LD's Guide to Criticism

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AngelaSasser's avatar
It occurred to me some time ago that some people don't know how to critique.  Not because I got 'bad' comments or anything, but because a friend of mine, who claimed he was not an "Art person" said he simply didn't know where to begin when it came down to commenting on works here on DA, or on art in general.  So here's something for all you folks out there who just don't know what to say sometimes!


Critique aka. Constructive Criticism-A comment that describes the thoughts towards a work of art with emphasis on the good AND the bad, with suggestions on how to improve it, if suggestion is needed or wanted.

Badgering-A supposed 'critique' that does nothing BUT find something wrong with a work instead of considering the work at all levels other than one's own personal opinion.

Fluff-A comment that does nothing but praise and/or say something that isn't personalized at all for the work.  Though all of us like a bit of ego stroking, fluff is easily forgotten.


*  Even pictures that you don't like have something good and bad in them, be it in artistic technique, composition, etc.

*  You don't have to have some major epiphany in a comment on a work to make it meaningful, but it does help to look at it and at least think on a somewhat deeper level than 'wow, that's cool."

*  Many people are afraid to say anything negative about a picture.  DO NOT BE AFRAID!  If an artist wants to improve, they need to be open to the good and the bad of what people might have to say about their work.  However, this doesn't give you an excuse to be rude to them.  

Honesty, Courtesy, POV

HONESTY-Honesty is your willingness to relate your true opinion, to be unafraid of harming an artist by providing an honest opinon.

COURTESY-However, even in being honest you must remember to be courteous and respectful of the artist as an individual.  Art is inhuman but the artist is not.  Remember there is a person behind the picture.  This does not mean to sugarcoat everything you say, only that you need to remember to keep an even respectful tone when critiquing.  Respect the artist and they will respect you (granted the person is mature enough to recieve honest critiques).

POV (Point of View)-Every individual is different and therefore sees something in a way that differs a bit from everyone else.  When you look at a piece of art, you bring to it your own experiences, your own mindset, and your own vocabulary.  Keep it in mind when you're deciding what to say about a piece.

Before critiquing...

*  Does the artist WANT critiques?  Check the status of the deviation to see if they have the "Critique Discouraged" label on the bottom of the piece before saying anything.  An unwanted critique is oftentimes not recieved well.

*  REMEMBER that not every artist can be judged by a single all-encompassing gavel.  Each artist has their own skill level, style, and approach that must be judged individually rather than when compared to other artists who are better or worse.

*  What does the picture say to you, personally?  What is it specifically that catches your eye?  Is there any specific part of it that is the most memorable thing?  Is it the color? The shape of a certain part? The way something lines up with something else? Sit and stare at the work for awhile to get your bearings.

*  READ the DESCRIPTION when available.  Many observations you make about a work can end up being an annoyance to the artist if that particular observation has to do with something clearly mentioned in the description of the work.  For example, if you say something about the lines being disjointed in a piece where the description says "the lines were disjointed in order to get a mood across", such an observation will be an annoyance to the artist since it's showing them you don't respect them enough to read the descriptions they took the time out to write and that you are simply inobservant and/or careless.  However, you CAN contest an artist's use of certain things that they've purposefully done if you feel that perhaps something could be achieved in a more effective way.  If you're going to argue, remember to have a REASON to support your argument.

*  All of the things we've talked about so far also apply to critiquing writing with the exception of a few minor details.  What is it about the writing that stands out in your memory? What specific line can you think of?  When critiquing writing, give specific examples and refer back to the work so the author knows EXACTLY what you're talking about.


I've tried and tried to provide helpful critiques to those on my devwatch, but I've found myself getting behind on the massive amount of deviations building up there.  Whereas, I try to get to all of them, there is no guarentee I will.  If there is a work you would like me to look at specifically since I might miss it on my devwatch, feel free to put it in this thread at my forum:  
Critiques Anyone?

For serious critiques ONLY.  Do not spam me your whole gallery or expect me to be an ego-stroker.  Putting a picture there for me to view is for people seeking serious critiques ONLY.

I hope this guide proves useful to some of you! If you can thin of anything to add, feel free to suggest it to me.  Now go forth with this knowledge and prosper! *shoos you all off to be good little commentors*
© 2005 - 2023 AngelaSasser
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RoseImmortal's avatar
This was very interesting to read, and I think you've done a very good job here. I'm going to offer you a bit of specific feedback...

What I especially like was how you referred to judging everybody based on their skill level. You're the first person I've seen mention this in a "how-to-critique" tutorial.

You may want to expand that section because of its uniqueness, and here are some ideas:

I try to find something that I think the person can feasibly learn to do, if I'm critiquing a lesser-skilled work than my own, and try to give them a tip on that. But I don't tear the entire work apart; I think that just looks condescending and rude coming fro a more skilled artist.

When I critique one more skilled than my own work, I do make sure to show respect for that artist's skills and sometimes, if I am going to make a critique on an aspect I know I'm not capable of doing, I'll go ahead and admit that I can't do that myself...it seems like the respectful thing to do, for me, anyway. I don't know what your feeling is on that subject, though.

Also, under Point-of-View, I am curious what you think about this: when IS it appropriate to bring in a different view of a piece of art, or personal experiences/emotions that it evokes, and when is it not? I mean, obviously when it says "Critique Discouraged" I know to be careful, but what about in other cases?

(P.S.: If you go through my gallery for anything, I would be more interested in critiques to my writing, not my drawing. With drawing I'm only an amateur, so I don't want to be ripped to shreds. :-( )