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The crit at which I presented my work two weeks ago has continued to play on my mind. Perhaps the anxiety stirred up for me that night hasn’t ever really gone away – all the feelings associated with making a public presentation – feelings of exposure, vulnerability – being not quite good enough, even.

I keep coming back to thoughts about how useful the crit was – for me personally, in terms of helping me understand more about the piece of work I presented. I’m still processing all of that but I did come away with a feeling that on the whole, I’d found a safe space with sensitive and compassionate people – one that I’d be happy to return to.

The past eighteen months or so have been a huge learning curve – the word ‘crit’ hadn’t even entered my vocabulary up until very recently – and yet here I was, taking the plunge to present at one.

I think retrospectively that I could have improved my preparation – but then, if I allow myself to really think about it, I’ll probably feel that I could have improved just about every single aspect of the crit – the way I introduced myself, the way I spoke, the way I responded – and so on. I could go on but I’ve decided to put it down to experience and hold onto the lessons learned – it was my first ever group crit, after all.

It was certainly useful to see how the other three presenters/artists introduced their work and how they responded to the critics’ comments – and to listen generally to the conversations that were going on throughout the course of the evening.

I’ve wondered about my fellow presenters since, naturally curious about how they felt at the end of their presentations. My fantasy certainly, was that they were self-assured and confident and concluded their allocated presentation slots feeling more certain and assured about the direction their work was going in. In reality, of course, I will probably never know whether this was the case or not.

Attending the crit was also an indicator of how immersed I’ve become in learning about what being a practising artist is actually about – how to be an artist, critically engaged with one’s work. It’s clear that speaking out loud, publicly to other people about my work doesn’t come easily to me – especially to a large audience of people and especially when the work’s still in its early stages of development and can be so full of uncertainty.

But that of course is exactly what the crit is for – to open up the work and to encourage conversation and debate around it; to open it up to other artists’ objective insight in order to be better placed to gauge whether the work is moving in the direction you want it to – to be authentic, a sustainable piece, able to stand its ground and so on. Or not, as the case may be.

My curiosity isn’t likely to stop here and having worked in isolation for so long in the past, it’s the recent conversations and information exchanges with other artists I realise, that I’ve grown to value. They’ve become such an integral and important part of my practice and I hope they’ll continue – with people I ultimately trust – here, on Artists Talking, in my new studio space, from my past and in the bigger, wider art community at large.

And I’ll continue to carry on these conversations in the future too, I’m sure – so long as I stay receptive and continue to look outwards; I have no doubt that both my practice and personal development will continue to benefit hugely from such interactions.