Artists' group helps members try new styles, find community

Monday, January 20, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Members of the Artist Critique Group gathered Friday at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts for the group's monthly meeting.

COLUMBIA — When Marg Irvin painted "Full Moon" at The Canvas on Broadway with a glass of wine, she didn't expect she would get so much constructive advice from the Artist Critique Group.

Her painting, with light from a full moon silhouetting tree branches and illuminating a night sky, uses a simplistic style that is different from her normal work. The critique group's influence helped her try something different than her usual realistic and technical work, the retired supervisor of admissions and all outpatient clinics at Truman Veterans Hospital said.

"I have met a friend here who does abstract painting," she said. "It's all loose, and basically all shapes, forms and colors, hitting something but not directly."

Irvin and five other Artist Critique Group members met Friday at Columbia Art League. It was the group's first meeting in 2014, and the discussion was especially vibrant and engaging, said Karen Shortt-Stout, education director of the art league.

The monthly Artist Critique Group has been held by the art league, a nonprofit institution that supports art, for three or four years. Artist Critique Group is a chance for artists, who often struggle in isolation with their artistic challenges, to offer each other constructive advice, Shortt-Stout said.

The artists in the group come from many different backgrounds —  professional artists mix with amateurs and hobbyists.

Like the members' varied histories, the artists have different styles, goals and mediums, Shortt-Stout said.

"Often times, artists are working alone and can be very isolated in their studios and they don't have any other artistic eyes looking at their work," Shortt-Stout said. "It's easy to get lost, and having an opportunity to get feedback from peers can really help them push through those challenges."

Irvin got plenty of good feedback from the critique group, she said. The group suggested that she add more snow to highlight the black hills on the bottom, put more branches on the tree and paint in some clouds near the moon to add more depth.

"I have seen so many different styles in the critique group," she said. "It's teaching me to loosen up my style and try different avenues of painting."

Dola Haessig showed her pastel art "Meditation," featuring an abstract skull through which she wants to communicate the "beauty in death," she said. It follows the Renaissance tradition of painting a skull representing the briefness of life.

Haessig, a retired webmaster at MU who primarily works in pastel, was also excited about the inspiration the critique group has given her. She has learned from fellow artists of other mediums, seen how they work and applied the new idea and skills into her own pastel, she said.

While watching Haessig show her pastel, Irvin said the multilayer blended colors makes her also want to try pastels.

"They bring all kinds of art here and you want to try it," Irvin said.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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