Tuesday, August 30, 2011


a couple days ago, my mom was reading the blog. she made two observations. first, she thinks that i am *too hard on myself.* other people have made the same comment. it is really hard to find the balance between being too critical and too accepting. when you make things, when you are responsible for how they turn out, you are entitled to evaluate and decide if the result was exactly what you had in mind or if you would like it to be different.

notice how i did not say *better*...i said different. frequently, when the maker is evaluating, they see things they would change and it is easy to make critical remarks. viewers are quick to defend the art that i make when i am being critical. please note the difference between critique and critical.

if you are in culinary school and nobody ever tastes the food and tells you whether or not it could be better, how would you improve as a cook? that's all i am doing when i critique my own work. clearly, if any beginning culinary student came to my house and cooked every day, i would rave about how delicious the food was. the fact that i did not have to cook would cloud my judgment into thinking that every morsel of food was delicious.

mom thinks all of my work is lovely, because she is not a lettering artist. on the other hand, if i am working on something and ask her...does this look OK...there are times when her new set of eyes will make a quick reply, suggesting an improvement.

so here is a piece of lovely artwork that is perfect. it's not my art. it is jackie's. i do not see anything about it i would change. let's see if jackie feels the same way. comments?

this is what she said about the art...[this was made] during one of my color studies phases from last fall. w/n perm rose and perm green middle gouache, on rives lightweight paper. the background monoline was masked before painting it green, the white letters of the name were sketched in and painted around.

oh, i guess i *can* think of an improvement. it would look better if it said *jean wilson*


  1. ha-ha, jean, when i get around to doing one of these for you, there will probably be some design changes. before i launch into a critique, let me say that this was a thank-you piece i made for one of my co-workers at the library, a dear friend who cut cake at my daughter's wedding. i think the artwork works on many levels, not the least of which is how well it harmonizes with the hand-colored photograph of colleen from her childhood that was painted by her artist grandmother - this hangs below the photo. that said, taken alone, the name, obviously a focal point in a busy piece that needs a strong focal point, could have been placed either a third of the way up or a third of the way down instead of smack dab in the center. also, i am still struggling to find ways to mail this sort of artwork without the stamp drawing attention away from the primary center of interest. one thing i think we should all keep in mind about critiques though, is that it shouldn't be considered a personal attack on the artist or the subject matter. every piece we do is a springboard for the next, and the so-called mistakes of one piece are the seeds of inspiration for the next. particularly with mail art, it is easy for people to get unglued about critique because not only is this a beloved brainchild of the artist, but the focal point on the artwork is somebody's name - what could be more personal than that? at any rate, variations that are inspired by some sense that an improvement is needed do not invalidate the artwork that inspired the change. sometimes i look at the artwork of superfamous calligraphers and think to myself, "hmm. i would have done this part differently." and that thought inspires an entire series, and when i'm done, i still have great love and admiration for the sheila waters or thomas ingmire or peter thornton or jean wilson artwork that started it all. so there you have it, i have somehow managed to both critique and admire a handful of my favorite calligraphers, all of whom have indirectly had a hand in the creation of this piece. and believe me, i am fascinated by design decisions: good, bad, or indifferent. design choices are always subjective, but that does not mean that we shouldn't continue to explore the possibilities.

  2. nice envelope. I like it in the center, normally I place things in the lower or upper third section, but the center works for this piece. And the box/letters do pop. I would probably mask the box and add more shadow depth to it to make it pop even more.
    As to the stamp, you'll probably need something that blends in or maybe becomes an extension of the name line. (address above and below the name line)
    Whenever a new series of stamps comes out, I buy a bunch and have a huge collection of stamps from over the years, so I can pick and choose something that goes with almost anything I make.

  3. thank you for the comments. it has been over a week without comments and i was getting lonesome for conversation. i think your art stands on its own, jackie. you don't need stamps. my art needs stamps. and that was very kind of you to lump me in with sheila, thomas, and peter. for those of you who do know s-t-p...they are the rembrandt, michaelangelo and van gogh of calligraphy. i do not deserve to be on the list with them as artists. but, i'm ok with being considered an *inspiration.* when i met jackie, she just wrote a name and address in pencil, in three lines using nice, but unembellished italics. they were functional, but a little lacking in *taa-daa.* if you are going to bother to write a letter, it's a good idea to make the envelope a little special. although, i have carried that to a ridiculous extreme, in that frequently forget to write the letter.

  4. i appreciate the feedback - the idea to add depth to the box is a good one, definitely stealworthy. jean, you are a matisse among the others - beyond compare & you inspire my inner child.

  5. ok...now i have to decide who you are....i'm happy to be matisse, although, i have to say the only work of his that i really like is the cut paper. if i were to be a master, i'd want to be egon schiele or louise nevelson. egon probably does not qualify as a master, but louise does. gotta go channel my inner louise. and you, are duchamp. right? [i did not see this comment until after i read your email and the reference to duchamp] now, i will be asking all my artist friends *which old master are you, in your dreams*...actually, it would be fun to be calder. kathy, you are utamaro. or if you want to be european, you're durer

  6. we all get to be whatever old master inspires us - and different ones throughout our lives. ooh, this reminds me of a youtube link; there is a youtube for everything:


    ultimately, i think we become ourselves. it's not that you are matisse - especially if you'd rather not be - it's that joie of his i meant. okay, maybe i am a good bit duchamp, but only because he refuses to leave.

  7. very cool video
    i hope everyone is flipping back and reading the comments.
    maybe i should post it in a new post.