Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why? Wednesday

In the comments of Monday's post, Mary asked, "Why do we bother to ask opinions of some of our loved ones. What do they know anyway?" It's a good question!

In my case, quite a lot. My Mother has been a professional Artist for over 30 years; exhibiting professionally and teaching. She knows her way around color, composition, design and sewing.

My son not only benefited by being raised in a household where Art was being created every day, but he attended Art shows at least twice a month from the time he was 10 days old to the time he went to college, where his attendance probably dropped down to once a month.

When we spend time together we always visit an Art Museum or Gallery. He's got a terrific "eye." He can sense proportion, color balance, the "feel" of something and whether it "works" or not. He's learned to draw, loves to sculpt but over the years what he really learned was to look.

We are also aware of the difference in liking something versus knowing it's any good or not, or the difference between a subjective opinion and an objective one. When I ask my son to look at my work, I'm not interested in whether he likes it or not, I'm interested in whether he sees any areas that look weird, or don't flow, or don't make sense.

Of Julie's quilt, he said, "[this element] bothers me because it isn't quite centered." It was a perfectly valid comment, and he was absolutely correct. Everything else in the quilt was organized in a particular way, and the element he was referring to was "off." That's exactly the type of comment I want to hear. He might say, "I think this area is too dark, you should find a lighter color," or "this color pops out too much, and is too distracting from the rest..." etc. Excellent, helpful comments.
It was my son, remember, who told me to fix the hand I sewed up for my Alphabet sampler quilt, Letters from Home, because my original one looked like it had been chopped off.
I don't want him to tell me he thinks it's great when it's not, and if it doesn't "sing" for him, that's fine too.

You won't get far if all you ask is "Do you like it?" You need to ask, "Why?" Most people look at something and say, "I like it," or "I don't like it," or some variation, without ever explaining just what it is about it that "sings" or "reasonates" for them. Ask why. Get specifics. "I don't like this blue," isn't good enough. "Why don't you like that blue?" For a viewer unaccustomed to really looking, this can be difficult, but it will be very helpful to you.

My son, for example, would answer that question this way, "It's too warm, too yellow, and all the other blues around it are cool. It doesn't fit." Even if your viewer cannot articulate why the blue doesn't fit, simply telling you "it doesn't look like it belongs there," is a useful observation.

I have more thoughts on this subject and will add them in tomorrow's post. In the meantime, your own observations and comments are most welcome.


Quilts and Cats said...

I love your outlook on this subject. Most people have a hard time putting into words their reasons for liking something, but with a little thought it can be done! I also think some would take offense at what would be constructive criticism. I like it when people expand on their comments and tell me true!

Joyce said...

My husband is an artist and was an art teacher for over 30 years. His critiques are very valuable to me for the same reason as your son's are to you. They look from the perspective of an artist. Technically, I know where the problems are. It's the artistic element that I like getting comments on.

Mary said...

You are indeed blessed to have people around you that know what they are talking about. Hope you were not offended. I meant it only in jest.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Thoughtful, articulate post!

My mother and aunt insisted there was no such word as "nice" - that we (my cousins, sister, and I) needed to dig more deeply into our vocabulary to find a more meaningful word. To this day, I rarely use "nice" (although, sometimes it is tempting when I don't want to engage in an extended conversation).

Millie said...

Not at all, Mary! It's a good question!

Victoria Findlay Wolfe said...

I love this. My hubby teaches a course once in a while about "trusting your eye" particularly for people who are afraid of MODERN art...
most get afraid of that question, what do I like or not like, based on thinking they have to KNOW something about what they are looking at, instead of actually looking at it.., and deciding and making their own decision about something...
trust your eyes. You will usually know.
Good for your son! He does indeed have an artist eye... and good of for you to notice... so do you!