Art critiques at Old Sculpin Gallery

Laura Jemison compliments Amy Thompon Size's use of different shades of blue. — Photo by Yoojin Cho

Artist Laura Jemison looked at Nina Gomez Gordon’s painting and said, “I don’t know how you got such spontaneity in cows and then have something so structured like the fence.”

“With the cows I was forced to be spontaneous because they move,” Ms. Gordon, Old Sculpin Gallery’s manager, responded.

Although a few visitors poked their heads in the door to browse the collection of paintings and sculpture at the Edgartown gallery, the informal art critique of work by Ms. Gordon and Amy Thompson Size continued undisturbed.

Gail Rodney, a collage and pastel artist, suggested, “How about making the foreground go back a little bit?”

Ms. Rodney had just finished her Gallery Talk, explaining how she began her art career, recalling her time at the National Academy of Design in New York, and describing the process behind her collage series. Afterwards the gathering posed questions about her artwork.

Referring to her collages, Ms. Rodney said, “I like the meditative process of doing it.”

Laura Jemison, who regularly attends the Gallery Talks, noted, “It takes so much patience to make that.”

Then artists engaged in a discussion about how one’s personality contributes to a creation of a piece and how sometimes steering away from one’s usual path or style can produce positive results as well.

Ms. Gordon said, “I think that struggle of trying to fight your nature sometimes makes a great artwork, too.”

Discussions like this take place as part of the weekly Gallery Talks scheduled on selected Thursdays, at 6 pm at the historic Edgartown gallery. The Gallery Talk provides a platform for painters and sculptors to talk about their artwork, their brainstorming process and new ideas, and although in this first year the gatherings have remained small, Ms. Gordon said, “Everyone who comes really benefits from it.”

The open art critiques follow, and this past Thursday the focus was on the artwork of Ms. Gordon and Amy Thompson Size.

Operated by Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, the art critiques at Old Sculpin are open to artists of all ages and experiences without charge. Ms. Gordon started the program when she first began as the gallery manager this past May. She invites local artists to talk about their work and afterward to host a critique session for artists who bring their work — completed or still in progress — and get suggestions as well as have their questions answered.

Ms. Size, who teaches children’s art classes on the Vineyard during summer, brought a landscape painting done in acrylic. She introduced her painting by pointing out it was her first landscape and her first time using acrylic. “I’m not as comfortable with it because it dries really quickly,” Ms. Size said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Ms. Jemison, Ms. Gail, and Ms. Gordon launched a discussion with each sharing her own experiences with acrylic, comparing the medium to oil painting.

“I tried acrylic and stopped because I couldn’t mix the same color again,” Ms. Rodney said. “I think if I went back now, that wouldn’t worry me because it’s okay to not match. I suggest making layers. The advantage is that you can go right ahead and do something on top right away.”

The artists also spoke about how Ms. Size effectively utilized different shades of blue to illustrate the waves and about how she could bring warmer shades to the tree in the foreground.

After the talk, Ms. Gordon talked about how forums like this help artists.

“I had unresolved issues that I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go, so to hear what people said, it’s helpful,” she said. “On the other hand, I may or may not agree with everything, or I’ll take it home and think about it. We can edit our own critiques, too.”

Ms. Rodney commented on how these sessions encourage honest opinions. “It’s much easier to talk about other people’s artwork,” she said. “Partly because I’m never the person that loves being in the spotlight.”

But in the end, she also agreed that having a new set of eyes to look at your artwork means a lot.

“It’s helpful to look at other people’s artwork and learn from it,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt me to have people talk about my artwork because I know what I like about it and what I don’t like about it, but having new eyes to look at it is priceless.”

Art Critiques at Old Sculpin Gallery, selected Thursdays at 6 pm. Next Gallery Talk and critique Thursday, Sept. 8 with artist Emily Drazen. Everyone invited. Free. Old Sculpin Gallery, Dock Street, Edgartown. 508-627-4881.