On Giving and Receiving Critiques
1yr
Laura W
Seeking feedback is necessary for artistic growth, but it is also possibly the hardest thing to find reliably. Good teachers and excellent peers can lead you on the path to having a thorough understanding of your craft. Being a helpful teacher yourself is another acquired skill-set. How do you know when you have helpful advice, or just a personal preference? It’s worthwhile to make the effort to be a helpful peer to your fellow artists. You’ll make good connections, broaden your appreciation for different art and ideas, and strengthen your understanding of art concepts by verbalizing them to others. === HOW DO I GIVE A GOOD CRITIQUE? === A good critique tries to consider the artist and their goals. Give context for your opinions, and try to be objective about what is technical vs. your own personal tastes and biases. Ask artists what they want to improve on, and be curious about their interests. Try to frame things positively, and push people to have hope and want to work hard. “I like this pose, but the shoulder is looking dislocated. You might need to move it forward to make it feel more natural, like in this reference.” “There’s a ton of detail going on here, but it can be better to have a few places of lower detail to balance out the composition, here’s an example.” “What sort of art do you admire? I feel like you are aiming for this style, but knowing more about your goals might help us give advice.” === WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF BAD CRITIQUES? === Bad advice does not consider the person receiving it. Critiques shouldn’t be designed to crush someone's spirit or make them feel hopeless. If something just isn’t your thing, it may be better to let people comment who are more experienced and interested in that area of art. Even if someone is picking up concepts slowly or getting frustrated, it’s not an open invitation to treat them poorly. “There is nothing I can say to you other than read lots of Loomis books.” “Stop drawing anime.” “Fan art is unoriginal.” “This style is a fad that will go away, you should just do something else.” “You just need to try harder.” “You’re too much of an amateur for me to even start critiquing” === HOW DO I GET USEFUL FEEDBACK ON MY WORK? === Help us cater to your artistic needs and goals. When posting work, consider including this information for context: - Tell us what your objectives where with the piece you want critiques. - Share anything you were struggling with while you were working on it. - Tell us what your goals are as an artist. Are you a hobbyist learning landscapes for fun? Putting together a portfolio to get into art school? A professional refining your skills in a certain area? - How long have you been practicing this form of art? - Who are some artists you admire who's style you strive to have in your own work? === HOW SHOULD I RESPOND TO CRITICISM? === There are a lot of ways you can respond. Generally, it is polite to show that you appreciate that someone took the time to give you feedback on your work. It’s important to keep in mind that critiques on your work aren’t personal attacks. Feedback is meant to help you see things from a different point of view. An artist might be trying to guide you away from mistakes they feel they made in the past. Arguing with the person critiquing you won’t be productive. It is their opinion based on their knowledge (or lack thereof). Think of them as simply opinions intended to help you out. You don’t have to accept every critique that comes your way, especially if the critique is subjective rather than objective. With time and experience you’ll have a better understanding of where you want to go with your work. Try to keep an open mind, but also have confidence to shed advice that doesn’t serve you. If someone is being hostile and rude or is actively trying to discourage you, report it. === KEEPING YOUR EGO IN BALANCE? === Egos come with being an artist. It is just a fact. If you didn't feel good about your work and didn't enjoy creating it, why would you do it? The sense of accomplishment is a great feeling, and you SHOULD feel good about the hard work you do. In communities, it’s easy for egos to get a little out of control. When a bunch of artists in a room, each with their own opinion of what is good art and what isn't is always bound to lead to a bit of head butting. This is a community that is meant to be friendly and helpful. Be proud of yourself, be proud of the work you do, but keep it in check. Be respectful to your fellow artists who are different from you. As much as possible, be open to criticism from people of various skill levels. Whether you choose to use them or not is up to you, but be open to the fact that they're going to happen. If you accept them with courtesy and grace, and maybe try to learn a bit from them and open your mind, you will help make this a strong community. If you choose to disregard everyone who gives you advice because you consider yourself better than everyone here, then this is not the community for you. Finally, people who post rude, off point or otherwise useless comments posed as criticism will be penalized by the mods. If you see posts such as this, use the "Report" feature to get the attention of the moderators. === WAIT, WHAT IF I THINK I SUCK? === Everyone has to start somewhere! Art takes hard work, and it doesn’t help to get down on yourself. Being humble is fine, but remember that having a little confidence is sometimes needed for motivation. Believe that you are worthy of kindness and that your art has value, even if it's just to you. Find enjoyment in learning and studying, it’ll guide you through the times when you are getting down on yourself. Just remember, begging (or demanding) praise, attention, or sympathy won’t generally go over well with your peers. Wanting to work hard is what gets you support. Embrace your work ethic and show effort whenever you can.
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Armando
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Hi guys, I've got a question for you, one that has less to do with technique and more to do with a practical use of space I guess... I've started exercising with 30 sec and 2 mins gesture sketches but I always find myself being unable to fit more than one pose sketch per page (I use a 'normal' A4 blank notebook and an HB pencil). Should I try and draw smaller sketches or maybe use bigger sheets? Or am I simply overthinking a trivial issue? (my fear is that by not using space on the page properly I don't get to draw as much... I guess) In any case, I'll be thankful for any response. Bye :)
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Chris
My 30 second gestures improved when I started drawing smaller figures. I think it's helpful to practice both larger and smaller sketches. Maybe save your larger sketches for longer studies.
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Sam Guss
Thank you for this. As someone who just submitted my first pieces in a contest challenge, I used the basis of this in telling people up front what type of feedback and critique I was looking for, and where I was in my art journey and thinking of the direction I'm going. I couldn't or wouldn't have included that information originally if I had not read this great article. So anyways, thank you.
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Răzvan C. Rădulescu (razcore-rad)
I think someone should open a topic on "Asking for Critiques" because it's something usually overlooked and students usually leave out context and other important details that hinder our ability to give helpful feedback. For example someone might post a picture of their character and ask something generic like: "What do you think? How can I improve it?". That's just going to invite generic responses as well or maybe even worse, someone might assume background for the character and give bad feedback because we're left guessing.
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Marshall Zazen
In restaurant we meet the guest before the need. I believe it is the same for critique. If you start being mean, you are just chopping the knees. Useless words that are humming like bees... geez... Let people Steez. "Original Style" is what that word means. Lemme "Lemony Snicket" while I hold that principle up high like a picket for all to see! xD ________________________ Compliment sandwich! Note what works so they are put at ease! Point out what could work better like you're talkin to a kid who is 3. See? Easy. And then sometimes it's nice to have food for thought outside of the plot of the critique. It's like leaving a string for others to follow on their own into ABZU with the waters so Deep! <3 That's the real way to help peeps. _______________________ Never seek critique unless you need it. If you're going to bully yourself, you won't need anyone else to concede it. What are you after? Praise? That's not good for your mental health. Relax, breathe. Meditate and let the eyes rest in that labyrinthian Da Vinci (10 Layered Puzzle Box) Maze! (Codex Silenda... oh wait... is that Fantasia? Whoops too late) See value in yourself and even in your imperfection. The idea has always been "fail fast, fail often". Don't be afraid of words from anyone scoffin. They can't put you in a coffin. Unless I make ya mad and you're thinkin of my head when you're boppin, but I hope not cause this is just zazen. ahahahah Mighta said somethin that gets me punked and then you can donate to my memory while listening to sad songs by Sarah McLachlan. ahahahah
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Matthew Kuester
I think this is a great subject to bring up early in the developing community. Here are a couple of points that while touch on many of the other excellent comments here, I wanted to suggest as well: I always use the terms "critique" or "feedback" because I think the use of "criticism" is inherently negative. You can often have a sense of the individual's skill level by the piece they are sharing. I try to gear my feedback to the level of the person's ability to understand and apply to their work. Unless they are clearly an experienced artist I don't go beyond two or three suggestions/issues at a time or it can be overwhelming. If they post more than one piece at a time, grouping clear habits or issues together can be very helpful (e.g. tend to use to big a value range, need to look at contrast control, perspective is off, etc...). Keep it professional, helpful, and succulent. Think about it as if you were giving feedback to your boss, not an internet rando. If you are aware of a resource that could help the person, such as a book, artist, YouTube/Skillshare channel, point them to it. And something that I think can easily be forgotten is to give positive feedback. It's not just to make the person feel good, but knowing what you was done well is of equal value. We can forget to include this and I like to start and end a critique with positive feedback.
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Hampus
Great sticky! Just like other aspects of art, the process of critique is a skill that we need to practice to get good at, and it will influence how we learn everything else. I think this would be useful to cross-post in just about every subject-related forum category, since many people unfortunately seem to miss it right now. If I can chip in, here are some notes on how I work with critiques myself that may or may not be useful to someone: ASKING FOR A CRITIQUE • What is the goal with the critique? Understanding what I'm actually asking for makes it easier for me to ask in the right way, and ask follow-up questions later. ➼ Some goals I've had have been broad, like figuring out why my rendering is looking flat, or what's making that nose look skewed in relation to the rest of the face. They've also been very specific at times, like figuring out why I can't seem to make a particular hatch mark look like my reference artist's, even when using the exact same pen nib.  • Doing a self-critique is typically a good next step for me. When I know my goal, I can look at my "art parents" and compare the differences to help me further articulate or break down my goal into more tangible questions. I usually put up a reference image next to my own and write down some differences I spot directly on the images (it's easy when working digitally, at least). • How do I want to receive a critique? Not every day is the same — sometimes I can take the chainsaw, sometimes I need a compliment to go with it. Even though I feel it's a bit embarrassing to ask someone for a pat on the back, I've also found that being honest about it when I need it has worked out better compared to when I tried to only seek out harsh critiques. • When I'm asking someone for a critique, I tell them my goal, my self-analysis, my preferred feedback format, and provide some reference images of what I wish to achieve. These things are all obvious to me, but typically not to my mentor, so I think they need to be communicated as clearly as possible for me to have a reasonable chance at getting the kind of feedback I'm looking for.  ➼ I find "art parent" reference images being a particularly useful way to communicate my goals — after all, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Of course, sometimes I'm really only looking for two or three out of those thousand words, so the references images might need some comments to clarify the particular aspect I'm working to absorb: If I'm only interested in the linework but not how the reference uses colour, composition, or anatomy; that's usually good to clarify.  • What do I plan to do with the critique after receiving it? If I'm not doing anything, there's no point in asking to begin with — then I would just be wasting both my and my mentor's time. Critique can hurt, so I find it helpful to commit to a plan beforehand so I can stick to it regardless of my mood (e.g. setting aside 2 sessions to work on the particular critique given on during the coming week). I think the value of the critique lies in how I'm able to do something differently tomorrow compared to today, so I might as well plan for tomorrow before asking.  ➼ I typically seek some public accountability by telling my mentor about this before asking. That makes it easier for me to keep on track, and it also makes it easier for my mentor to follow up on my progress, which in turn facilitates faster feedback cycles with successive smaller corrections. WHEN I'M ASKED FOR A CRITIQUE • First, a self-check: How well do I understand what I'm being asked for? I run this as a reverse checklist as for how I ask for critique myself, to make sure I have an understanding of what the receiver actually wants from me. I find that this is often easiest to do in a synchronous format (like talking), since their premises often requires some dialogue and questions. It works async as well, but I think some people consider it a bit frustrating to get a list of questions back rather than "art advice".      • Second, another self-check: Am I actually a good source of critique on this topic? Steve Souders coined this great quote: "Good developers know how things work. Great developers know _why_ things work." I think this applies just as well to art, and if I can only copy something without understanding why it works, I will typically decline to critique on that aspect. (Hopefully I can provide a reference to someone who is better qualified.) ➼ Sometimes, the opposite problem occur: I have a theoretical understanding of why something works, but lack the practical skills to implement it. I suspect that this might be a common occurrence among people who like studying art books (or maybe watching YouTube tutorials). I might still discuss some ideas on the topic, at least if I can find some useful examples of implementations by other artists, but I always try to be honest about my limitations. (For example, let's imagine that you understand the principles of how light interacts with a sphere, but lack the ability to render it — providing a link to a video about the subject might still be useful for the receiver.) • If I notice something in particular that I think is worth critiquing, I always ask if the recipient wants some critique on that part as well — now or later. I think that giving the option to get it later opens the possibility of a soft no, and makes it easier to decline something they're not open to at the moment without closing the door forever. I've found that many people tend to accept critique the don't really want at the moment if they can only choose between "yes" or "no", and what is meant as helpful advice might then become counter-productive. ➼ For example: If someone is drawing cartoons and asks for help in colour rendering, there's no value in me critiquing a lack of realistic anatomy. However, maybe I also noticed that there are some issues with the composition that makes the cartoon harder to understand — if the person who asked for a critique didn't mention this, I won't know if it's because they didn't realise it, or if they deliberately didn't want to focus on that right now. I think that asking is probably better than providing unsolicited critique in this case.  • I will typically try to help the recipient decide on how to practice the critique, and if I have time, set some follow-up dates. This might be easier to work with in a one-to-one relationship than the forum format though, although I don't think it's necessarily impossible.  • There might also be some topic-dependent parameters that are good to consider when critiquing. For example, if someone asks for colour critique, it might be useful to understand their monitor and viewing conditions — most students probably don't have hardware-calibrated monitors and colorimeters at hand to ensure that your colours look the same.
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Laura W
These are great additions @Hampus! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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