Comment Support Group #4 - Structuring Comments

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My name is _______ and I am a commenter…

Well, of course you are! If you are reading this, more than likely you are a commenter, and what commenter doesn't have concerns, problems, issues or more with commenting?

That is why ProjectComment has formed a Comment Support Group to help people with commenting. To be utterly honest, we can't improve your commenting skills for you, but we can help you improve only if you want to improve.

Both commenting and improvement are individual processes. It's up to you to become a better commenter, but that doesn't mean you have to go it alone!

We are here to foster a group where commenters feel safe, where commenters feel they have the right to share their thoughts, feelings and more about commenting, where commenters have the right to open up, seek advice and get the support they deserve.

None of us are here to make fun or criticize. We are here to encourage commenters to share, discuss and, most of all, challenge ourselves. It won't happen overnight, but if you take baby steps with us - one day, one week, one piece, one deviation at a time - we hope you will become the commenter you are meant to be.

How to Avoid Upsetting Artists?

Here we are. You realized your Lack of Expertise should not hold you back. You found the Self-Confidence to comment, learned how to pinpoint What Is Off and worked out a method for Commenting Constructively through the effective use of Praise and Criticism. You grew as a commenter, artist and person, helped many others along the way, and generally feel good about yourself.

And then, someone starts virtually yelling at you because they hate your comment.

Abort! Abort!

Chances are we've all been there. It's a horrible feeling, especially if you've spent hours of your time analyzing a piece and trying to provide helpful suggestions. The understandable reaction is getting upset or angry. The wrong reaction is to take it out on the on the artist (who, may I remind you, is seriously offended).

With these emotions writhing in you, it's best to step away. Clear your head, sleep on it, do what it takes for you to calm down so you can look at the situation from both sides. You know why you're hurt or angry, but you don't really know why the artist is hurt or angry. It may be something that you said, or something they misinterpreted, or maybe something completely out there.

One way to avoid this before it happens is to take a moment to read over your comment before hitting ‘submit’. If this means typing up your comment on Monday, and then re-reading it on Wednesday before posting it, so be it -- whatever it takes for you to look at your comment with more objective eyes.

Think about how you phrase things, what may be misinterpreted, whether something is necessary to mention, etc. It may be just one word that you threw into your comment, without further thought, that ignites the artist against you. The use of "wrong", "sloppy", "should", etc. may not carry any ill intentions from you, but a person may still see things in a different light.

Rather than typing "wrong", phrase it differently to "not as effective as...". Rather than describing something as "sloppy", think of another word that respects the artist's time, effort and more they have put into their own piece (after all, no artist wants to produce sloppy work, do they?). Last, but not least, rather than using "should", use "could" - make something a possibility, an option, an alternative, rather than something that is shoved on an artist, where the artist feels like they're forced to do things your way.

Ultimately, place yourself in the artist's shoes. Just because you don't mind receiving comments full of improvement suggestions and things you did incorrectly doesn't mean another artist would appreciate that same approach.

Respect the artist as you would like to be respected yourself. If you think a piece looks like it was done in 5 minutes, don't reinforce the assumption by saying to them, "you'll do better if you spend more than 5 minutes on it".

You have no control over an artist's reaction, nor can you always anticipate it, but you do have control over what you say to the artist. You have control in separating the artist from the artwork, in making your comment about the artwork, not the person behind it.

Quick things to remember:
    :bulletgreen: Choose your words wisely. Your (valid) opinion may be "the arm looks wrong", but this doesn't help the artist. Be specific about what is not effective about the arm, explain why, and suggest how to fix it.

    :bulletgreen: I vs. You. Rather than accusing the artist, explain your perspective and phrase it so that it is an opinion, not an absolute fact. This leaves room for the artist to take it or leave it. The artist has options; they're not forced to think or feel a certain way.

    :bulletgreen: Balance criticism with praise. Everything that needs to be said about that can be found in our wrap-up of the previous session.

    :bulletgreen: Intent. This is something very personal to figure out for yourself. If you feel you are commenting with negative intentions (you're in a bad mood, or you want to point out the flaws, or you're rushed/stressed, or you think you have expertise/knowledge that is superior to the artist's,...), don't comment at all. It's not worth it to put both of you in a bad position.
Instead, start from a positive point of view: ‘Hey, I like this piece, because…’ ‘I'm taking the time to comment on it, because…’ ‘Here are a few things that could help you for future works…’

Starting your comment this way will influence the rest of the comment you write, as well as the reception your comment receives.

If, after everything above, the artist still gets upset, walk away. You may not truly be the source of their hurt or anger (they may be lashing out at you, because you're 'conveniently' there, or they have old wounds).

If you want to understand where you went wrong, ask one of our mentors via Ultimate Comment Support, because asking the artist is asking for trouble.

With this all said, it is time for this week's challenge. Whether you've ever offended an artist or been offended by a commenter, now is the time to take a look back and dig a little deeper.

Practice Time!

We will not be providing any artwork for this session's Challenge. Instead, think back to a difficult commenting situation and analyze it as though you were analyzing artwork. Where did either side go wrong? Do you know what truly happened? How did you handle the situation? Do you regret what occurred? These are but a few questions you can ask yourself.

Done that? Good.

Onto the challenge, in your constructive comment:

In this case, the challenge is to speak of it, to exchange our experiences, whether we were the offender or offended. This is a personal challenge meant for your own growth, as a commenter, artist and person. Sharing your experience is a way to show you that you're not alone, and, perhaps, you may even exchange tips and ideas on how to structure your comment.

So, don't hesitate to ask questions if you have any! We are all here to improve, whether it's on our art or comments. You never know, you may have some advice or experiences you would like to share with your fellow artists!

And you can acquire bonus points if you feel like practicing comment structuring by giving constructive feedback on the following pieces:

1. :iconiamnohere: 2. :iconado-mi:

...but what happens next?

After you have posted your comment in this journal, it is on to discussion! A response is guaranteed, as we address your concerns, provide guidance and suggestions and, more importantly, support you and your commenting.

Next week, we will mention you with a follow-up, coupled with some insights from fellow ProjectComment admins.

So, don't hesitate to ask questions if you have any! We are all here to improve, whether it's on our art or comments. You never know, you may have some advice or experiences you would like to share with your fellow artists!

Many thanks to IamNoHere and ado-mi for providing artwork for this week’s session.
Would you like your artwork featured here? Then take up the challenge and score those bonus points! :eager:
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Rahula87's avatar
Thank you so much for this guide, for now it didn't happen that an artist got mad at me after a critique but this will be extremely useful for my future experience. I want to become a better commenter, especially because English is not my first language so it takes time and energies, for me, to wrtie a constructive critique.