Do I Really Need to Show My Artwork to Others in a Class?

I thought I would write this post because on my courses I encourage learners to share their work.  On a beginners course this is typically done by the walk around the room at the end of a session, in more advanced classes there is a ‘class critique’ where everyone talks and shares their artwork from each completed project.

On a few occasions some learners have refused to do this, one learner commented that he didn’t see the point of looking at others work or showing his own work to other people in the class.  I had assumed that every teacher or tutor would encourage sharing of artwork by the class but according to this learner his old tutor didn’t do this. This made me think of the issue of sharing artwork in an art class, is it necessary and if so what are the benefits?

The Art Community 

When you join a class or a course you are no longer working in isolation, although you are often doing your own project or piece you are surrounded by others in the art studio.  Others in the class are going to see your work however hard you might try to hide it.  Naturally with or without a tutor to tell them to do so, other learners are highly likely to look over your shoulder and offer some feedback on your work. Every year I see a few beginner learners who are not used to this and will not return to the art class because it made them feel so uncomfortable. I think it is important to realise that the art class is a group community and it could be unrealistic to expect to keep your work from others.

The class is a community, you can learn a lot from your classmates.

If you are not ready for a class situation then I would suggest some one to one tuition or signing up for a class where the numbers are very small, maybe just six in a class.  You will often have to pay more for this but this could be better than joining a large class and dropping out.

Ground Rules

Most art teachers and tutors are sensitive to the fact that some of their learners will not want to share their work.  They may introduce a ‘casual’ sharing of work by the informal walk around the room however on some courses a formal ‘class critique’ might be the procedure.  If this does worry you it is worth asking questions about it before you enrol on the course.

Most good art tutors or teachers will set ground rules when it comes to giving feedback, like being respectful to one another, taking turns to give feedback and always offering at least one positive comment.  Another useful ground rule for giving feedback that I’ve recently introduced is if you have something more negative to say, give a ‘next step’ or a constructive solution to the issue such as ‘your colours are a bit muddy, you could try using less brown and more primary colours‘.

Why Share? 

So firstly in order to share comfortably you have to be ‘ready to share’ and the environment has to be set up for good sharing, but that leaves the question, is there any benefit in sharing your work?

A few learners would say no but I would say the disadvantages of showing your work are much less than the advantages of sharing.  It can be very valuable to have other eyes on your work, you will be surprised how others will see things not obvious to you.  When we work on our own artwork our eyes sometimes fail to see the obvious.  Have you ever been working on a piece of art and know something just isn’t right but can’t put your finger one it?  This is when peers can really help, several eyes are better than one.

You can learn a lot from sharing your work

Lots of ideas can be exchanged and learning can take place in group settings, many professional artists choose to work in collectives for this reason.  It has been proved that it is harder to be creative in isolation.  Others in the group can also share knowledge about materials, how to use them and the technical side of art.

The only real downside of sharing is perhaps feeling uncomfortable around those with more talent but this is often only a perception.  I find that those learners who are willing to feel slightly uncomfortable at first by being around more experienced learners learn the fastest.  You may not agree with others opinions or even that of the tutor, this is fine you can listen and only take away what is useful to you.

So in conclusion I think as a tutor that sharing your work is very beneficial and worth it.  How do you feel about sharing your work?  Does it make you feel uncomfortable?  Share your thoughts below…

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