Sunday, July 12, 2015

4 Steps to Giving and Receiving a Good Critique

I know I mentioned critiques a couple posts ago, but I wanted to expand on the subject.  In my vast experience (note: sarcasm) as a human being on this planet I have noticed that the majority of the people I know or run into have a very hard time taking criticism.  This is for multiple reasons I'm sure, but one of the major problems, I believe, is that people actually don't know how to give good criticism.

So I came up with 3 steps on giving constructive criticism and 1 step on receiving criticism. (purely from an artists viewpoint)

Step One:  

List the positive attributes of the piece and tell the recipient all the aspects that you like or enjoy.  Even if it's just the fact that you think the idea is a good one or you like the color of the subject's shoes or something, always find the positives.

Having your work critiqued can be stressful, and hearing the good things you're doing can help the painful process.

I have a professor, Richard Hull, who I think is very good at this.  Your piece could be the worse one in the whole group (and trust me when I say that I turned in some pretty bad pieces) and he will always start out with the things that are working; stopping and really studying it and making sure you receive a full list of all the things that are good.

Then he eviscerates you with all the things you messed up on (but I'll touch on that later).

Step Two:

List the problems with the piece:  foundation, concept, composition, even color.

A person needs to know what's wrong in order to fix their mistakes.  If everyone says your stuff is good all the time then you'll never learn and your art will never get better.  This is important!  It may feel humiliating getting your art critiqued, but if you stay in your safe bubble you will continue making the same mistakes!

So if you find yourself in a position giving critiques of other peoples work, don't do the cruel thing and point out only positive aspects.  Have the courage to point out mistakes and have faith that the recipient will that the pointers to heart.

Step Three:

While doing Step Two, make sure you are presenting solutions to the problems you are pointing out.  Having your mistakes pointed out is nice, but not much help if you don't know how to fix them.  Multiple different views will help find the appropriate solution.

Don't be a jerk and just leave someone hanging.  You're smart, and if you can find mistakes, you definitely have suggestions on fixing them.  They may not follow those suggestions, but it's polite all the same to present them.

Step Four: Receiving

Don't take it personally.  It's really that simple.  I use to have a really hard time listening to other people pick over my art pieces.  My confidence in my art wasn't very high and I felt so personally connected to them.  I'm pretty sure a lot of people have this problem.

Don't take it personally.

When I first started taking illustration classes I had a professor who took me aside and had conversation about my art.  My stuff wasn't up to snuff.  He said it straight and honest.  What he said next changed my whole perspective on critiques:

It's not you that I hate, it's just your artwork that I don't like.

Seems kind of harsh, but think about it.  People aren't critiquing you as a person. Stop putting up those defensive walls like someone's trying to blow up your inner sanctum.  Art is just like any other discipline, it needs hard work, practice, and polishing.  There are rules you need to know and follow.  It not just about feelings.  It's about expressing those feelings in a legible way.  It's about telling a story and having people understand the story right away.

Don't take it personally.

You have to put some separation between you and your artwork because people will judge the work (that's what they're suppose to do!), but they're not judging your character.  It's about art, not about you.  If you have the most amazing, transcendental idea that's great, but it needs to be refined.

And in order for your most wonderful idea to be refined, it needs to be critiqued.

So don't take it personally and embrace all the wonderful advice and helpers you're receiving.


There will always be the exception.  Some people are just jerks.  Their greatest joy in life is tearing other people down.  They're not trying to help you, they're trying to hurt you.  The best thing you could do?  Ignore them and continue pushing on.  What better way of showing the finger than moving forward.

Don't you dare let these type of people stop you from doing the thing you love.  They most certainly aren't worth your time or consideration.  Let it run off your back like water and (yes, I'm going to say it again) don't take it personally.

Those people live miserable lives, so let them squander in that misery while you shoot ahead and become even better.

That's my advice.  I guarantee that if you follow these steps you'll be a lot happier come critique time and you'll learn and improve so much more.  Never give up.


 If there is any topic you wish me to discuss, or any questions that you would like answers to please respond in the comments and I will blog about them!

No comments:

Post a Comment