Commenting Workshop #6 - Praise

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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 sixth commenting workshop on praise!

Some artists are like, really really good. So good that the only reaction we can muster is often:

"Your art is perfect, beautiful and flawless and I love you."

While this is really nice to say and to read, it doesn't fall cleanly, if at all, within the definition of a 'constructive comment' that we try to encourage and foster in ProjectComment and the DeviantArt community.

The main question that arises from this is: What is there left to say?

After all, if we see something that we think is perfect or flawless, how can we say anything to make it better? Do we have to nitpick? Do we have to make up something that needs improvement so the artist can correct something they technically don't have to correct? Do we need to write anything constructive at all?

Hopefully we can put an end to these concerns with this workshop by equipping you with some forms of praise you can use to be as constructive (i.e. helpful) as possible while still emphasizing the artwork's success.

What is there to say?

This question is often the crux of the matter and the largest pitfall for many commenters. There is no doubt that you have seen many comments like these:

"Wow :D"

"I like the hair."

...and what?! Give me substance!

Instead of writing comments that consist of one word or one sentence, here are some things you could say about any piece of work:

Be Specific!

Praise often does not inspire change by itself. One of our goals as commenters is to give the artist an opportunity to reflect upon their own piece through our comments. Success can be elusive, so having a second pair of eyes to help an artist pin down the reasons for praise can be vital.

That's why it's important that, when you congratulate someone for doing an awesome job, they don't get a vague idea that someone likes their piece, but that they really did rock it based on a more complete and nuanced commentary.

We draw from our first workshop on Guidance where being specific on certain parts of the artwork can help with that, whether we highlight the aspects that draw the most attention, the concepts that seem to read most for us, or the effects of certain choices (e.g. color, details, composition, etc.). A comment that is constructive will be specific on what really had the most impact on you and why. Did it speak to you personally? If so, how?

With an insightful comment, you can enable the artist to discover all of these things from your perspective, which will almost always be different to the artist's.

Find the 'Standout' Element

Out of all the awesome things in this piece, what would be one thing that ultimately makes the piece successful for you and why?

A face, a color, a relationship between objects, or a particular area, are great examples of key elements.

When you set out to be constructive, you agree with yourself (and silently the artist) to spend some time looking at the artwork. While first impressions may be "Your art is perfect, beautiful and flawless and I love you.", we ask that you go one step further, and one step further than that. Ask yourself what makes the art perfect, beautiful and flawless? Why is this the case and how?

A good starting point is finding the standout element as, once you have identified it, you can shape parts of your constructive comment around the relationship between the standout element and its place in the artwork (the context) and the effect on the overall piece.

Great Examples

  • "Nice idea to draw only the heads and necks. It helps the viewer to keep his attention on the eyes. And the eyes are always important :p They show the characters' expressions, which are nicely done here. I like the effort on the eyes' shapes, to create a smiling effect." ~ Tuntalm's comment.
  • "I particularly like how puffy your chicks are. Everything works really well together to create a cute and cosy Easter atmosphere." ~ simbalm's comment.
  • "The pattern detail in the robe instantly captivated me and really exemplifies your mastery of the digital medium". ~ Anonymous

Highlight Choices

If you find the standout element well enough, consider how this element came to be. What choices do you think the artist made to produce this element? After all, there are thousands of choices that we make when we are creating art, and any of them could make or break a piece.

To be able to question what really went into a piece, the choices that had to be made or the choices that had to be cast aside, is a great way to provide valuable input to the artist. Choices could be the placement of certain characters and objects, the line styles, forms or rending, or using a particular medium over another.

Anything that has variety leads to an artist making a choice, and maybe that choice worked well for the artist and well for the commenter, but maybe that choice only worked well for the artist.

Taking the time to think about the effect of certain choices leads us to really think about the consequences of our actions, something that we should be doing every day in our lives regardless!

Great Examples

  • "The layout of the shadows on the blade is also really cool and helps to add depth. As for the shading on the figure, I can also tell that you're conscious of light logic and using value to create 3D form." ~ infinessence's comment.
  • "I feel like the combination of sci-fi and an oil paint feel really makes this remarkable, as if an old master had traveled in time" ~ Anonmous.
  • "The lineart itself is also well done. I can see that you vary the lines in thickness and that's basically the salt of good lineart, since it's what makes it come to life and look interesting." ~ Zitruseis' comment.

Lastly...DON'T Put Yourself Down

For many of us, there are hundreds of pieces on DeviantArt that are beyond our skill level, but this does not mean we have to put ourselves down in our constructive comments. Every artist starts somewhere, and we all have our own journeys to success. Therefore, if your first instinct is to say something along the lines of "Wow, I can't...", or "Man, this is so much better than anything I could..." then stop right there. Yes, these things probably come from a good place, but it can leave the artist feeling awkward...

...What do I say to that?!

There is no need to put ourselves down to congratulate others. If this is the time to praise them, it is not the time to highlight our flaws or faults. While it is normal to feel frustrated, inadequate, inferior and more about our own skills, this should have no bearing for an artist whose work inspired and motivated us to give a constructive comment. Instead of beating ourselves down in public, we should simply enjoy the artwork for what it is, and not use it as an excuse to punish ourselves for something that takes a lot of time, practice, effort and more.

How do you express praise in your comments?

Do you think you could be constructive with praise? Is your first notion to put yourself down?
As an artist, how would you react to praise given constructively?

Check out our other Commenting Workshops!
:bulletgreen: Guidance
:bulletgreen: Balance
:bulletgreen: Resources
:bulletgreen: Research
:bulletgreen: Tone
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TaintedTruffle's avatar
This is great. There are many many prices I have agreed away from commenting on because I see now flaws but this gives me an idea on how to handle this