Looking at art within the rules of improv

       We can get away with almost anything.  We can do almost anything in the name of art. Any crazy thing that in an instant comes to mind, or think about something for 10 years and only after all that contemplation create something to express all that thought. It is your expression.

         We also must be recognized by others as makers. We want to create not just for our own need to do so, but also to inform others of who we are or what we're thinking and get some feedback letting us know that we've been understood, at least a bit. Humans need to know what they do matters. Yes, artists are humans.
           We need to take in criticism. We need to be aware of our peers, our adversaries, our champions.  We are social beings. We exist in a context and so does our art. Our own inner voices, too, should understand this is a process and we won't be satisfied with everything we do every time.
           Let everyone appreciate what they will. Hear others and respond to others be informed and do not stop creating.  Do share your back story. Do explain your process to everyone that will listen. Do something honest and real and true and put it out there. It will speak to the honest, real and true part of the observer as it does to you. That is the objective after all. If your work doesn't seem true to you, do more art! The process over time may create the truth for you.
          Art critics bring their considerable experience and education. They make us look at our work again and change us. They would never expect you to stop making art. Art is a journey and is about change. An insightful critique can lead us there.  We have new experiences that change our worldview, our self view, our views of others. Change is always part of the story, the interesting part. Change moves the story along.
          Other artists usually are too busy making art of their own to be actively critiquing other’s art except to glean new ideas. If you ask for input or an assessment of your work from a colleague most likely it will be positive and constructive. And, if you are asked for your impression of another’s work it should be full of good observations and encouragement.
         The rules of comedy improv might apply when we’re relating artist to artist or art observer to artist just as they apply to life in general as Tina Fey pointed out in her book, Bossypants. They might also be good rules for the art critic, too. I’ve tweaked them here for us changing "comedy" words to "art" words.
5 Basic Improv Rules (applied to art observation)
1) Don't Deny
Denial is the number one reason most art goes bad. Any time you let those negative voices take over is time to step away and regroup.  And, similarly, anytime you refuse to validate art made by your fellow artist your opinion will almost instantly come to no good end. Example: Artist A) "I’m trying out this new medium, what do you think?" Artist B) "This isn't what you normally do. Maybe you should try sticking with the landscapes." Always use “yes”, and “and.” “Yes, I see this new medium and it looks like a new start for you!”

2) Don't ask open ended Questions
Open ended questions (like "What does it mean?" “Why did you create this?”) are conversation killers because they force the artist to do your work for you. Ask instead questions you might have about the artist’s process or their inspiration. “How did you do this or that?” “ Do you have other pieces like this or is this a departure?” "Do you plan to do other pieces based on this piece?" Don’t assume you know. And, don’t say things like, “I know what you could have done here, or what you should do next.”

3) You don't have to be more insightful than the artist.
You are probably looking at the work for the first time for a few minutes, possibly 10. The artist has been living and working with the piece for days, weeks or months. You can’t be more insightful than the artist. Don’t try.

4) You can look good if you make the other artist look good.
When you are observing art, the better you make the artist look and feel the better the interaction is going to be and, as a direct result, the more you both will take away. And don’t try to inform or educate or influence the artist.

5) Tell a story.
Storytelling is probably the easiest rule to remember but the hardest one to do. The real magic of art is when we see the artist take their medium and somehow "make it work". If all these unrelated elements come together then it's going to awaken an interesting tale within us. So that's just what the artist will try to do, tell us all a story. While observing art we are telling ourselves a story. Share the story you’re unveiling within yourself while viewing a moving piece of art. Bring your own vulnerability to bear.

I think it works!




(C) Improv Encyclopedia 2001-2013