Feedback is most often given for a selection of works (chosen by you), and tends to consider your verbal contextualization – preparations for a feedback session should therefore at least include these two topics. There are various other things to consider:
- Understand your intention: The better you understand your intention, the easier it will be to process the feedback’s result; do you care for the feedbacker to offer art historical contexts, to judge your progress since the last time you met, to acknowledge your improvements in craft, or are you essentially looking for praise? If you’re looking for feedback on specific issues, it makes sense to explicitly say so. If you want general feedback that relies on the feedbacker’s free associations, you might want to state this as well.
- Be smart about the selection of work you present: Since feedback is most often given for a selection of works, it pays off to curate this selection wisely. Select works that have a high likelihood of letting the feedbacker grasp what you’re doing, in relation to the feedback that you’re looking for. Don’t go for quantity: select work that represents your current status quo, potentially including a tight selection of past work to visualize your progress and history.
- Contextualize the presented work: Understand how to verbally introduce and contextualize the selected work, in order for the feedbacker to understand what you’re up to. Eventually your work should speak for itself – but in an apprenticeship phase (or when talking to someone from a different field), this often isn’t realistic. This also usually helps in building a relationship to the feedbacker, so over time they understand your personality and modes of expression increasingly better.
- Try to have original works available: Nothing beats original works; even though professionals know that a reproduction can’t reach the original’s physicality, vibrance, volume or duration, discussing work on reproductions leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.
- Understand the feedbacker and their preferences: Understand whom you’re asking for feedback by researching their aesthetic and semantic preferences – this will help you anticipate and understand their feedback, and can guide you when reviewing their advice, and how it might matter to you. It might even help you understand their character: are they benevolent, attentive, eloquent and confident – or insecure, passive-aggressive, sadistic, and weirdly incongruent?
Understand that researching someone’s work can lead to the wrong expectations: people can be more complex than their published work – or way more banal. That’s why it can pay off to ask colleagues about their experiences and assessment; ideally, you could ask a feedbacker upfront: “What art do you enjoy? What does art mean to you? What’s your aim when offering feedback? Do you believe in certain aesthetics to be better or worse than others? Do you care about the person behind the work you criticize? If so, do you feel responsible for how you make them feel?”
- Expect implicit feedback: People love to offer advice. Since art raises endless questions (on quality, semantics, ideals etc), artists are bound to receive unsolicited feedback and work discussions at all sorts of events: on social media, at studio visits, at other people’s exhibition openings etc. Being prepared for explicit feedback sessions is one thing; it pays off to be prepared for implicit feedback rounds as well, since this can help you to properly present your work, and process what was said.