Commenting Workshop #2 - Balance

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ProjectComment is a Group that provides Guaranteed & Constructive comments for the DeviantArt community. By discussing what makes a great constructive comment, we aim to support the awesome commenters out there through a workshop where, twice a month, we will be conquering the challenge of commenting.

Welcome to our second commenting workshop on balance!


What makes a balanced comment? When we receive a constructive comment, we gather a large amount of information. A balanced constructive comment can help us determine the aspects of our work that need improvement, and the aspects that should be kept the same. Consequently, commenters wield a lot of power, and we are not being cheesy when we say that with great power, comes great responsibility. As commenters, we are responsible for providing a constructive comment that is balanced for the artist to not only work on the things that require improvement, but also continue with the things that are already effective. This joint approach provides a more well-rounded constructive comment so we can maintain a balance between advice (for improvement) and encouragement for the artist.

How would we make this comment more 'balanced'?
The edges on the ears are rough and the hand anatomy is wrong. The color scheme is limited and the purple shading makes certain aspects look weird.
As an artist, we may ask ourselves these questions:
  • Are there any aspects that should be kept the same or was done well?
  • How can I benefit from advice and encouragement?
  • What is the commenter's overall opinion of the piece?

As a commenter, perhaps there is more we could add:

  • What first attracts us to this piece? When we first saw this piece, what made it appealing?
  • What aspects were done effectively and is there any relation between the aspects that were effective and the aspects that need improvement?
  • Is encouragement necessary? Would encouragement help the artist?

We believe that encouragement is just as important as advice. In fact, ProjectComment did a poll on the kind of comments our members prefer. 45% members prefer positive comments, but this is balanced out by the need to include suggestions for improvement, while 37% prefer a comment that is equally positive and negative, with suggestions for improvement. As a comparison, only 15% wanted just positive comments, while 84% wanted comments with suggestions for improvement.

Therefore, it is not only important to balance comments by pointing out the things done effectively and not effectively, most artists would also like comments to be balanced with suggestions for improvement.


Acknowledge what should be improved and help guide them.

There is always room for improvement, or, if you cannot find anything for the artist to improve on, suggest alternatives or possibilities that the artist could experiment with for future works. To bring up our previous workshop, guiding others to improve is key to ensuring success. Providing a path to follow by linking resources can help artists secure their understanding of our advice. As the commenter, we can apply this same path of improvement to ourselves and our own work. Additionally, we refine our analytical skills and develop a trained eye for appealing art or literature. To learn more about guidance, and how we can use it to expand our ability to comment, check out our previous workshop here.
"...The hand looks a bit out of shape, or rather, the perspective is off a bit. It looks too small to me. Normally a reference picture would help with things like this, or take a picture of yourself (as odd as they may be) and compare hand to head shape. The shading on the right ear I believe (the viewer's left) needs more purple shading..."

Encourage good practices.

There must be something that the artist has done well. If there isn't, perhaps the artist is on the right path regarding their skills or development. Maybe the artist is approaching their art in a helpful way, a way they can build upon. Whatever it is, we should encourage artists, whether we encourage them for their use of certain techniques, their perspective or approach, or success with a particular skill. This helps the artist move on to other matters that require improvement, rather than dwelling over the concepts that we believe we have yet to grasp (but, in others' eyes, we have actually grasped it!).

It is all too easy to be our own worst critic. We may be too harsh or too attached to certain aspects, such that we do not truly see what we are doing right. How can we correctly encourage ourselves in this case? We have to learn what to keep changing and what to stop altering, so we can develop a style or a habit when creating art. As commenters, we can use our 'outsider position' to approach and appreciate other people's work, and we can also note down similar ideas and techniques that confirm our own development of good habits.
"...This is a neat drawing. Making the line art pop out with the darker shade than the base really helps here. We can clearly see the character. The shading and colors used in this are also rather very well done. The mix of cool and warm colors helps I think, especially with the background where you go from a warm color to a cool color..."

Make a sandwich!

DeviantArt's digital platform creates worries, concerns, anxieties and more about our comments. You are not alone if you are not fully confident about how your comment may be interpreted, or, to flip it, how to interpret a comment. Whether you are the artist or the commenter, maybe the comment seems too harsh, unhelpful or something else entirely. Our typed text lacks vocal tone, body language, animation and exclamation, such that comments can lead to misunderstandings.

Therefore, in order to prevent such misunderstandings, consider making a sandwich. Introduce the comment with a positive aspect from the piece (what first appealed to you or attracted you to the piece). Then, acknowledge the things that should be improved about the piece and suggest solutions to improve them. Finally, analyze the piece overall and encourage techniques that positively add to the piece. Rather than focusing solely on the first impression, or the necessary improvements, or even the good techniques, we can maintain a balance of all of these aspects.
"Making the line art pop out with the darker shade than the base really helps here... Everything looks to be in order, however there are a few things that could be touched upon. The hand looks a bit out of shape, or rather, the perspective is off a bit... You did a good job with the face, and everything looks to be in order so far. The hair is also a nice touch-it's not blocky but rather made of strands and wavy..."
As commenters, what do we aim to do? If we want to lead artists to success, we can give a balanced comment to help them know what they are doing effectively, what they are not doing effectively, and how they can advance their work.

DoubleDandE, Dec 18, 2015: First off I have to say this is a neat drawing. Making the line art pop out with the darker shade than the base really helps here. We can clearly see the character. The shading and colors used in this are also rather very well done. The mix of cool and warm colors helps I think, especially with the background where you go from a warm color to a cool color. The eyes look rather well done, especially the colors in them. You did a good job with the face, and everything looks to be in order so far. The hair is also a nice touch-it's not blocky but rather made of strands and wavy. 

 Everything looks to be in order, however there are a few things that could be touched upon. The hand looks a bit out of shape, or rather, the perspective is off a bit. It looks too small to me. Normally a reference picture would help with things like this, or take a picture of yourself (as odd as they may be) and compare hand to head shape. The shading on the right ear I believe (the viewer's left) needs more purple shading. I like how you've added the blue and purple colors to this piece, and I think that ear could use a bit more purple to make it pop out with definition a bit like the other ear. 

Overall great job with this. You certainly have taken note of things to fix, and I overall like the final product. You get two thumbs up from me. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

How are you encouraged by this comment?

If you received this comment, what would you continue to do the same in your next piece?
What would you do differently?



Check out our other Commenting Workshops!
:bulletgreen: Guidance

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TaintedTruffle's avatar
As someone who's new to critiquing other people's work Therese are always interesting and helpful to read when you post them :)