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3 Ways to Get the Most From Your Critiques

October 4, 2009

critiqueThis is in response to Rob’s question on my post How to Survive an Art Critique. He explained that he didn’t get very much feedback during his critiques and wanted to know if that meant his work was horrifically bad or speechlessly good. I don’t think it necessarily means either; some work can just be difficult to comment on. Also, there are things an artist can do try and elicit the kinds of feedback he or she is looking for.

As with anything in life, it’s up to you to get what you want out of your critiques. Some people may be able to stand back and let the feedback roll in, but if your work doesn’t get that kind of response, you need to take matters into your own hands and demand what you need from  your critics.

Don’t Get Defensive

Nothing will shut down honest people who are trying to help you faster than a defensive attitude. I’ve seen this several times on the Wetcanvas forums. People will post their artwork, others will give honest criticism, and the artist will defend, defend, defend. All that attitude does is tell your audience that you’re not interested in what they have to say. It says, “I already have an opinion about this piece, I don’t care about yours and there’s nothing I am willing to change.”

Instead, try to be gracious and accepting of criticism. That doesn’t mean you have to take it all to heart, it just shows your audience that you are listening and considering what they have to say. Especially in a group setting in a school, the rest of your classmates are going to be nervous about giving you negative feedback. Show them that you’re not taking it personally and that you appreciate opinions.

Explain Yourself

You may want to do this before the critique begins, or you might want to get people’s first impressions and then explain your work. Either way, provide lots of information about your piece: why you did it, what influenced it or inspired it, what you are trying to say with it, etc. Information like this provides people with a place to start providing feedback. Some work can be difficult to respond to right off the bat. A little background information goes a long way towards narrowing a person’s focus so that they know what areas to comment on.

Ask Questions

This is the most direct approach to a critique. If you’re not getting the response you feel you need, start asking questions. Specifically ask your audience what is and isn’t working in the piece, ask them where their eye is drawn to first, ask about the initial feeling they get from the work. Whatever you want to know, ask! Don’t worry about it turning into an interview, after a few questions people will start responding on their own. Often, they just need a little help getting started!

Critiques in school can be really difficult. When you expect praise, you get criticism. When you expect criticism, you get praise. You never know what is coming, but perhaps the worst response is no response at all. Don’t be discouraged, but next time use these tips to get the most out of your critiques.


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From → Art General

  1. Hey Miranda!! Good to hear from you:) The background pic next to last, I meant for that one to have a border, the others, if they ended up with one, it just happened:) I’m having fun playing around with it, but I do feel I’ve really let my sketching practice slide!! I want to get back to drawing at least something daily (but this happens to me allot, I get obsessed with one thing and let everything else slide:) Right now, I think I’m going to have to take a nap-was up all night again, and now having a hard time keeping eyes open:)
    have a great day

  2. Miranda, this is more great information. I think you are an art psychologist!

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