Friday, May 31, 2019

The Art Of Giving Critiques

My last how to post was all about how to receive critiques.
The next half is all about giving critiques. 
But what does that mean? How do you give a good critique? Well let's critique an old piece of tack I made.
It is a customized Breyer saddle and one of my first saddles.
Years ago this was my peak. This was the ultimate thing I'd made. The knee rolls were perfect. The tree? No one could touch that! And the genius in reusing the girth from Breyer? Spot on. 
So how does one critique this--when there's a lot to fix? 
Well let me show you the way you don't do it. If you're scrolling online and see a saddle like the one above, don't post these sort of comments:
Everything is wrong. First off, rude. There's at least one thing going on correct here. Secondly, how does that comment help the maker get better? 
This is terrible, why do you even bother?  Don't be this person. You never know who you are warding off with such a comment. Everyone develops at a different pace. At the bare minimum, remember that just because you may have gained all of the knowledge of what does and doesn't work,  doesn't mean that everyone is in that same place. Also, spoiler alert, there's always more to learn. It's low hanging fruit to be decent.   
So how do you offer a critique? When giving advice always balance the positive and negatives. 
don't care if what you're shown is the worst thing you've ever seen, because you can always find a way to critique a piece in at least a neutral manner. Someone is putting themselves out on display to get better. This doesn't mean lie to the person, but one can offer a critique that is helpful but doesn't drive away a person from trying ever again. Be blunt. Be precise. Don't be a jerk.
Being open to critiques does mean developing the ability to distance oneself from a personal piece and building a thick skin.
Anyways, the saddle above has a ton to be fixed. 
Here are some basic examples of critiques that could be given:
It's nice that you're starting out with tack making! Here are a few improvements.  Be aware of scale. D-rings are smaller. Also, look at pictures of real saddles. The tree should be more symmetrical.

What materials are you using? Reusing pieces of the original tack is a good idea, but you may find that different materials could help.

What are your references? A good reference can help with creating a saddle. While you are mimicking the usage of difference leather material for the knee roll and flaps, the transition and shape could be a bit more clean. 

You should be mindful of the shape of the saddle. It isn't symmetrical. There shouldn't be a piece of leather wrapped around the back like that. Be aware of tidiness. The knee rolls could be a bit cleaner and the d rings should be in scale. 

What if you give a well meaning critique and the maker doesn't respond well? Well there's a few things to do. Before deciding on your course of action, remember their name. If a person doesn't respond well, remember their name for future reference.
First option is to not respond again. Make the decision if you're going to spend your time helping them. If a person asks for help, and then snubs it, there's no point in wasting your time.

Second option, Call them out. This is awkward and messy. Especially if a person is already acting immature. But if you believe there's a chance that they could learn from their immaturity, try explaining the consequences to acting out.

Hopefully that helped some. Critiques are a staple in this hobby, and there are good and bad ways to do it.
Does anyone have tips or suggestions they'd like to add?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

BEA aka Book Expo America

Yesterday I went to BEA, or Book Expo America. In the context of this blog, it could also be described as Book Breyerfest. So imagine Breyerfest--but with books. 
Book Expo America is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States and in the past few years taken place in New York City. 
I went with my boss, Michelle. This was our first time attending it. We opted to take the train in because neither of us wanted to drive in the city. Nor did we want to fly. NYC is only 3 hours away from Harrisburg so the train made sense. My sister marveled at why I was taking a suitcase if I was going to be in NYC for only a day. But how else could I carry books home? And trains allow you to have numerous bags--checked and carry on.  

We arrived in NYC around 9:30 and walked to the Javis center. 

The sky looked pretty ominous the whole day, but there was nothing ominous about the inside of the building. 
Once you stepped inside, you entered book wonderland. 
BEA is the precursor to BookCon. BEA is for industry professionals--like editors, agents, booksellers, and book media professionals. BookCon is for everyone previously mentioned and readers outside of the industry. We grabbed our badges, which had VIP since we're ABA members (American Bookseller Association). This gave us access to a special lounge with comfy seats and cool stuff like that. 

There were posters promoting upcoming releases. This book sounds p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l. 
Rick Riordan presents is such a cool imprint. 

Yes to this one. 
There were banners everywhere. 

We arrived at the center early so we could check our luggage and meander around for a bit. We met up with a local friend and watched some of a panel about cross platform books. 
After that we waited with others for the opening of the trade show. 
Once the doors opened, everyone scattered. The publishers-like Penguin, Macmillan, and RandomHouse-had booths. Graphic novelist and Scholastic also had spots. 
Everything was decorated and organized so nicely. 
There was a wall devoted to books that shaped your life. 
Close up. 

Publisher booths were decorated with covers of upcoming or bestselling titles. 

Another pretty wall. 

 Some publishers handed out sheets that told attendees the times and titles of books they'd be handing out. The bulk of the books handed out were advanced reader copies, or copies of books that are meant for promotion and aren't to be sold.
At the end of the day my suitcase was full. I made it to the train station just before it began to pour.
It'd been a spectacular day filled with networking and listening to editors buzz about their choice books in the upcoming year. I'd totally do this again.
This is my final loot! I have a lot of great books to jump into reading.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Art of Receiving Critiques

I was thinking about this the other day. What works for critiques? I'm lucky to have been submitting pieces I've written and artwork I've made since I was relatively young. Or have taken art classes where critiques were an important part.  Plus, I like to improve. But if one hasn't been involved in spaces where critiques are done or haven't been shown how to do them well--it can be a problem when faced with it.
I tried to find a picture of younger me with a piece of art---so here I am getting judged at equitation instead.
Being able to give and receive critiques are separate skill sets for artists to have. Or just for people in general. The most important one to have is the ability to receive critiques. Who wants to hear they're wrong? No one! But it takes skill and maturity to understand the benefits of putting yourself on stage. If you want to be a better finish work artist, sculptor, prop maker, tack maker, or performance shower, you have to be able to receive critiques. If not you will stagnate. And in a hobby where the bar of excellence continues to rise, not improving is the best way to insure frustration.

Art is subjective. Everyone sees a different object or finds a different meaning to a piece.

picture source
With art being subjective, this means that every voice is not to be heeded.
Everyone has a right to state their opinion, but that doesn't mean that every opinion is valuable. 
One more time. Everyone has a right to state their opinion, but that doesn't mean that every opinion is valuable. With model horses, look to the experts, the people with more knowledge than you. Experts can be the creators or people who have studied. If you want to sculpt anatomically correct horses? Look at the sculptors that do it well. If you want to make tack? Look at the tack makers that create what you aspire to make. For performance showing, look to the people who consistently do well. Groups filled with knowledgeable people exist. Plenty of Facebook groups are devoted to different parts of the hobby so there's something for everyone. And many groups are filled with knowledgeable people. Critiques only help you if it lines up with your end goal. These are the opinions you should listen to.

I'm going to be blunt. There is a hierarchy of knowledge and everyone's opinion does not fall on the same spot of the pyramid. Some people do have more knowledge. Some people do have more experience. Some people gather skills and understanding faster than others and excel at the task ahead. Therefore what they say should carry more weight than someone who knows less. Time involved doesn't equal knowledge gathered either. This doesn’t mean the less knowledgeable person has some character flaw or something that is set permanently against them. It means as it sounds—knowledge is not an innate skill and it is something for you to work on. And the experienced and the most knowledgeable have worked hard to obtain it.

But how do you respond to critiques given to you? First, separate yourself from the piece you want opinions on. If that means you have to let it sit for a few days or weeks to allow yourself to separate yourself--do it. There's no shame in that.
So you've built a thick skin and have decided to post a picture of something you're working on. People have taken time to respond.
Let's use an old custom I started years ago (and won't ever finish :p ). 
Imaginary hobby people have responded and given critiques such as:
Nice start! One thing to fix would be the neck length. *insert intelligent horse anatomy muscle talk*

One part that needs fixing is the crack where the head meets the neck. *insert talk of apoxie, super glue, and baking soda*

I think the neck needs turned upside down and be an inch longer. Also don't forget that horses have two heads. 

In the beginning of the post I mentioned one should look to the experts. This was supposed to be a realistic custom. The first two comments are things to be considered. The last one you can scroll past. 
How do you respond? Say thank you, and ask more questions if something isn't clear to you. 

Things to remember when receiving a critique: 

Critiques are not a knock on your character. So don't take them personally. If someone says there's something to fix--they aren't saying you're a terrible human. So don't equate the two. 

Be grateful, even if it isn't what you wanted to hear. The piece you've posted may have taken weeks or years to set up or make. Maybe this is the best you've ever done and you can't imagine getting better. The people who critique only see the product, not the process. Be humble when you receive advice and use it as you see fit. But if 24 out of 25 people say to fix a section and you puff out your chest and say Why would I ever listen to such stupid advice? Clearly I'm the most expert of experts, maybe hold off clicking post the next time. Don't waste people's time if you weren't going to listen in the first place. 
Don't be a jerk. Don't go on the defensive. Listen. People took their time to respond to you. Don't delete the thread so people with similar questions can not read it in the future. It'll make people less likely to give detailed responses next time.

Remember in the end that the creation you've finished is still yours. You can take and use critiques as you see fit. But knowledge is power, and when knowledgeable people take time to give you pointers, sometimes it's better to listen.

Does anyone have any tips for people seeking critiques? Feel free to post them below!
Next up will be the how to give critiques post.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Saddle Holder

I finished another saddle over the weekend. It's dark chocolate in color and has dark pink piping and stirrups.

I love the contrast with the dark pink. And the leather is extremely soft. Not stretchy soft but well conditioned leather soft. 

Also--isn't Newsworthy the best saddle holder?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Dash Of This, A Dab Of That

Before the start of National Model Painting Month, I wanted to do a practice run. During Breyerfest I was able to acquire an Annabelle Resin by Kylee Parks. I decided to paint this medallion before NaMoPaiMo.
In the month before the start of NaMoPaiMo a local art store decided to put their pan pastels on clearance. Which meant one thing. STOCK UP.
 My chosen color was bay, so I started with the pan pastels.
 After a few layers, I decided this wouldn't work. So I started over and did a layer of acrylic paint. Next came shading and highlights with the pan pastels.
 More layers. She's looking better!
 After I felt like the shadows and highlights were down, I broke out my oil paints. Jennifer Buxton has a really helpful how-to for oils, and it greatly helped me with the supplies and such.
 Almost there.
 Done! I'm really happy with how she came out. She was the perfect practice piece.