a month if possible.
  • Limit the number of paintings to 3 from each member. This permits discussion and not just a show and tell.
  • Have a mix of styles and media among your members. You will have a larger variety to insights and points of view.
  • No single member should dominant the group. Everyone needs to contribute as well as have paintings for critique, if possible.
  • If a member has nothing for critique, they should be encouraged to attend anyway. Their input is important to others.
  • It helps if you enjoy one another.
  • Everyone needs to take responsibility for the group’s success.
Twice, over the course of several years, we have each formally stated our artistic goals to the group. That helps us help each other achieve our goals - a gift indeed.
One of the principle benefits of a critique group is that participants learn to put their thoughts and feelings about a painting into words and then struggle with the possible solutions. This in turn helps identify the dynamics taking place in our own paintings and makes us become better artists.
There is so much more on this topic, but this is a good start.


Lynn Powers