Giving Criticism

Many artists are part of critique groups.

In today’s Do This! newsletter, I wrote about the Oreo (R) approach to giving criticism.

What are your experiences with giving criticism?

What are your experiences with receiving criticism?

What advice can you give other artists on this subject?

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10 comments to Giving Criticism

  • Hi Alyson, You’ve hit upon the key to improvement with your comments about criticism. The quality of art cannot exceed the ability to critique. At every step in the process the artist must critique and critique to the limit of ability. To learn from the work of other artists requires reliable critiqueing as well. The only thing more important to an artist is a visual concept. Bob

  • Hi Alyson, Yes this topic is quite timely. We have been dicussing creating a group/forum for others to critique without someone jumping in and snowballing an artist. Here on Live Journal there are a lot of artist that post their work but many times I don’t say much. I feel there is a proper place and time to critique. http://www.livejournal.com/users/myerscho/

  • Hi Alyson, Your Oreo approach takes me back to my days as a teaching assistant at Colorado State University. I found that by phrasing criticism as a question, I could keep the students feeling empowered about their own work, rather than diminished by an alternative point of view. For example, “have you thought about . . .” or “Why is it that you chose red for this aspect of the piece?” It would work wonders–the students would start thinking about their own choices and evaluate their decisions for media, color, scale, etc. I think it ould work with any professional artist in a one-to-one conversation. Jan R. Carson

  • Jan, Great idea (to use a question). I think there are two other things that must be stressed: 1) If you have an opinion, make sure it’s one you can stand behind. In other words, speak with authority and don’t waiver too much. Of course, you don’t want to seem inflexible, but an opinion must have substance. 2) Try to make it as impersonal as possible. This is more easily done by saying, “I think . . . ” or “In my opinion” rather than “YOU are doing this all wrong”. Alyson

  • Char

    I paint with a group every Monday and many times I’m asked to do the critique at the end of the session. I start by asking the artist about his/her feeling on the painting and whether or not they are happy with their results. I get a feel that way of what kind of critique they want. Some say how they like their painting and others ask for help. I also invite the group to comment and I find that they are sensitive to each artist’s feelings at that point.

  • Char, GREAT idea! That’s what they do at the auction houses (which you can see on Antiques Road Show). They begin by saying, “Tell me about this.” The answer shows them how tied the individual is to that object. For instance, they have to be much more delicate with someone who says, “It was my grandmother’s. She purchased it in 1932 from someone who said it had once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.” Than with someone who says, “I found it at a garage sale for $12.” Seeing how the person feels first can definitely help you choose your words and your path. Note, however, that this is MUCH easier in person. It’s almost impossible to gauge the correct intonation and emotion over the phone or through email.

  • Oh, serious critique, it’s such a thorny issue! It’s true that knowing how invested the artist is in a piece is really key. It’s also true that some artists are completely invested in every single piece they show. In other words, they can’t take any negative criticism because all their pieces are fine in their eyes. That’s where it gets really thorny. I belong to a couple of online development groups with a goal of positive critique (among other goals). But what I see happening is a lot of people getting their nose out of joint over even well worded, albeit kind, critique. So I just don’t do it in the larger group any longer. Instead it is better to find “birds of a feather” artists who can and will be honest and constructive with you. Putting it out there to large groups is a recipe for ugliness on a few different levels — at least that is what I’ve experienced. Love this blog, I’ll be doing the news feed for my yahoo page – that was a great post too by the way. :) Kathleen http://captivespirits.blogspot.com

  • I believe strongly that the setting – the emotional “surroundings” – are very important.

    It helps if one has a “reputation” as being helpful or skilled. I am fortunate to have people contact me for one on one consulting and they therefore have a predisposition to listening. They have “hit bottom” on some aspect of their art careers and have been recommended by my past clients. THAT is an ideal scenario. Surely any of us who would use the services of Alyson would be honored to have her input and give great value and credence to her every word. Growth of our creative spirits and art forms is best nurtured by truth AND professional advice.

    Many of the comments above seem to be random connections and casual sessions and I can only imagine that makes the process quite fragile. “What do you know about MY style/medium!?” “Just who do you think you are!” That fluffy white stuff is protected for a reason.

    A forum that I contribute to has a wide range of talent and when someone asks for a critique, I always give my specifics to that individual OFF-line. Public critiquing is a mine-field in my opinion. And the person doing a public critique is likely to hold back – to spare the person’s feelings – which could undermine the entire purpose. But, I am open to hearing how it has worked or benefited others. I just can’t imagine that it would be as effective as having a professional such as Alyson do a look-over/makeover! ‘-)

    BTW…I love the cookie approach! It really works.
    Mckenna