Starting a critique group!
How we did it!
This critique group is born out of an intense five week online course on illustrating children's picture-books. The course provided 3 texts or stories for the participants to choose from and illustrate over the five weeks. This meant that after 5 weeks, students of the class still had 2 stories to work on. The class had been structured a weekly live review where some students work would be reviewed as examples. We started the critique group to emulate the structure of the class, but instead of meeting weekly we met fortnight. This would give us more time to work on the illustrations during the course of normal life.
How to Start
It was important to keep the group small. The group started as an email thread. If you’re reading this with the idea of starting a group, I suggest you see it as a solo effort in the beginning.
So instead of saying hey would you like to start a group. Say, some of us are starting a group to do the second story. If you’d like to be part of the group, email me with the subject line, “I’m interested.” The group will meet on Tuesdays at 7pm, only apply if the timing works for you.
There are a number of reasons why this method is superior to trying to gather a bunch together.
1. You’re taking responsibility to lead the formation of the group, including it’s members and initial format. Including the time of meeting.
2. If no one’s interested, no one else will know.
3. Once you’ve outlined the basic structure, member can opt in to the structure. This is much simpler than having a bunch of equal members debating and trying to decide how to start a thing.
We decided to week every 2 weeks.
We met on a paid zoom.
The group would have 15 members
Each member would be reviewed for 5 minutes
4 reviewers would point out what’s good about a piece in 1 minute each
1 one reviewer would suggest an improvement in one minute
A time keeper would point out the turn order, and keep things moving on time.
Anyone could add comments in the zoom chat.
The whole thing would be recorded
A Facebook group would be set up to manage logistics and host the videos
One member would collect all the artwork to be reviewed and share their screen.
As the organiser, you get to ask for volunteers to do the various roles.
A shared goal.
Every member of the group had a shared goal to illustrate picture-books. And the first task at hand was to build a picture-book portfolio. Our goal in the 10 weeks that we agreed to meet for was to develop these portfolio pieces every two weeks. The purpose of the group was to give us all a senes of accountability to one another as well as guidance.
During the 10 weeks, some members dropped out and were replaced, and the format evolved.
After the 10 weeks we face the choice of disbanding or continuing in some way and we chose to continue. First we did a review of members online portfolios. Then we shared our goals with one another and made progress towards those goals in 2 week increments. At some point we started a discord group.
Discord is basically a communication tool that could be organised into sections.
Some of the key sections are:
- Meetings and logistics
- Library (for sharing resources)
- Diaries for each member (this allowed us to follow the progress of each member)
Positivity, name the good
Give more that you take
All abilities welcome, measure against yourself
The members of the group live all around the world, from Australia to the USA, so finding a time that works for everyone especially when daylight saving comes into effect has been tricky, but we worked it out. At times some members would be on the Zoom at midnight or 4am to accommodate the group. Again having a volunteer to help coordinate the timing can be really helpful.
The members of the group have gone on to make a number of picture-books and gotten agents. And this summer another batch of members will be sending work out to agents. Sometimes we might not have work to show, but we still show up to critique and support the others.