Peer Crit Group: Laura Derby


In May 2020 artists Laura Derby, Aileen MacEwan, Caroline Hone and Emily Tough formed a peer crit group to better support eachother and their practices. Here Laura shares her experiences.

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It’s not exactly lonely working on your own, when you enjoy what you do, but solitary, and I had read online that success as an artist/craftsperson is more likely if you have a good peer crit group around you to stimulate the creative juices and to bounce ideas off.  So, I asked Amy at Upland if she knew of a group I could join and in due course she came back to me with names of some others also interested in a peer crit group.

 It all started in May this year and coincided perfectly with Aileen MacEwan finishing her studies in art and design at Dumfries and Galloway College.  Three years of structure was about to end, and Aileen knew she needed to continue with structure of some kind.  Therefore, when the opportunity arose to join this Peer Crit Group, she jumped at it.

On top of having recently moved to the area Caroline Hone found herself in a lockdown situation.  “The value of the crit group to me cannot be underestimated. Finding myself isolated in my studio due to lockdown it was hard to keep motivated. It has always been an important part of my practise to mix with other artists to exchange ideas, get feedback about my work and be stimulated and motivated by these exchanges. Trying to keep these dialogues going on social media just doesn’t cut the mustard!”

Emily Tough of We Agree on Eggs also joined us for the first couple of online meetings; due to Covid we could only meet online, which Amy facilitated for us.  Now, six months in, it is going very, very well and despite Covid difficulties we have managed to keep the group going, except Emily who was living out of the area and had to bow to the Covid rules. As soon as allowed, we met face to face which has been really great - Images on the screen are okay, but to see the others’ work, in the flesh as it were, has been so much better. To chat, comment, hear about inspiration, see processes, and hear back stories, makes it all meaningful. We meet monthly and have some email contact in between, for example to ask for feedback on a piece of work we have just completed.

The support this group gives us is huge. The regular meetings being marked on our calendar helps keep us on track with making. The feedback on work is so useful and we have picked up so many tips and advice. The motivation is there.

We had our first en plain air sketching meet up recently at Threave Castle.  It was fantastic and something we are continuing.  Submerged in the nature and wildlife, with only the sounds of our pencils sketching and the River Dee gurgling by, it was bliss.  ‘Til the next time ..... this group is here to stay.

If you are interested in being part of a peer support group then please get in touch with