The Amp and Imp Critique Method
Hey Creative Friend,
Today, I want to share with you one of my strategies for creative success – feedback. In this post I hope you’ll learn more about feedback/critique and the role it’s played in my creative journey and what it can do in yours too. I’ll also show you some of my early works and how they were not so great and how all of that changed for me.
So, let’s get to it.
I’m a life-long learner with an insatiable desire to learn and curiosity to discover new things. I never feel like I’ve arrived. I always feel like there’s more to discover.
However, when you’re a creative or a maker, and you’ve spent a lot of time, energy, skills and emotion to create something, it can be hard to put it out there in the world for feedback.
When you share your work and people talk about it, especially in not so flattering terms, it can feel like a personal attack on you. I know that.
However, here’s the thing I want you to know. It’s so worth it not to take it personal and just listen to the feedback objectively. It will help you grow by leaps and bounds if you can develop this habit.
Let me tell you a story. When I decided I wanted to be a fiber artist, with that decision came the decision to also join a professional art group – SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates).
At the monthly meetings, people will do ‘Show and Tell’ – show their art and talk about them. Initially, I didn’t participate. I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t want my hard work to be “judged”.
However, immediately I dared to participate, I began to hear comments about my work which were surprisingly consistent. So, I decided to pay attention. (note: this is a choice you have). Not only did I pay attention, I decided to employ a strategy I coined “Amp and Imp” to help me take advantage of the feedback I was getting.
You can either choose to pay attention to feedback or reject it.
The thing is, I was so hungry to do better, to learn more and to satisfy my curiosity, that I just couldn’t take the feedback of the other artists personal. That’s what I want you to do. Seek feedback and use it to your advantage. We’ll talk about how to use feedback to your advantage in a little bit.
Before we go there, let’s talk about seeking feedback. What does it mean to seek feedback? To seek feedback you’ve got to be willing to show your work. If you haven’t read Austin Kleon’s book “Show your work”, then go grab yourself a copy. In the meantime, check out this blog post I wrote about the benefits of showing your work.
Negative Feedback is Part of Creative Growth
Let’s just settle this before we go any further. Your work, my work, our creative work starts out not too great. It takes time for us to develop our skills to the point where we and others see growth in our work. This happens to everyone. For this reason, there’s absolutely no need for any of us to feel bad when our work doesn’t receive great reviews.
Instead, you’ve got to do the crappy work and get it out of the way in order to bring the great work that’s hiding in you out to the world. It’s a process. We’ve all got to go through it. Before you get from not too-great work to great work you’ve got to subject it to critiquing. There’s simply no way around it if you want to do great work.
I get negative feedback all the time. My work gets rejected when I enter it into exhibitions. That only makes me work harder. That’s how I want you to see feedback – as a tool for doing better. Not as something to crush you, your efforts, or your emotions.
As I was sharing with you, I got a lot of feedback from my SAQA members any time I showed my work. So, I decided to start paying attention to especially the comments which were consistent. For me, I consistently received praise on the quality of my stitch work. However, I didn’t get comments ( watch out for omissions just as much as you do for praise) on the quality of my composition.
In order to benefit from the feedback, I created this “Amp and Imp” strategy I told you about. All that it does is this. You amplify (Amp) your strengths and Improve (Imp) on your weaknesses.
So, that’s what I did. I amplified my strengths, which meant I emphasized stitching a lot more in my work. I also embarked on a stitching challenge (Stitch the Sketch) to help me do even better. Then, to improve my composition, I read books, took classes and practiced/created a lot of art.
That’s how I developed the style that I have now and it’s one of the things that has helped me grow my technical skills. I listened to feedback and I amp’ed my strengths and imp’ed by weaknesses.
As you can see from the images of my early works that I’ve shown you in this article, when I started, my composition was terrible. (Mind you, at the time, I was happy with every piece I created. I just knew I could do better.)
In summary, here’s the Amp and Imp strategy that makes sure you use feedback as a tool for creative growth not something to crush your creative spirit.
- Show your work
- Take feedback objectively, not personally
- Look for consistency in feedback
- Amplify your strengths
- Improve your weaknesses.
So, there you have it – the Amp and Imp Critique Method for creative growth.
Question: Take stock. What do you need to amp and what do you need to imp in your technical skills right now? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jo-Anne Vandermey says
Great blog post Clara. I love your amp and imp…. I might even remember it. It is good to listen to comments and I think that your approach to seeing it under the umbrella of consistency is the key concept. Not everyone is going to like your work. Some people always answer ooh I love it. But having a good peer group who will not be afraid to give honest (abet kindly) is key.
Clara Nartey says
Absolutely. In order to weed out fake critiques and platitudes, look for consistent threads about specific strengths and weaknesses not general statements.
Thanks for this most valuable lesson. I belong to a “crit” (critique) group which consists of other artist in various media. My perspective and work has grown as a result of being open to the comments, and suggestions offered.
Clara Nartey says
Good for you, Asake. Use the feedback as a tool for growth
Hi Clara, I enjoyed reading your blog to be honest. I suffered a lot from procrastination, in regards to showing my work to my peers. Even though our fields differ, me being a designer and a full time fashion student. I really feared being critiqued on my weaknesses. I will surely use the AMP&IMP stategy. Thank you, thank you. Your a star.
Clara Nartey says
I’m glad this blog post has helped you. Get your work out there. Don’t be scared of feedback.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to use it to grow creatively.