Z-Crit 1

I’ve been offered a place on the first Artquest Z-Crit, an online crit group. There are eighteen people in the whole group. We each get three minutes to talk about our practice and the piece (see above and here) we want to get feedback on. This is followed by breakout groups of six people each where we each get ten minutes of feedback from the other five people.

I have prepared what I want to say and, as usual, it is over the limit. But I’ll post it all here before I start trimming in case anyone reads this and wants to offer feedback in the comments below.


Hi, I’m Tony. I’m Australian but have lived in the UK since 1978. I took early retirement from a career in IT in 2009 and shortly after took up printmaking at Leicester Print Workshop. I’ve always had an interest in art but no formal education. So, I decided to remedy that with a foundation course at De Montfort University in Leicester. I did it part-time, over two years, finishing a couple of weeks ago, although, because of the current crisis, with no final show of the work. I cannot afford to do any further education so am looking for ways to improve my practice via peer feedback, mentoring and any other means that I can discover. Another interest of mine is philosophy and I am looking to develop my art practice in a way that engages with the practice of philosophy. I’m not sure I’ve found the right way to do this yet.

My final foundation project was on the philosophy of free will and determinism. Along with developing work for that project using drawing, lasercut sculpture, video and animation, I began painting, in oils, for the first time. I took phrases and concepts from books and academic papers on the philosophy of free will and turned them into paintings. My intended approach had been to come at the ideas sidelong and avoid any hint of illustrating the ideas but the images I constructed did end up having some sense of illustration to them. I’m drawn to painting in a figurative way although with representation taking a back seat to surrealism or magic realism – I’m not really sure what to call it.

The painting here is one of three completed during the project that seemed to work, though I’m not sure in what respect – all I can say is that they satisfied me. It is called Phenomenal and is one of a pair linked to Kant’s idea of the noumenal world, from which free will derives, as opposed to the phenomenal world we experience through our physical senses. It is 60 x 40cm and painted in oils on the rough side of hardboard. The composition went through several iterations of digital collages and pencil sketches before I was satisfied with it, as did the actual painting with colours changing and figures and objects moving around.

I guess the questions I want to ask of people are:

  • Firstly, what does the painting say to you? Is it something you’d look at more than once or just pass by? Without knowing the philosophy context, does it still hold any interest?
  • The major parts of my paintings tend to be tonally flat: do you think this use of blocks of flat colour works in a figurative painting like mine?
  • My preparatory sketches have figures with recognisable features but these tend to disappear in the painting, hair and ears especially get left out and other features simplified. Does this detract from or add to the painting’s interest?
  • Lastly, do you have any ideas for me in looking for ways to improve my painting? Are there any contemporary artists you think my painting resembles that I might investigate? I mostly looked to Ken Kiff for my initial inspiration but is there anyone else?
  • Also, I probably won’t be leaving lockdown any time soon because of my wife’s vulnerability: do you know of online or correspondence art schools that are low cost that might help me to learn more about art making and painting in particular – not so much from a technical point of view but an artistic one.

I may or may not post the feedback I receive! 😉

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