The Art of the Critique

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Criticism is analysis.

So what does that mean?

It means you take a piece of artwork, pull it apart and reassemble it.


We need help in SEEING our work and the work of others with greater CLARITY.  This can be an even greater part of our art education than learning basic techniques and skills.

It is important to READ the artist's intent...what was the artist meaning to do?  It helps to begin with the artist stating why they did what they did and how they did it.  Then a starting point has been established to begin a successful critique.

1. Find obvious strengths and weaknesses.  Begin with positive aspects of the artwork.

     A. Begin with FORM and CONTENT

          **FORM relates to what a work looks like and how it is made

          **CONTENT is what a work signifies - what it means, what it makes you think or how it makes you feel

     B. The more effective the work of art, the more these two elements work together in concert.

     C. Better-known artists names can also be brought up as comparisons to the artwork being critiqued.

2. Be sensitive to the venue and the context of the critique.

     A. A comment or tone of voice that is misspoken can derail any positive outcomes.

     B. Is this a beginner's work or is it an advanced level student?

     C. Is this high school level or workshop level or college level?

3. Establish TRUST.

     A. When we have each other's best interests in mind (the desire to see someone improve and succeed) the critique atmosphere will be much more positive and inviting.

     B. Separate yourself from your artwork.  EVERY piece of art (even the instructor's) has room for improvement.  Your artwork is going to be FINISHED not PERFECT.  Your work is only as good as the next piece you are creating.  With continued practice your art skills will improve.  So you take the advice given on the artwork being critiqued and choose how you will apply it to the current piece or your next piece.

     C. If you have a meltdown during a critique, ask yourself if it is about the art or about the other things going on in your life.  Please be honest with yourself.  This is not something the instructor or your peers needs to be privy to, but it will help you to understand your reactions.

     D. A critique that allows for insults and comments such as "Why did you bother to go into art?" are unacceptable.  Honesty is crucial but tact is supreme!  Some times bitter medicine is tough to swallow but when it is consumed with a bit of honey, the experience can be a bit more pleasant.

Learning art skills and techniques is only part of your art training.  Learning how to effectively critique and receive critiques is a crucial part of your art training.  As practicing artists, you must also be trained to approach your artwork critically and to learn to think of alternatives, to find problems,, to scratch out the subtleties.

Effective criticism is going to provide you with possible solutions as well as alternative directions.  You make decisions.  Through the art of the critique, you recognize what those choices are.

Reference: Some information taken from "The Art of the Critique" by Matthew Daub, Professional Artist Magazine December 2011/2012

So let's look at some work:

The following student work was submitted to AP and was  evaluated according to the 5 point scale.  What do you think the work in each section earned?