What is Feedback?
This question has multiple answers as there are multiple layers. There is often a fine line between what is considered good feedback and bad feedback. Critiques versus criticism, comments and compliments, and more. As there is so much to feedback that is confusing, easily misunderstood, and hard to give and take, let us have four knowledgeable deviants clear the way: 3wyl, pearwood, Riemea, and Yuukon.
1. What makes feedback helpful?
From a broader view, whether it's , , comments or anything else, feedback is key to a community like DeviantArt's. To give and get feedback is to interact with people who are in the exact same position we are in - artists using a digital platform (broadly speaking).
Specifically, artists receiving feedback (especially constructive comments) can improve their artwork and gain a better understanding of their artistic journey. On the flipside, giving feedback is equally, if not more, important. We expand our knowledge of art, express our thoughts freely, convey understanding on a piece that an artist has spent many hours on. We learn from other cultures, become more open-minded and exercise skills in observation, writing and more.
There really is no end to what makes feedback helpful for us - and each of us has a different reason. I see the results of that every day in ProjectComment and it's a beautiful thing.
Here are some suggestions: Tell the artist what caught your eye, something you particularly liked or didn't like. Tell the artist something you think they could have done differently or better. Suggest an alternate title; it tells the artist what you saw in the image. Interact with the artwork, continue its story. Ask the artist how or why they did something. If nothing else, even "Ooh, pretty!" or "Oh, ick!" is a lot more information than no comment at all.
Feedback is helpful in a lot of different ways. It's helpful to more than the individual receiving the feedback; the individual giving also gains something from it.
Ideally, the artist (the individual on the receiving end) gets additional perspective so they know how to improve their work. This includes impressions of how their work affects others. They can also gain a boost of confidence.
The person giving the feedback improves their eye. They can also improve their own work the same way.
If we're talking about feedback - as in the comment/critique itself, I think it's helpful if the feedback mentions more than just the weak points in an artwork. It is important to give good and understandable advice on how to fix any weaknesses (even better if links to helpful resources are provided).
Feedback becomes helpful the moment it's well thought out, and meant to build one up instead of tearing one down. Of course you can't always get it "right" when giving feedback, we'll always view art from our own perspective, no matter how objective we try to be, so it'll always come from a personal taste and point of view. So even if you give feedback that in itself might not be something the artist wants to do, it will always encourage them to take a look at their own work from someone else's point of view, and that might lead to new insights or ideas, be it for the work you gave feedback on or something they might create in the future.
2. When it comes to feedback, are there things that you think you should and/or should not do?
I would not say there are things that a person should or must do. We each comment differently - that's not a bad thing, because we get to help and support others our own way, a way that no others may have or do.
That said, from a personal standpoint, I try to form a holistic, balanced comment - one that mentions both strengths and weaknesses. I try to make the comment constructive by including specific improvements and ways to improve, to go further in my reasonings and explanations, so that all of us can understand the why and the how. I try to make the comment relevant to the artist, tailored to their skill level, so that they can better apply the comment for future works. I try to offer suggestions, things to think about, or my own personal view.
Of course, I'm not able to do this all of the time, but I do believe it's better to try to give your all when commenting, than to not comment at all.
Don't be pompous. Don't flame. Trolls are never welcome. Don't argue. Just move on.
Be polite. Be honest. Be humble. Be kind. Give feedback appropriate to the skill level of the artist. Don't blast a beginner for being a beginner.
Don’t tear a piece down. No matter how many “mistakes” you spot, or how “bad” an artwork is in your opinion, always be respectful.
Someone created something and had the bravery to share it online (sharing art online often takes a lot of courage, even if one is moderately certain of their own artistic abilities). If that were you, you probably wouldn’t want others to bash your work, either, would you? If you can only think of negative things to say, don't give feedback.
Though they are not required, there are some good things to include in your feedback: Links to helpful resources (if available), looking for any questions (include your answers in your feedback) the artist might have posed in the artwork's description, and formatting your comment for better readability.
I can try and be concise explaining this: feedback should encourage, enlighten, guide and have a pleasant sense of honesty. It should never humiliate, intimidate, negate a person's view or force someone to explain themselves. When it's your friend asking for feedback, don't butter them up. Be honest. That's what they're asking for, and it'll help them a mile ahead if you are.
3. Do you give feedback on different art disciplines, and if so, how does that feedback differ between genres?
Yes, I give (and have given) feedback to all kinds of art, whether that's photography, literature, artisan crafts, traditional, digital, etc.
I would say the feedback can differ greatly between genres if one focuses on the technicals. The technicals of photography (aperture, shutter speed, post-production, etc.) are not the same as literature (grammar, diction, plot, etc.).
On the other hand, there are also similarities across all genres, if only because of the relationship between artist and commenter. Topics like message, feelings, memories, etc. can all be conveyed in a piece of art or in a comment. So, while feedback (and art itself) can differ greatly, both feedback and art can unite us all.
Technical advice is fine with a genre you have some experience with. In all cases, comment on how the artwork affected you.
I mostly give feedback on digital and traditional art. However, I will sometimes give feedback on literature, too.
My feedback for digital and traditional art is mostly the same, though I do take the different techniques and quirks of the mediums into account (i.e. if it is a pencil drawing, I might comment on the shading with regards to the tools used; alteratively, for a digital drawing, I would consider the software used instead).
I generally look at things like anatomy, composition, colours, shading, etc. With literature, I look at imagery, grammar, punctuation, etc.
What I take into account no matter the genre is the impression I get from the work, if it makes me feel a certain way or what feelings it evokes in me specifically, and how I might have a connection to it.
I mostly give feedback on photography related things, on submissions that come in to PhotographyGuide. Within photography, there are multiple sub-genres, but for the sake of this I will take two polar opposites. One being Photography itself and the other Artisan Craft presentation. Both come down to photography in the end, but both need to be seen through a different set of glasses. When it comes to photography, I will often look at technical aspects, such as aperture, shutter speed, composition, and so on. Most photographers know what these terms mean, so they can be thrown in there without too many questions marks appearing. When it comes to the crafters, you're speaking with a completely different audience. While they might be able to tell you exactly what needle and stitch were used on a craft, not all of them know the photography terms. There I usually work with things like what kind of light was used, the background that was used, and so on. Crafters benefit from showing off their craft the best way possible, while photographers often benefit from improving their techniques.
4. What do you think is the most important part of giving feedback?
I honestly cannot put down just one important part of giving feedback. Giving feedback is so important, because if no one gives feedback, no one receives feedback. In some ways, it is the 'currency' that makes this community run.
If I had to say, the most important part of giving feedback is just that - giving feedback. So many of us don't do that, either because we have no time, we have no motivation, we have no knowledge or expertise. Maybe we don't believe our comments will make a difference or we believe we have nothing to say.
I don't believe that. I believe that every single person on DeviantArt can give one constructive comment. The real question is about applying ourselves. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's something that we can all do if we try. If we try and we don't give up, but keep an open mind and have faith in ourselves and in our fellow artists, that can go a really long way.
I don't think there's only a single "most important part of giving feedback". I think it's important to be aware that there's a difference between critique and criticism, and to understand what that difference is.
It is important to be respectful and, if you can't manage that, to simply take a step back and don't give feedback at all. It is good to be honest in your feedback, and not tell an artist something you don't believe just because you think that is what they want to hear. Lastly, remember to adjust your feedback to the artist and artwork, to take the artist's skill level and intention into account.
Be friendly and honest. Build up, don't tear down. Suggest things, don't force them on the artist.
5. Is there something important you have learned from giving and/or receiving feedback?
From managing ProjectComment for almost ten years, the most important thing I have learned is about people's generosity, willingness to move forward together, and support for each other. Many times, I and others have given feedback to non-receptive people. Many times, I and others have received destructive, cruel feedback. And yet, we pick ourselves up, we put one foot forward, and we continue to be artists and create art. We continue to give our time and ourselves to help another.
Every single time I see a person give a constructive comment, I'm humbled and thankful. Truly, these people make a difference, and they are not recognized for it. Yet we, as artists, can thank them for their time, even if we disagree. We can try to put ourselves in their shoes, to have compassion and empathy for our fellow artists. There is a delicate balance, a delicate power, in giving and receiving feedback. We have a choice to wield it for good or evil, to learn and grow from it, to pass on one's kindness to others.
Ultimately, when I see a person giving great feedback, and another receiving feedback with respect, that's not something to take for granted, for it is too easy to think what DeviantArt would be like if this did not exist.
In the words of proverbs, a soft answer turns aside wrath. I can learn even from an inexpert comment badly given. Also, if at all possible, respond to all comments on your work. It encourages people to keep giving comments. When folks thank you for a comment, leave it at that unless you have a substantive followup. Responding with "you're welcome" is a waste of time, space, and bandwidth.
If someone thanks me on my profile for a favorite, I respond with a simple or the like unless a substantive reply is called for.
I have learned that how you give feedback and how you handle getting feedback directly relates to what kind of feedback you get. If you only write “nice” and “great work” that’s cool, but you likely won’t get in-depth feedback yourself by doing so. Giving and receiving feedback go hand in hand.
I also learned that when you give feedback, you also learn a lot about your own art in the process! You start to look at your own art differently and might spot things you wouldn’t have before, because you gain a different perspective through giving feedback.
I started viewing my own work through a different pair of glasses. I started seeing things I pointed out or suggested to others in my own work. It helped me improve my own work as much as I helped others improve theirs. And with that I learned that you can learn from both receiving and giving feedback.
Thank you to our four interviewees for their time.
Want to learn more about feedback? Here are some groups to help!
Created by 3wyl, they have been an active group since 2009 to give DeviantArt members the constructive comments they deserve. We have many projects that encourage our members to give comments and get comments. These projects involve workshops, features, chat events, contests and, more importantly, systems that rely on interchange, inclusion and interaction.
Created by F-Lagerdahl and Drizzerey, and started June 2018, this group's focus is creating a positive learning environment for all kinds of artists, from beginner to intermediate. They hope that through the group and Discord, they can create a hub for all manner of information so that every artist can find what they are looking for to further their artistic skills. Everyone can give helpful tips and advice and anyone can request feedback and different types of lessons/tips. Not everyone learns the same way and the admins don't believe in being harsh or negative to make people learn, so they hope that even if it it's main source is not from the group/discord they can still direct deviants in need of assistance where they want to go with their art.
Created by Yuukon, and started February 2016, it was originally started as a safe place for new photographers who wanted to learn and improve. Since then, the group has grown and aims to offer that same safe place to improve and learn, for all photographers. Additionally, they also have two other projects running in the group, alongside the photography feedback. They are the artisan crafts project and the traditional art project respectively; Crafters and traditional artists can submit their work to the group in order to get feedback on how they have presented their work, instead of on the work itself. This feedback is given by people who are skilled crafters and tradional artists themselves! Both project are still going strong to this day.
Now it's your turn!
Now I want to know what you think about the topic of Feedback. Based off your own personal experience and what our interviewees have said above, please answer the following questions...