The Critique That Broke the Camel's Back

“It’s simply not what the object is. You’re not drawing the actual subject.” Miss Griffen says, looking over my shoulder to see my replica on paper of what was sitting in the middle of the room. There was a pile of two by fours interlacing one another. We were supposed to draw these pieces of wood ‘as they were’; in the exact perspective that was given. Each person had to draw the same exact thing, but in a different point of view. We all sat in a circle with our big art desks and materials, trying to muster up something that looked like a pile of nothing.

“Your shading is off. The light is coming from behind the pile, not in front of it. Change the lighting.” She badgers me once again, as she took her enormous eraser, and made my shading disappear herself; as though I was just some little kid trying to finger paint.
“Deb, you’re an artist, why can’t you get this down right? This isn’t correct and I don’t want to give you a low grade.”
“Is art supposed to be ‘right’?
I’m not into ‘draw what you see’ type of art. My type of art is very different from this. Art to me is supposed to be original.” I said, all frustrated with her comment. I give people credit that can sit down, and draw something exactly how it is.
“Do you want to pass my class or not? I’m trying to help you here.” Miss Griffen said, in a stern type of voice, almost as if she was giving me some sort of serious lecture—wearing nearly next to nothing. How was I supposed to concentrate when I was head over heals with my own teacher?

Needless to say, I purposely failed that class, to repeat it several times. Miss Griffen was known to get in trouble by our principle for wearing skirts that were the size of headbands. Was he gay? I didn’t get it. Why was he attacking this blonde bombshell? Well, now, being in my thirties, I know why. When I was only sixteen, I couldn’t fathom it. She was a work of art; a masterpiece. Her long blonde curly hair, which fell right near her waist, mesmerized me all throughout class. When she spoke to me, her huge, doe-like eyes would penetrate my every being. Her make up was a bit much, but in my eyes, I didn’t care if she needed a shovel to remove her foundation, I was in love. All the boys walked out of there crouching low, so no one would see their excitement.

She was on to me. She saw my artwork before by my former art teachers. I’m guessing she realized my motives. What were they anyway? For the love of God, I was only sixteen years old, and she was twenty-six! I always looked older than my age, so I thought it would work to my advantage.

“Okay, that’s it for today, remember, you have a test for tomorrow on the history of famous artists—be prepared folks! And Debbie, please stay after class, I need to speak with you.”
My heart raced and I was more than thrilled to stay after class. It was eighth period, the last class of the day. Was she going to ask me out for a bite to eat? Did she want to hang out with me? Is she going to confess her undying love for me?

Miss Griffen walked over to me with her high heel boots, her torn up tight jeans, and a blouse that left little to the imagination. Her eyes were fixed on me. As she approached me, she started to grin, as if she knew something.

“What’s going on Deb? I have seen you do some awesome work, and now you are hanging by a thread in my class. I don’t understand this.”
“I’m not good with art that is dictated.”
I said, being both serious and facetious.
“Deb, this is simple stuff, you can do this.” She said, now resting her foot on the step of my stool, leaving her knee to touch mine. I was getting more nervous, and unable to look her in the eyes.
“I’m sorry if I’m not good enough in your eyes. I guess it’s a matter of opinion.” I looked down, and wanted to leave desperately at this point.

The sad part is, I really did try to do my best at the art, but I couldn’t comprehend or pay attention to any of the history of our famous artists. Back then, it would just give me a bad case of A.D.D. It was boring to me. I had no interest in it at all. Now, at my age, I’m trying to grasp all I can learn.

I gave up painting and drawing. I recently went into photography. I sold some of my pieces which I had on my website. I also sold prints on eBay. People who received them from all over the states were very happy with their purchase. I never had a complaint from these strangers who requested my work. As an artist, I can take critiques; that’s just part of the game.

I was asked to do a competition for a show that was being held at the gallery nearby, where I work. I was more than happy to show a few pieces that I had. The director of the gallery is very meticulous about the details that go into displaying your work. I admired that quality in her, she respected art, and she respected the pieces that belonged to others. As an artist herself, there’s no better person to display them.

Being in a competition doesn’t mean that they have to like your work. Everyone has a different opinion on what is ‘good art’. I know there are basic rules and guidelines regarding photography, but in my eyes, if you like what you see, and it touches a chord with you—then it’s good art work. There are prizes that are given away to the ‘best artist’, and people are able to purchase what is on display.

I recently spoke to a photographer for the National Geographic magazine. He has seen my work and has critiqued it very freely. Being an amateur, I don’t expect every single person to fall in love with every piece of mine, but somehow, I got discouraged once again. It brought me back to when I stopped painting and drawing.

These were his words:

"I'll tell you the truth. You are an amateur at photography, and hence your work should look like an amateurs, and people do not buy that kind of work unless the person is of super talent. (I have NEVER seen any of those around) Galleries are even less interested in amateur work. I have seen your images on your site, and there is good and bad. The good is that you have good exposure of the images, and some good colors in them. The bad is that being new to the craft you do not have the experience to see and compose good photo subjects. You have a wheelbarrow shot that is interesting, and the two B&W ones have promise, but the rest of the images are mostly what most photographers would call, "snapshots" like anyone can take. A gallery owner will see that and will have no interest in them. Even images that are on the above average side, a gallery or even gift shops, do not want them for one main reason that I hear all the time; "People do not buy framed photos if they are of anything that they feel they can go out with a camera and shoot themselves." It is that simple. To sell framed prints they have to be so good that the viewer will say, 'I wish I could take pictures like that!'"

I appreciate honesty, especially coming from a professional, but sometimes I guess I can be a little fragile and get discouraged quite easily. Here are some of my photos that I sell, and have had success with.

I'm sure he's right. Anyone can take these photos. For me, it's a matter of sentimental work. All of these places I have been to. All of these places made me feel calm. The sunrise is what I wake up to everyday--my home overlooks this. The picture of the building with the brook going through it, is where Madelene and I sat on the bridge, talking over coffee. Each picture represents something special to me. One lady who received a framed photo who lived in Iowa said, "I love this picture of the train tracks! I used to live in Warwick, New York, and as a child I walked these tracks with my friends. It brings back memories for me." Another gentleman bought the picture of the sunrise, because he lives on the actual lake that is shown in the picture. He couldn't believe that there were mountains behind his lake. I have many other photos that are very sentimental to us--which is the reason why they are all hanging on the wall in our home.

So, to me, art is a matter of personal opinion; it's what touches your heart. When I go into an art gallery, I rarely buy anything--unless is tugs at my heart.

Why do you buy art?