View Full Version : Critiquing in the Pastel Forums

Kathryn Wilson
09-18-2006, 10:15 PM
There is an on-going discussion on a matter of critiquing and it was agreed that we might utilize a Poll of the members to see where we are at in being a useful, informative, yet sensitive place to be.

So let's hear your thoughts - not just in the Poll, so if you vote, give your reasons why you voted the way you did and anything else you need to say to help us all understand what you need from this forum. The Poll form really restricts what can be included, so let's get some discussion going too.

If there is something missing from the Poll, please speak up and I can add it on. I can't think of everything :D

09-18-2006, 10:42 PM
Kat Just voted that the critiques are helpful. I have had several really good critiques of works here. Even tho at first glance, my toes were stepped on, later reflection was that the critiques were spot on. I feel that I have grown tremendously in the last 2 years because of the great help here. Just very thankful that we have so many great painters and teachers willing to give of their time to help others become better.


Kathryn Wilson
09-18-2006, 10:59 PM
John, I added another line to the Poll - re learning how to give a critique.

Is this important enough for us to consider a permanent thread with a guideline on how to give a critique. Let's hear from everybody on this one -

M Douglas
09-18-2006, 11:20 PM
Kat I voted that the critiques are helpful, i've found that if you state what you like or don't like or are struggling with then you will get lots of feedback.
I would have also liked to have voted for "how to give a better critique"


Kathryn Wilson
09-18-2006, 11:25 PM
Unfortunately, it is not allowing me to change the options to vote on more than one!

David Patterson
09-18-2006, 11:27 PM
I feel that most of the critiques are very helpful, and usually done in a very kind manner. There always seems to be a lot of constructive comments to help the artists out - especially if they are a newbie.

Kathryn Wilson
09-18-2006, 11:34 PM
I voted on wishing to learn how to give better critiques - I do think it would be helpful for us to publish some guidelines on how to achieve that goal.

Giving and taking critiques is an art in and of itself - although I agree with the posters above that in general we do a good job on critiquing, I also believe we can do a better job of commenting. If you can, just take one person's painting a day (someone asking for help) and conscientiously do a great job on just that one painting. You don't have to do it on all paintings posted - but the more you practice at it, the better you will get.

Here is a link to an Article on critiquing:


Take what you will from that Article, it is extensive, but an eye-opener too on what a really good critique might look like. I doubt we could do that thorough a job here on every painting - but why not try it yourself on one of your own paintings?

K Taylor-Green
09-18-2006, 11:41 PM
I voted that I wished I could give a better critique. I just can't always see something til someone else points it out!
I have found others critiques of my work to be helpful. I also think that we have a group here that tends to be polite and well spoken, with some humour thrown in. Tact should always be used in giving a critique.

Deborah Secor
09-19-2006, 12:20 AM
I haven't voted yet, but I will! I wrote an article a while back that's way too long to put in here--but if anyone would like to see it you can look at your Jan/Feb 2002 Pastel Journal. It's called Developing the Art of Self-Critique and it's principles apply to critiquing anyone's work. (If you don't have the magazine, e-mail me for a copy of the article, if you like.)

Part of what it says is this:
When you see things that need to be changed, think about what solutions you might use. Too often in our haste to rid the painting of the offending portion we snatch a color and cover it up, or wipe out that part altogether, without taking the time to think. Evaluation is a tool to be used. Stop and consider at least two or three possible ways to correct the problem. If color is the difficulty, what additional colors layered over might cure it, or what color might replace the existing one? If it is a compositional problem, how might you rearrange the elements? Whatever the trouble is, taking the time to think of several ways to treat it will help increase the knowledge and skills you must have as an artist. When you have arrived at a decision about the changes to make, try the first way and if that seems not to correct things try the next solution. The point is that rational, well thought out decisions are the instruments we use to learn.

To me, this is what we here in the pastel forum do for one another. We suggest various solutions for our friends to consider. The decisions are up to each artist, based on their own goals and on their experience level. I think perhaps we should discuss what kinds of criticism are helpful to us. For instance, I find it very helpful when someone sees tangential lines in my painting and simply says, 'oops, you missed a tangent'. I also like it when somebody asks me an astute question, rather than assuming something, such as 'why did you make the mountian so sharply defined? Where I live mountains are misty..' (and then I can explain that I live where there is no atmosphere..uh, make that humidity!)

So tell us, what's most helpful to you?


09-19-2006, 12:46 AM
I think the critiques are helpful. I don't feel that I know enough about art to critique anyone's work.


09-19-2006, 05:10 AM
I find the Critiquing here in the Pastel Forum very helpful. I am only very new to art and certainly benefit hugely from the input of all the people I have met here. All the comments I have ever had have been helpful, especially when descriptions on how to go about achieving a result are given.

I feel all the critiques given here are given with a genuine attempt to help the artist to improve his/her work.

I am very happy with it, I am not an experienced enough artist however to give a critique unless I see a glaringly obvious error in a piece of work.

CJ (Carolynn)

09-19-2006, 07:22 AM
I think the critiques are very good. They are informative, eye opening and presented in a kind and helpful manner.
It also gives you a feel of how your work is perceived by other people.
I would also have liked to have voted ' how to give a better critique '.

Maureen Grantham
09-19-2006, 07:31 AM
I'm such a beginner that I'm afraid to put my work up for critique. LOL, it would take too long to say all that is wrong with anything!

09-19-2006, 07:56 AM
I voted for I wish I knew how to give better critiques. Except for a life drawing class in 1985, my formal art training ended after high school. I am not confident about my own work, and don't feel I'm qualified to critique someone else's.

09-19-2006, 08:07 AM
Kat, I voted that all the critiques in here are helpful and informative, but would be interested in any info placed for more in depth critique, and even how to go about stressing what I want out of a critique...I will read the link you posted...

Dee, I remember that article, I'll have to get it out and read it again:wave:

I must say that all the suggestions made to me regarding any work I have posted here has been very well taken, and helpful...and any I have given has been with support intended, and respect...although, I would like to feel confident that true advice and comment is being given, and not just "pats on the back" :)

Kathryn Wilson
09-19-2006, 08:23 AM
I see that we have a few votes saying we need better critiquing - but no explanation. If you do vote that way, please let us know how we can do a better job! We can't know unless you tell us.

If you do see a painting you like, but you are afraid to critique, just say why you like it. Kudos are great and we all love to receive them, but maybe we do that too much in this forum. To clarify, kudos are when we say "great job," "I love it," and so on - nice to receive, but not much to go by.

09-19-2006, 01:21 PM
One reason I hesitate to offer many critiques is because I know my monitor isn't calibrated properly, and therefore the colors I'm seeing aren't accurate. I also know that too often any photographs I've taken of my own work aren't right either so I am guessing others may have the same problem. Of course that still leaves drawing and composition skills that may be commented upon.

I think something we need to realize is that we don't all paint in the same style, and not everyone can understand or appreciate the techniques involved in something they are unfamiliar with so giving a helpful critique is difficult. For instance, I work in at least 3 or 4 different ways: abstract, expressionist, impressionist, and "primative" (for lack of better definition!) When I want an honest critique of any of those methods, I write to one of my many friends who work in a similar way and ask for help because usually someone who works only photorealistic (for instance, not picking on any one style) will be as much help to me on an abstract painting.

I think what I'm trying to say in all of this rambling is that any critique can only be given based upon what we individually see on our own monitors - some more accurate than others. Also the critiques will be tempored not only by our experience as painters, but also our individual preferences & understanding for some styles over others. Kat is right, it will be much more helpful to everyone if the person requesting a critique can be specific about where they think they need help. I think kudos are great, and when accompanied by specific suggestions similar in manner to what Deborah has written artistic growth will occur.


09-19-2006, 02:04 PM
I'm such a beginner that I'm afraid to put my work up for critique. LOL, it would take too long to say all that is wrong with anything!

Hi Maureen! :wave: Welcome to the Pastel Forum! :)

I think you'll find that people will offer really helpful feedback on your work...especially since you are a newbie to both WC and pastel. There are lots of artist-posters here who also teach pastel painting, so they know how to offer suggestions that are keyed to your experience level.

Give it a try! You'll be surprised how quickly your work improves with the input of more experienced artists. :)

09-19-2006, 02:33 PM
I am at a loss about how to answer the poll. My strongest inclination is to choose option 1, as I've gotten some excellent critiques here in the pastel forums (both oil and soft). I really think my work has improved since I've been posting here. I only hesitate because there have been a couple of occasions when I've wished for a bit more in-depth critique.

I agree with Peggy on the difficulty posed by color calibration of monitors and cameras; that does make things more difficult. I find I try to adjust the color of my posts to match the painting, but looking back on some threads, each of my posted images is a bit different, even in areas where nothing has changed. That makes it hard for the critiquer - but on the other hand, what else do we have to go on?

I like the idea that Tressa had about perhaps developing some mechanism to indicate when one might want an "in-depth" critique. Some ideas: It might be done by the artist simply asking for an in-depth critique in the thread (specific questions would be good, although there are times when one isn't quite certain what it is that's "off"), or maybe a monthly thread could be started for those who want in-depth feedback on a painting (perhaps people could limit requests for in-depth info to once a month, as such critiques take a lot of time for the critiquer) ...or?

I think part of the difficulty with the issue of critiques comes in because we are all at such different places in our growth as artists. One might be more inclined to give "pat on the back" type posts to newbies as a way of encouraging them (and everyone really needs some of those, too, don't we, no matter what our level of experience :)), until it's clear what they are looking for from the forums, while painters with a little more experience may need that extra pair of eyes to see some flaw that has become invisible (I find it's hard to see one's own painting after working on it for a while). So it's sometimes a little tricky in that respect. On a similar note, as a relative newbie here, I find myself often conflicted upon seeing a place for improvement in the painting of someone who has a lot more experience than I do. On the one hand, I think I should say something, as I would want if our positions were reversed, on the other hand, I worry that the person will think I'm being really cheeky! Perhaps we need some way of critiquing the critiquers, so we could be sure our comments are welcome! :lol:

As Peggy says, stylistic issues can make things a little more difficult too; perhaps a statement of the intent of the artist might help (for instance, one could say, "...this is intended to be a highly abstracted painting of a pear," or some such thing, that would make it clear one wasn't really concerned about precise rendering issues, or they could say, "this is my first attempt at photorealism," etc.).

There is a positive, collegial tone in the pastel forums that I would never want to lose. I find people offer their comments in a supportive and constructive tone, and even when criticism is offered, the strong points of the painting are noted also. So no matter what decision is ultimately made about the critiques, I think we should all give ourselves a pat on the back :lol: for fostering such a positive atmosphere. :)

(btw, I've also rated this thread as "excellent" because I think it's a great discussion to have)

09-19-2006, 03:27 PM
How funny, this is a subject I was just thinking about this week! I also voted for wishing I knew how to give a better critique. In general I think a lot of good advice is given here, but I think there could be more. I do know I'm not one of those who seems to have a good eye for critiquing, at least as yet. I do love having other eyes look at my stuff, as it is interesting how other people see things I'm completely blind to until brought to my attention.

But I've also seem critiques that are less than helpful too, primarily because, as Peggy said, we don't all paint in the same style. So someone might post a work that is far more impressionistic, and get critiques on how to make it more realistic - which may not even be their desire or goal!

Trying to think of examples, such as when someone posts a painting done from a reference photo, and also posts the reference photo. I've seen critiques on things like this along the lines of:
- Look carefully. The mug in your painting is much taller than the mug in the reference painting.
- The tree on the left is far more slanted in the reference painting than in your painting.
- The shadows are not nearly as long in the ref as they are in the painting.

To me these are not useful critiques, as a painting is supposed to be an interpretation of a photo, and rarely is it supposed to be a faithful reproduction. If you want it that faithful then why not just keep the photo itself! Perhaps the painter felt a taller cup filled the canvas better, and a straighter tree gave the right impression, and maybe they could only take their reference photo at noon but wanted a painting that showed late afternoon.

But useful critiques might be things like:
- You mug does not seem quite grounded to the table, perhaps you need some shadow under it.
- I'm not sure that tree is really needed for a good composition, it distracts the eye from the main focus.
- Check your shadows a bit, the one on the left seems to be angled in a different direction from all the other shadows.

Not that I'm any good at always seeing things like this myself! I tend to look at a picture and see it as a whole, and don't always notice things that others might. I'll see something I think is wonderful, and yet others will critique things that I never noticed, and when when brought to my attention they don't bother me. But I'll also see some that seem somehow "off" to me, and yet be unable to pinpoint what it is I don't like about it.

Well now that I've had my say without knowing what I'm talking about, :), I'll go check out the article on critiquing.

Kathryn Wilson
09-19-2006, 03:33 PM
Some excellent thoughts Annie and Peggy - I too have been conflicted on how I would have voted if I hadn't voted for how to learn to critique better.

Being one of the Moderators here, I am privilege to some private thoughts from members that at times have been unhappy because we tend to gloss over and make nice comments instead of really getting down to the nitty, gritty. On the other hand, there can be feelings hurt if a critique is not done in a constructive manner. To be honest, I love our friendly forum and believe me, I will fight to keep it that way, but we need to fulfill the promise of WC that we are an artist colony dedicated to helping each other grow and enjoy our gift.

My advice, think before you type and if in doubt, don't. Err on the side of caution - and backspace if you need to - :)

09-19-2006, 03:40 PM
Being one of the Moderators here, I am privilege to some private thoughts from members that at times have been unhappy because we tend to gloss over and make nice comments instead of really getting down to the nitty, gritty. On the other hand, there can be feelings hurt if a critique is not done in a constructive manner.

I would hate to think we were nothing more than a mutual admiration society too, sitting around all day patting one another on the back about how good we are. But it *is* hard because of different styles and techniques, and because we are at all difference places in our growth as artists.

Where are José's comments when we need them? Now there is a man who has mastered the technique of giving people very useful and constructive criticism, and yet always doing it in a nice way.

09-19-2006, 04:01 PM
Yea, with his pink tongue smiley:lol:

I think sometimes (i know i'm guilty) we are so worried about posting SOMETHING to a thread, that we don't take the time to really study the painting or the artist's comments, and just post something positive and move on to the next...I have tried to get away from that habit, and spend my time on the puter really "looking" at someones' work, and trying to be more attuned...I know I can't spend the time to give a whole page to each post, but as Debbie said, spend a bit of time thinking of positive suggestions..

And Peggy was spot on with the style thing, and Debbie with the photo reference..I have run into this problem several times outside the PF...your blah blah is different from the photo, too many colors, yada yada, or this was a quote I got once, "if you are painting for experimenting purposes only, and are breaking the rules, why are you asking for input"...well duh...:rolleyes:

All in all, there is a POSITIVE atmosphere, and I want to keep it that way:)

Deborah Secor
09-19-2006, 05:27 PM
Wait, wait--whoa, gang! First off, what makes us think we need to have an art education to give a legitimate response--that's what critiquing is about: responses. If you look at a painting and scratch your head because there's a part you don't understand, maybe the artist needs to know that. Kids are terrific at giving effective criticism!! They'll walk in, cock their little head, scrunch up their nose, and say 'what is that?' or lean over sideways and say 'mom, that whole building is crooked' (I received this crit one day!) or 'neat purple sky!' They're honest. I love having kids in my studio for that reason. I'm not suggesting we should all be as naive as kids and blurt out whatever comes into our heads here--that would be chaotic. But I am suggesting that you could look at my painting and ask me about the part you don't get or tell me that this one part looks a little off to you. That response alone is worth it to me. (That's what happens when I hang my work at a show... a great time to learn what's working or not, when it's framed and hanging somewhere already.)

What I'm trying to say is that we all benefit here from a wealth of different experience levels, and each one of us has a good word to say, or a good question to ask, or a legitimate response. I don't think you have to always suggest a solution to the problem, just help the artist see what needs more explanation, taking into account his or her goal. Ask what that is and then help them evaluate. I think of a critique as a time when I seek input about what's going on with my work--not a teacher to fix it, but fresh eyes to help me see better. (I have my mentor/teachers, too...that's different.)

So, my suggestion here is that we all work to offer a thought, a question, some encouragement, ideas or just simply give well thought-out comments about the paintings people offer for critiques here. Sure, there will be times when :heart: or :clap: or :thumbsup: is all we need to say, cause we've all had our socks knocked off by a painting, but...you know when that is, and when it's time to help by offering something substantial.

I agree that the reference photo thing is a problem, unless the artist is trying to achieve photorealism, however I also have to tell you that if the painting is done from a photo sometimes seeing the reference will help me understand, as the teacher, where my student is trying to go. I think maybe if we post a ref, we should be careful to let people know it isn't that we want to visually recreate it, but that we offer it for referential help. One way to do that would be to say, 'I took the shape of the hills and the trees from this, but I recomposed the foreground and recolored the sky' or 'the cup is taller in the picture but I shortened it because it made the composition more interesting to me' or whatever. I find that in certain kinds of subjects photos can be very important, such as portraits of people or animals. If you want to achieve a likeness and you're painting from a photo, you probably should show it.

I love having everyone give me an honest opinion, thought or question about my work when I post a painting. I like clappies and smiley faces as much as the next guy, but when somebody tells me that what I've done is effective BECAUSE (and tells me why) I like that even more. Not every post is going to be a full-out critique session, but I sure hope those who want a good critique will ask for it clearly, and share what they hope to learn. It's worked for a lotta folks--I've seen tremendous growth in artists here!!


09-19-2006, 08:14 PM
I'd certainly like to be able to give better critiques.

I've recieved some wonderful critiques in the OP Forum lately... by wonderful I mean constructive and showing me things I hadn't noticed myself. But there was a while that I didn't get much, and the simple reason I think was that most of the other posters at that time did animals and portraits, not landscapes. We all liked each other's paintings but probably hesitated to critique them, so it was mainly kudos. What can I say about the beautiful horse portrait except that it's beautiful? I try to be more specific about what I like about it but don't feel I know enough about the subject to offer suggestions.

The other hesitation I have in critiquing is not being sure if the poster really wants a critique. I have seen some very negative reactions to what I thought were helpful, thoughtful critiques. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Maybe some little formula would be helpful when asking for/giving a crit. Like 3 levels :1) gentle please, I'm a beginner, tell me the bits I did right; 2)medium please, I'd like some suggestions; and 3)strong please, I can take it

I wrote these suggestions for recieving a crit a while back in a different thread:

What To Do When You Don't Like Responses To Your Work

-Enjoy the useful and helpful critiques you get, and don't sweat the rest.
-If someone makes the stupidest critique you ever read:
Say thank you, and ignore it.
-If someone insists that you change something you really don't want to change:
Say thank you and ignore it.
-If someone gives you a clappy and you think clappies are soooo uncool:
They're just being encouraging. Get over it. Say thank you.
-If someone gives what you think is a mean and hurtful:
It's not about you or your art; the person is just an ass.
-If you get a vague critique when you wanted more specifics:
Ask specific questions
-If you don't want to hear anything negative:
Say so. Don't ask for a critique.

09-19-2006, 09:45 PM

I voted on the first one.
I don't quite agree with the third option. I would take the «Not helpful at all» part and would keep the rest.
Now, some considerations on how I try to critique and how I feel about critique here in the forums.
We all have our differences, but in someway we all are alike on how we behave on certain situations, namely concerning critique.
Who doesn't like to read that one's work is good ?
And of course that although we appreciate constructive critique, it's not so good to know that we didn't achieve what we wanted to. But that's a way to learn and it's part of our evolution as artists.
When I comment about a work, I can't (although I try) alienate myself completly from my aestethic preferences. Therefore a work on a style that I appreciate more will probably receive a more enthusiastic critique than another with the same quality but done in a style that I don't like so much.
Now talking more objectivelly (sp?) I try to find out how much experienced is the artist, in overall terms and in that particular medium.
I also try to understand what the artist wanted to achieve (if a simple study was intended or something more elaborated).
According to these factors I will do my best to offer a critique that may help to improve the work, either in an overall manner, either a certain part of the painting. This will depend of course on how confortable I will feel i.e. if I feel that my comment may be usefull.
I will also be «demanding» according to what I know of the artist.
If it's a beginner, I will do my best to help the artists while keeping his/her confidence. I think that encouraging is important, as is a honest critique.
If the artist is a good one ( like Dianna for insteance), then you better be prepared because I will be DEMANDING.... :-)
I do think that I learn alot here with critiques.

Best regards,


Nancy Leone
09-21-2006, 10:08 AM
I voted that I wish I knew how to give a better critique.
Just reading through this thread has helped me with ideas of how to critique even without having that professional painter's eye.
I find critiquing on-line to be much more difficult than in a class or in person. It's hard to read people on-line....I'm more fearful of hurting someones feelings. Having said that, I understand why there are often more kudos given than constructive crits but would prefer, personally, for my work, more serious critiques.

09-21-2006, 06:21 PM
Hi I voted that the critiques are helpful. The times when i have had work out the comments were very instructional.I wish that my critiques could have been more so though.

Pat Isaac
09-23-2006, 06:07 PM
I guess I tend to agree with Wendy as far as critiques go. For myself I would like stronger critiques sometimes, but I realize now that I need to be more specific in asking. I think that is really the clue. What do you really want in a critique? Ask. I think Jose has a good approach and hopefully we all try to think of these parameters when we critique. In my years of teaching, I always tried to say something positive first and then make suggestions as to where they could improve. The suggestions were always based on the ability of the students and I think that might be a good approach here.


09-24-2006, 12:55 PM
I've found the critiques here very helpful. I like to get insight on how others see things even if I don't agree with their opinion (doesn't happen often here). Everyone here is so nice & tactful when they are critiquing. I like the goal of really critiquing at least one post a day when we feel time-pressured instead of trying to comment on several. I do feel I can use help in how to critique.
When I was a beginner, I only felt encouraged & helped. When I look back on that I'm amazed. I wish I knew more how to critique a beginner & am grateful we've got some good teachers to help with those. On the other side, sometimes I do give accolades to some of the better painters because I'm not at a level to always see something to improve in their work. We do need lots of all levels to be able to provide good critiques to everyone.
Don't be afraid to critique anyone's work but do think & consider before hitting the button to post.

09-28-2006, 10:26 AM
I guess I tend to agree with Wendy as far as critiques go. For myself I would like stronger critiques sometimes, but I realize now that I need to be more specific in asking. I think that is really the clue. What do you really want in a critique? Ask.

For the most part I think I would like stronger critiques too. I think it would help me grow as an artist. That's why I generally post "C&C welcome" on the paintings I post.

But because I'm not very good at critiquing myself, I'm not very good at asking either. I might not know what sort of specific things to ask about. Or even if I think I do, I've also had critiques that have pinpointed things I thought were perfectly fine - and would never have even thought of asking about!

09-29-2006, 02:42 PM
I feel like I have really been helped tremendously by comments, especially when I get concrete info about what's wrong. Sometimes after working for hours on a piece, I can't be objective anymore. On the other hand, I don't feel that I am able to give good critiques to anyone, so I rarely do, because I am pretty much flying by the seat of my pants. Other than saying how much I like or appreciate someone's efforts, I won't give detailed critiques until I know more what I am doing and have a better understanding.

09-30-2006, 11:16 AM
What a great discussion. There have been some super points made here.
I feel I have grown tremendously from WC because of the critiques here. Yes, there have been times I realize after people aretelling me what is wrong that what I really wanted was for everyone to tell me how wonderful the painting was...but in the end it usually turned out you all were right and it still needed work. It is hard to take at first but in the end well worth it.
It is hard sometimes to give it well because you don't always know the person. You don't know exactly what they are expecting from the critique and what their level is. On the other hand, things like basic composition and drawing are well...pretty basic. That is something I had to learn here, especially the composition. TO be honest, the issue of color is not usually a big one for me because I know that you don't know what other people are seeing and it is a highly personal choice...of couse peoples' response to it is important but it probably will not be "wrong" in any case. The value may be, but that you can see no matter what. Again, something I had to learn here.
I do know we have said that unless someone specifically asks for C&C we should not offer any and that seems to work. Maybe we could have a special section for those who want a "full force critique"...just a thought.
I also will say that I have learned from reading other peoples' criqitues...I mean about their paintings. Sometimes I think something looks fine and then after the higher ups point things out I realize there was something wrong.
Also, sometimes I look at something and it doesn't feel right to me but I honestly am not sure what is wrong.
I also try, no matter what I think, if I am going to comment at all I say something positive.
All that said, the truth is, it all takes time and when I am busy (as I have been for the last few weeks) I tend to not come to WC at all or just ocme and look and not say anything because I would rather do it properly than just quickly post something meaningless...even if I mean to be encouraging.
Whew! Long winded as usual! But...it is something that requires a lot of wind, I think!
Excelllent thread, Kat!


Katherine T
10-01-2006, 02:22 PM
Fascinating discussion - and I'm rating this thread as I think it's one which will bear revisiting in the future.

I haven't voted yet and have had a few thoughts but I'd like to organise them a bit more before posting them.

However I wondered if any of you had seen the posting guidelines (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28315) that Scott (the original owner of WC) issued in relation to the structured critiques forum (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=86) which forms part of of the Critique Centre (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/channels.php?s=&channel_id=12). I think the summary note to critiquers towards the end is a rather neat way of expressing what a number of you have been saying in terms of how to offer a robust critique in a friendly way.

Posting Guidelines: Structured Critiques Forum

The purpose of this forum is to provide a place that is "kudo-free", for people who desire to focus on serious critique of their works. A "kudo" response is where someone simply says "great job", and nothing more. If you are looking for this type of feedback (nothing wrong with that!), please visit either the WC! Gallery forum or the "Open Critiques" forum. Be sure to read the posting guidelines in those forums before posting! :)

Like the "open critiques" forum, it, too uses the new posting form for starting new threads (the link is the same, so just click on the "New Thread" button like always). The big difference here is that not all members can post replies to threads in this forum. Only those members who have agreed to the site standards for the structured critiques forum will be allowed to respond to critique requests. Becoming a registered critiquer is easy, you simply read the guidelines on the signup page, check the "I agree" box, and submit the form - at that point, you can respond to posts in this forum.

When we say "registered critiquers", we don't mean some sort of "elite" pool of people who somehow have been granted magical critiquing powers (lol). This just means the group of members here who have agreed to the structured guidelines of this forum, and who have opted to participate as a "registered critiquer". As with anything, there is good and bad - so you may, indeed, get what you, or others, consider to be a "bad" or "inaccurate" critique. A critique is an opinion, and nothing more. We want to foster as many angles and viewpoints as possible - we just want to create a more structured environment to facilitate the process.

Remember, by posting your art in the Structured Critiques Forum, you are openly asking for serious critique of your work. You won't get a bunch of "great job!" posts here. You will be asking for fellow artists to provide their insights as to the positives AND negatives of your work. Keep this in mind when posting! As mentioned earlier in this post, if you don't want to open yourself up to this type of feedback, you are in the wrong forum!

When you receive constructive feedback, please make an effort to "receive" it as such. Posting an image for critique here, and then coming unglued because someone offers constructive criticism, will not help you make many friends. Too much of this, and you risk the removal of your account. If you feel that someone is blatently bashing your work, please report the post to a moderator (by clicking on the link with the same name).

Finally, please refrain from cross-posting the same image in multiple critique forums. Find the forum that is right for you, and call it home. Cross-posting images all over the place just adds unnecessary confusion to an already busy site. :)

To become a registered critiquer:

Click Here! (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../Critiques/signup.php)

Note to Critiquers:

No kudo-only posts! All responses posted by a registered critique member should always contain some form of instructional, educational, and/or constructive feedback regarding the piece(s) posted. So-called "kudo" posts are not allowed (i.e. "great job!", and nothing else). A critique must point out a few things done well and why they are done well. The critique should also point out the biggest improvements (a few) that you think can be acheived and why you think so.

Each response should be posted in a tone that is in keeping with the friendly atmosphere of this site as a whole. Please use the proper decorum and comport yourself properly when posting your comments. Blatently lambasting another's art is not permitted. If you don't have anything constructive to offer, then simply refrain from posting.

We all want to hear what you have to say, but there is a way to do it appropriately and constructively, and a way that is wholly unproductive. Any member who blatently lambasts another person's art will be subject to a warning, and possibly a ban from this site. You have been warned!



10-01-2006, 03:36 PM
I think this forum has very good crits. Specific suggestions of what might be tried to improve, but no trying to influence folks to a particular style or palette.

10-12-2006, 07:55 PM
Critiques are so valuable to all of us....all points of view are helpful, whether we use the suggestions or not. Each suggestion I get makes me look at my paintings in a different way, which is GREAT...I just wish more people would do it......

10-16-2006, 12:12 AM
Can we have our own "kudos-free" zone just for pastels? I always feel like a witch when I offer real criticism after going through two pages of people saying "gosh! congratulations!!" and leaving it at that. I recently got a nice PM from someone who said I was the only person who said anything constructive, and the thing I pointed out to her was something she had overlooked but had the capacity to fix.

10-16-2006, 03:38 PM
I don't think it should be "kudo free"....we all need "attagirls/guys" to help us through...as well of constructive criticism..

10-16-2006, 04:31 PM
I didn't vote in the poll, and my comments here reflect my thoughts as a Wetcanvas member, and not as a Moderator. (I don't moderate here in the Pastel forums.)

I have mixed feelings about critiques in the WC forums in general (aside from the "Critique" forums). I can't help but feel it is extremely rude to criticize somebody's work who didn't even ask for it. We'd never walk up to an artist who was displaying their work in a 'real' gallery and start picking it apart. So when someone posts their piece in this cyber gallery, I don't feel right offering critiques unless it is requested. Artists have many differing reasons for posting paintings here, and the desire for critiques is only one of them.

Even when someone asks for a critique, sometimes I give one and sometimes I don't. Why should anybody be obligated to give critiques? Very often, my likes or dislikes of a work may just be a matter of personal taste regarding style and color choices. I can't help but feel, "Who am I to be telling this person how to paint?" I'd usually rather tell them what speaks positively to me in a painting than to tell them they need to change something in order to satisfy me.

Peggy brought up another issue regarding our monitors, which are all so different. Critiques often focus on issues of values and colors that may not even be the way they look in the real painting.

Then there is the issue of size. When we look at an image of a 5x7 painting, we are seeing it at the same size as an 18x24. Seeing the 18x24 reduced in size makes it appear farther away, like it would in a gallery setting. Seeing the 5x7 on the screen presents the "in your face" view that you get when your nose is up against a piece. So the detail expressed and the way it all comes together appears totally different.

Then there is the whole "photo reference" issue of trying to get a painting to look like the photo, and what can be done to achieve that goal. Welllllll....Don't get me started on that one! ;)

Sometimes I ask for critiques, and sometimes I don't. I always try to be gracious about whatever is said, for better or for worse! Sometimes I just want to pursue my own style and ideas, and really don't want advice from others who aren't even seeing the painting in person and whose monitors may show a very different result from what is in front of me.

The bottom line is.....I think this forum is one of the very best forums on Wetcanvas, and it is because of the members here. Everybody is so nice and welcoming and encouraging, and they all try so hard to help one another. Sometimes I work in pastels just so that I can be a part of this forum from time to time! That's the truth...I really love the members here. I don't see anything "broken" here at all, so I'd be reluctant to "fix" it. :D


10-16-2006, 05:39 PM
IMO, if there was a Kudos-free zone, people would be more inclined to give their critique (becasue they know the artist really wants it, they aren't just looking for positive strokes). And, the critic would not stick out like a sore thumb for doing it - it is not a nice feeling to be the one person in 20 who says "um, did you mean for the perspective to be quite so wonky?" Also, I'd be interesting in reading other critiques, and would like to do it without having to wade through pages of "attagirl/guy".

Perhaps we could have a kudos-free forum and a kudos-allowed zone, and the artist can post to whichever they choose.

I don't think it should be "kudo free"....we all need "attagirls/guys" to help us through...as well of constructive criticism..

Pat Isaac
10-16-2006, 05:59 PM
I'm throwing in my 2cents worth again. I thinks that you kind of have to realize where the person who posts is coming from. Having been an art teacher in the public system for 30 years, encouragement is always good, but not without some constructive comment. For newbies, I think it is really nice to give some kudos and then some ways to improve and for the others, quite frankly, I think that we can all improve, as that is what makes us grow as artists and I don't see any harm in offering constructive comments. Artists know what that is and they can agree to take the advice or not. The only time not to is if you think the person really doesn't want and feedback.
Am I out in left field here?


10-16-2006, 08:59 PM
You are definately not out in left field! I agree with your thoughts. Maybe I've expressed myself poorly. Actually, I can't improve on the guidelines set out by the guy who set up the structured critique forum - no kudos-only posts.

Basically, I think the pats on the head are handed out so automatically and reflexively that they are meaningless, and they gum up the works.

Deborah Secor
10-16-2006, 10:22 PM
I think you have a point, Marie, in that there are some artists who sometimes want 'hard critiques' instead of merely pats on the back. There's nothing wrong with either desire, of course, but we have to ASK for a helpful critique if that's what we want. I think our policy generally has been as Jamie mentioned, to be freindly and helpful but not to offer hard critiques unless someone specifically asks for it.

I've certainly come into a thread on the second or third day and wished I could have said my piece a bit sooner, since there are now three pages of 'ooohs' and 'ahhhhs' and clappies. But, as was mentioned, you can always send a nice PM offering a snippet of advice, just to see if the poster wants more.

Early in my time here I posted a painting and many of the people coming in were very complimentary. One of the professionals here approached me via PM with a critique that I really needed, wanted and appreciated, and she was so gentle and respectful in her offer that I was pleased to receive it. She didn't want to offend me in public (not knowing for sure how touchy I might be), nor did she want to miss the opportunity to help me, so she simply sent a PM. I asked her to post her helpful advice in the thread for the benefit of all, and I think it worked out well for everyone. I try to do the same thing from time to time, if it seems really helpful.

I also know that many of our members PM one another to ASK them to go in and comment on a painting, if they have time, just so they can get the ball rolling. That seems like a pretty effective way to work things out, too, once you're acquainted here, and it certainly frees you to give a good hard critique (and you can always say, "since you asked...")

We've talked a bit in this thread about the idea of symbols or ratings or some such thing to indicate your level, none of which I think would be really effective. (Too many newbies...) However, couldn't we make it a policy not to give a hard critique unless someone specfically and clearly asks, and respect it if someone wants theirs to be a 'kudos-free' thread? I mean, I don't think anyone would be offended if I came in and said, "I need a good, hard critique of this painting. Although I appreciate your kind words, I'd appreciate it much more if this time you'd just stick to telling me what you think works and why, or what doesn't work and why."

We've also all see the threads titled 'help please', or some variation thereupon, which always frees us to offer the help that's pleaded for! So all of us could take that into consideration when titling a thread.

Just some thoughts we might all consider...


10-16-2006, 11:50 PM
One of the points I'm trying to make (and obviously not doing well!) is that if there was less fluff and more critique, everyone wins, because we can all learn from a good critique of someone else's painting. Using PMs prevents this wider learning. And, for me, the pages and pages of clappies does as well, because I'm not patient enough to wade through them to see if someone has said something substantive.

10-17-2006, 01:39 PM
Well I'm not sure I'm all for a "kudos-free" zone. Even the worst paintings usually have something to commend them, and I agree with the idea of trying to say at least *one* nice thing. Even when you genuinely want honest critiques you probably, in your inmost heart, are hoping the critiques will not be "this painting stinks" (exageration of course, no one on WC would ever say that).

But perhaps we need a convention when posting something to the SPS - such as adding the word "Critique" to the subject line, or "Please Critique". Then people will be prepared when they open the post.

And it would help if posters have an idea of what they want critiqued - colors, composition, perspective, etc. But I admit I'm utterly rotten about that.

I know I've gotten "attagirls only" on paintings of mine I didn't think were especially good - and I do always wonder if I just don't have an objective view of my own work, or if everyone was just being kind. :D

Katherine T
10-17-2006, 04:49 PM
I think one of the difficulties which arises is that none of the WC forums (with the exception of the critique centre) are set up in such a way that it's easy to separate out:
display only and happy clappies / encourage only please
wishing to improve but newbie/nervous - support and help please
serious improvement is the aim - serious critique only pleaseIt would be nice to have icons to signal what's required - but we don't have them so we're stuck with people remembering to say what sort of response they want.

Frankly I don't have enough spare time to do the first for people anymore - but do recognise that this is what some people want and there should be a place for it. But maybe people wanting to be treated in this way need to indicate this?

I guess people who are serious about wanting to improve won't have any difficulty asking for serious crits. And again, maybe they too should ask for the serious crit.

The difficulty then lies in the middle - which is the vast bulk of threads - and what is the appropriate response. I must confess I don't tend to do many (any?) serious crits in this forum as I always tend to come late to posts by which time there are typically lots of happy clappie kudos type comments - which makes saying anything else rather difficult.

I've always tended to assume that people generally want to improve and wouldn't post here if they didn't. But I could be wrong. I don't see what's wrong with people responding to a new thread being very specific in saying what is good about a piece and very specific about anything which looks weak to you - hedged about if necessary with all the normal caveats re screens etc. Actually working at crits is one of the things which helps people to improve - so it helps the person giving the crit just as much as it might help the person being critiqued.

I think a general principle of find at least one good thing to say about any work - and then make constructively phrased comments about any weaker aspects (and you don't have to comment on all) is a sound principle for helping people to think and evaluate and promoting learning generally.

A year ago I was involved in founding a peer group of artists. One of the benefits of doing this was that we could eliminate all kudos crits and give each other much harder hitting crits out of the public eye - and I think we all consider we've improved much faster as a result. Just a thought.

10-17-2006, 05:37 PM
One of the points I'm trying to make (and obviously not doing well!) is that if there was less fluff and more critique, everyone wins, because we can all learn from a good critique of someone else's painting. Using PMs prevents this wider learning. And, for me, the pages and pages of clappies does as well, because I'm not patient enough to wade through them to see if someone has said something substantive.

Okay, as I've said I agree there could be more substantive critiquing, but I'd like to say a good word for the "clappies" as well. All right, maybe they don't improve one's art but I think they serve a good purpose. I think they help build a sense of "community" and I think a sense of community has helped me as much as critiques, just because it makes me feel part of a wider artistic community - something I don't get anywhere else, at least not on any sort of regular basis!

I've been a member of WC now for about a year and a half. I've never met any other WCers in person, but I feel I "know" so many of you from your posts here, and a lot of the "clappy" posts are ones that give me a sense of you as fellow people and artists.

And since I'm a pastelist I feel the Pastels forums are my "community". I don't have enough hours in the day to spend with multiple communities, so I gravitate here. I *don't* go to the structured critiques forums, not because I dont' want structured critiques - but because those people are strangers to me. They don't know me or my style or what I want to accomplish, and I'm not always articulate in being able to explain.

But I would be happy to get critiques for every painting I post. I admit to being one of the "clappy" posters much of the time. I guess I don't have a well-developed critical eye and if I love something I want to say so, and often don't see its flaws. Then someone comes along and points something out about it, and I'll say to myself "wow, I never evened noticed that". However sometimes people have always posted critiques and I'll think "gee, that doesn't bother me a bit, In fact I LIKE what the person did."

I recall one thread where someone posted three paintings and asked for critiques - and got some very detailed ones - and every single person all seemed to think the first painting was best compositionally, and number three the weakest. Yet I didn't especially like the first painting very much, and absolutely loved the third one. It was a complete emotional reaction. I could see the "flaws" the critiquers were pointing out, but I still loved it. So I'm never confident about critiquing. It was like my voice teacher, who says an emotional and heartfelt performance with a few mistakes will move people more than a technically flawless performance that has no heart. But that is still not a license to goof off and not try your best. :D

I've learned from critiques too. I remember once when Deborah critiqued a landscape I had done, and said my reflected clouds in the water did not match the clouds in the sky, and suggested I turn the picture sideways so I could see the clouds and the reflections to the right and left. Well what a wonderful trick that was, and I had never heard of it! Maybe it's common knowledge to experienced artists, but it was a wonderful new tip for me. So I do love to read critiques of my own work and others.

Maybe I'll just have to start adding that PLEASE CRITIQUE thing in my subject lines. :D But I thank everyone for the clappies too!

10-17-2006, 08:48 PM
i loved katherine T's post. and i agree with debbie c. that i also seldom go to the crit. forum cuz i am 'home' here--and here the ppl know pastel as well as knowing me (as much as online-ly possible!) i made the mistake of adding a soft crit. to someone in another forum--and got myself chewed out good for it! so i visit other forums, but hesitate to post in any but 2-3 tops.

for myself, i think if i am ready for a stiffer crit., and i have really been wanting that on many occasions, i will simply post that in the title or in the post itself, making myself very clear on the issue. i think that would be the most simple solution--each person can ask for, with only a few words, what level of crit. they are ready for. and if they dont' ask, don't go there, they may not be ready! and that's ok too. and with any crit. by any person, its only their opinion--the artist can take or leave. i think this forum is honest and open and friendly enough that anyone critiqued should know its only meant in the best of ways!

10-18-2006, 12:17 AM
Debbie, that's terrific! I think it's just a great idea to have a convention like that; just like we use "WIP" in titles, we could use something like HCP (Hard Critique, Please), or SFR (Serious Feedback Requested). So we might have a title like "Three Apples, WIP-SFR" and that would tell people even before they opened the thread what the artist was looking for. Or if we always want that, maybe we could just add it to our signature line (I've added "C&C Welcome").

I'd like to add that sometimes I'm looking for both encouragement and a serious critique, and I wouldn't be surprised to find many artists here who feel the same. I'm new enough to all this that I really do benefit from the encouragement, but at the same time, I'm not certain that I am seeing everything, so I want the sort of feedback that I know I need in order to improve.

In offering a critique myself, I usually try the "sandwich" approach, and put anything negative between a layer of positive at the beginning and another one at the end. The positive cushions on both ends make anything in the middle easier to take. :)

BTW, when a person says "comments welcome" is that the same as C&C welcomed, or are they saying that they don't want a critique? I had presumed the former, but now I'm not so certain...

Terry Wynn
10-18-2006, 12:57 AM
I think my first post in this forum I was told to go read some books. I had valid questions and the poster was more than blunt. Needless to say, I post rarely in this forum since that time.


10-18-2006, 07:06 AM
Basically, I think the pats on the head are handed out so automatically and reflexively that they are meaningless, and they gum up the works.

I disagree on this part. My other forum (where I'm also a guide, AMAE and the Weekend Drawing Events) is heavy on the kudos, and crits are not to be given unless specifically requested. Over the years we have had many testimonials about how encouraging this has been to beginners, and how it has helped them grow and improve their skills.
A kudo is at the very least an acknowledgement that one has made an effort; it says, hey, I took a look at your effort, good for you, thanks for sharing it. Posting an image, having 67 looks and no comments is generally an unpleasant experience. If I see a horse portrait and can't think of any crit to give because I don't know much about the subject I can still let the poster know I appreciate it.

Some posters request no kudos-only posts, and that's fine. If we want strong crits we can request them. If I put "crits wanted" in my title I generally get them, and if there are some kudos in there too, fine, it's nice to be acknowledged too.

10-18-2006, 08:09 AM
I think my first post in this forum I was told to go read some books. I had valid questions and the poster was more than blunt. Needless to say, I post rarely in this forum since that time.

Terry, do you mean in the pastel forum, here? I find that hard to believe. It may have been someone who does not generally post here because this particular forum is usually one of the gentlest ones around. It's not that you can't get some excellent help, but people are not usually unkind.
I'm really sorry if that happened to you!


Terry Wynn
10-18-2006, 11:27 AM
I apologize to those who posted with encouragement on my initial post. Many were very gracious and helpful so it was my own self-doubt at the time that made it seem harsh to me.


10-19-2006, 11:31 AM
So much has been said that is really great in this thread!
For me, this online community is really first and foremost a connection with others who love the art world as much as I do. It's rare I get to connect each and every day with a fellow artist in my every day life....and to pop in here and read a few posts here and there makes me feel connected. I don't usually have a larger agenda than that. Do I want a hard or soft critique or none at all? I will indicate specifically in my future posts (hope it's soon!!!!!!) and I usually have requested critiques happily anyway. But, the connection and sharing with everyone is most important to me rather than my work being critiqued...but, again, I certainly don't mind any critiques!!! If I post a thread, it could be as simple as that I am excited to share art with like artists, that I've actually painted recently...or it certainly could be that I need some help.. which I need to indicate. Just another viewpoint on why people gather in places.

And I like the idea of 3 levels if the artist is really needing a specific type of commenting/critique style:
Newbie: just clappies and nice comments please.
Intermediate: gentle sandwiched critiques like AnnieA suggested.
Your Eyes Needed: a hard critique with which still can be tempered with softness.
If someone wants a hard critique with no clappies to be found whatsoever, you gotta post that...maybe call that the 4th level: Extreme Critique.

No one completely knows in these forums what level the thread poster is wanting, the thread poster really has to be specific in wording what they are truly looking for. There could be guidelines to follow that are set up and sitting at the top of the forum in a sticky but do many newbies read guidelines? I didn't. I jumped right in here without reading any intro threads. But newcomers could sense right away in titles of threads how to post if there was a titling standard in place.

Could this work? Could we specify in our title threads what is requested?
OR.....does this alienate people even more? Instead of everyone taking a chance on looking at a thread and deciding by reading whether or not they want to comment, they don't ever open the thread because it's not the type of thread they wish to be a part of, thereby missing an opportunity to view some great work and connecting with all of the forum people.

Terry was feeling a bit off from her first thread here but no one can read everyone's written word with total understanding of their perception because we can't see the person's body language, the smile on the face, the soft voice perhaps, the intended good intent, the gentleness with which they are offering advice. Harshness can be interpreted where there is none intended. Terry, you are gracious to offer this example and the pastel forums are better for your presence. Thank you for frequenting here.

I appreciate good hard critiques...I had this training in my schooling and I thoroughly enjoyed it because everyone was free to "SEE" and voice what their eyes and mind saw as an area to perhaps alter for the better, IF! the artist didn't intend that area to live just as that way for their personal artistic expression. Even if it was an area that wasn't open to critique in the artist's mind, we heard what someone else saw and perceived and were able to take those opinions into our minds and think about them anyway. More often than not, after a critiquing session, an area was changed by the artist later that was first not open to change for them. And we all knew that we would be the critiquer and the critiqued so no one felt singled out and exposed alone...there was no sense of negativity about the very informative learning exercise of critiquing.

Debbie, I really like your work and have commented that sentiment often because your work is interesting and different and not a totally realistic style which makes it so very interesting for me. My positive clappies are not meant to give you a pat on the back ONLY because I think you need it... or because I don't know what else to say... or because I just want to add to my total number of posts (for whatever reasons people need to do that for). :) It's because I saw your work and wanted to express recognition and positivity because I wanted to. Most of the time I usually post what it is I like about the work, but if not, my clappies still hold merit with who I am as a person.

About people's threads and responses to them:
Not trying to hijack this thread but I need to say that many times I am on here for no more than 10 minutes and I don't get time to respond to everyone's threads which bothers me...I enjoy reading and viewing so much here but there is not enough time in the day these days. I think that sometimes it's hurtful to a newbie who might wonder why someone responded to 3 theads above theirs but didn't respond to their thread. I hope it can be understood that the intent is not to ignore so much of the time....there's just not enough time to go around at times! :)

I think this is not an easy subject to resolve to everyone's satisfaction but it's a fascinating exploration on human nature and perception. Thanks for sharing all your views!!

10-22-2006, 05:02 PM
adding two more cents to this....(does that make it four and is that allowed?)...... I thought when you posted your painting, you did it for the sole purpose of feedback? I welcome all comments... I hope that no one on WC would look at a painting that was posted, and for lack of anything else to say they say good job!!! A good critique should have constructive criticism with positive notes as well... (Marie that is what I thought I said before, I am sorry if you misunderstood me.)... I do agree that PM's do not allow us to learn from other's critiques, but understand why some have the need for that as well.....different strokes for different folks.... I could never set up the rules here, to many people, to may ideas, to many personalities, So----- KUDOS TO ALL THAT DO!!!

Deborah Secor
10-22-2006, 10:56 PM
I also know that many of our members PM one another to ASK them to go in and comment on a painting, if they have time, just so they can get the ball rolling. That seems like a pretty effective way to work things out, too, once you're acquainted here, and it certainly frees you to give a good hard critique (and you can always say, "since you asked...")I'm quoting myself here, but it was the easiest way to reiterate what I meant when I mentioned PMs. I also said that another member PMed me with good advice and ASKED if it was acceptable to post it in the thread so all can see.

I thought when you posted your painting, you did it for the sole purpose of feedback?
We can't assume that posting a painting means the person wants a critique. A little over 5% of the people responding to this poll (currently) say they do not want to give or receive a critique!

I could never set up the rules here, to many people, to may ideas, to many personalitiesThe Moderators and Guides here have to set up some guidelines, and it IS hard with so many different people, as you note, but that's a good portion of why Kat and Kate suggested this thread. We want to get everyone's thoughts and input so that we can post effective guidelines that work for the members who visit here. :)


Katherine T
10-23-2006, 05:45 AM
We can't assume that posting a painting means the person wants a critique. A little over 5% of the people responding to this poll (currently) say they do not want to give or receive a critique!
Dee - another way of looking at it is that 95% of people do want a critique

I do think part of the problem really does lie with the way WC is set up. So far as I am aware there is no common policy or statement which a new user or any existing member can refer to which says:
this is why we have this forum
this is what you can expect
if you want this to happen this is what you need to doInstead somehow or other people who may visit more than one forum on a regular basis (and there are maybe more of us than the owners/Moderators realise) are expected to somehow divine and understand the unique and individual way in which each forum is run (or not run as the case maybe be).

In some there are definite "rules" but you need to know where to look to find out what they are

In others "the way we do things around here" seems to vary depending on the forum.

Bottom line it's all very confusing..........which is especially unfortunate as there are different styles and ways of behaving/communicating in different states/countries all around the world. Some place a premium on politeness at all costs while others emphasise direct and simple communication. Which does lead, on occasion, to misunderstandings and problems in communication especially when since there are no common expectations that are clearly communicated and pretty much consistently applied around the place.

The Moderators and Guides here have to set up some guidelines, and it IS hard with so many different people, as you note, but that's a good portion of why Kat and Kate suggested this thread. We want to get everyone's thoughts and input so that we can post effective guidelines that work for the members who visit here. :)
So can anybody explain to me why Moderators of individual forums need to set up guidelines in the first place?

Why can't WC have a general policy on what any member can usually expect when you post a piece of art - and for that to be reiterated in each and every forum - along with some common codes of conduct about critiquing. A simple message which is regularly and consistently promoted around the whole of WC is most likely to be adhered to in terms of actual practice. If we actually had that then some of the 'spats' concerning critiques that I have seen around WC as a whole (and which have occasionally erupted in Pastels) would be easier to avoid.

It seems to me that:
95% of members in this forum do expect a crit of some sort (and the debate is about how to communicate clearly how nice/tough that should be)
members would be more confident about giving constructive crits in public if there was more active promotion and sharing of good practice in critiquing - which personally for me means in the forum and not in PMs
it would be very helpful to promote a simple and consistent message around WC about about what all WC members can expect when they post a piece of art in any forum and what the good practices are for critiquing.How about, for example, "We're all here to learn and improve and support each other with constructive criticism"? Backed up by a common statement which is top sticky in each forum explaining what this means?

10-23-2006, 08:33 AM
Scott originally created WC for beginning artists to learn and share together, and some accomplished artists also liked the atmosphere and became involved. I don't think it's only about critiques here; it's more a community of people with common interests. There are other forums with a strong emphasis on critiquing- this one's gentler I guess, and maybe that's why we have over 90,000 members.
I don't see much point in having every WC sub-forum conform to one rigid set of rules, since they don't all have a uniform focus and intent, nor should they IMO. Plein air and the AMAE are cases in point.
It's easy enough to ask for a strong crit if you want one. Even then we've seen right here in this thread how what appears to be friendly and supportive advice to some can be interpreted by others as insensitive and unkind.

10-23-2006, 10:33 AM
There are other forums with a strong emphasis on critiquing- this one's gentler I guess, and maybe that's why we have over 90,000 members..

Wow, over 90,000 members?? I had no idea. Obviously there must be a lot who don't post very often, :lol:. But even if only 5% post regularly (which I understand is a fairly common percentage for most online groups and lists) that's still 4500 people. Quite a lot! I admit I like our "gentler" aspect. Not that I don't want or appreciate critiques. I've gotten some excellent ones just in the last day on a pretty messed-up painting I just did, and am hoping to try to rescue. But it's the "gentler" aspect that makes this more of a community for me.

Others have said this is the place to come and interact with other artists, and it is for me too. I *never* really get to interact with other artists outside WC. Without WC I would be floundering in a vacuum, might even have given up pastels altogether just from a sense of isolation. I certainly feel I've improved much more than I ever would have strictly on my own. Even without critiques I have learned so much just looking at others' paintings and get a sense of the variety of wonderful things that can be accomplished with pastels. It's all encouraged me to stretch my wings and try different things .

It's easy enough to ask for a strong crit if you want one. Even then we've seen right here in this thread how what appears to be friendly and supportive advice to some can be interpreted by others as insensitive and unkind.

Very true, and just adding "please critique" to the subject line of my most recent post to the SPS has resulted in some wonderful suggestions. But, again, if someone posts a picture and just says something like "here is my latest" I assume they just want to show something, and I would not even attempt to offer a critique. But if I really liked the picture I'd want to say that too.

And I do think we have to consider where the original poster is on their art journey - if we can! I know we don't always know. Someone can be a "newbie" here yet have been a pastelist for years and years, or perhaps an artist in another medium. Or they can be like me when I started - someone who had essentially done nothing with art since junior high school.

I've seen other newbies who were truly new to the art world come and go in the 18 months I've been here. I always wonder why people leave. Did they give up art? Did they get bored with WC? Did they get sick of the computer? I just hope none were scared off. But I would hope not here. I've seen strong critiques here in the pastel forums, but never a harsh one.

But that can depend on where you are on your art journey too. I'm sure my skin is much thicker now that it was 18 months ago when I was a newbie, and was almost sick to my stomach at the thought of posting one of my paintings for others to look at!

Katherine T
10-23-2006, 12:00 PM
I don't see much point in having every WC sub-forum conform to one rigid set of rules, since they don't all have a uniform focus and intent, nor should they IMO. Plein air and the AMAE are cases in point.I'm not sure - are people suggesting that WC needs to be kept loose and uncoded because a minority need some flexibility? That's one way of looking at it - but IMO I'm not sure it's very consumer oriented for the majority.

I think I may be suggesting a different perspective to other members - and I do realise it applies to WC as a whole rather than just this forum - but I do think it is one worth thinking about and potential benefits for a wider number of members. I guess it depends on whether you want to go for a state or a federal approach! ;)I'm going pursue this line of thought for just a little while longer to see if there are maybe some others for whom this position has some meaning. If not I'm going to go shut up - so please bear with me! ;)

The bottom line for me is that it's unlikely that an artist can improve unless s/he develops evaluative skills and then actively practices these skills once acquired - on their own work or the work of others.
Developing evaulative skills starts from receiving criticism and moves on to giving it to others.
Having to think about how to crit the pieces of other people helps to develop your own critical faculties.Maybe if people are not interested in evaluation - of their own pieces or those of other people - then they're also unlikely to be interested in improvement of their own artwork per se - hence my question about what is the main focus of WC and its forums.

I've noticed that forums which are just 'show and tell' places seem to fail to attract the more accomplished artists or lose them pretty fast. And maybe that might just be one of the reasons why people leave WC?

Don't most of the WC forums have pretty much the same focus? Isn't this that most participants of most forums include:
a few people who are complete newbies
lots of improvers who want to learn how to do better - and who would benefit from both receiving and participating in evaluative practice
a few people who are very accomplished and don't mind sharing their time and their skills in producing art and delivering good critical evaluationSeems to me that the general principle should be that the forums which aren't the same as most WC forums (eg plein Air ie all painting to be from life and no crits unless asked for) should be the people who need to explain the difference - as indeed they already do. A uniform statement could then exist - and be widely promoted across all forums - about of the basics about:
why WC and this particular forum (eg pastels) exist
what benefits a member can expect to get out of participating in the forum
what to do: how/why to post work
what to expect re members comments and criticism
a brief reminder about how every member is expected to behaveParticipation in most forums around WC would then become much easier for most people.

Alternatively, maybe the media forums need to focus on the newbies and improvers and there should be another forum for people who want serious crits (as indeed there is but it's not very well used and certainly does not seem to be seen to be the sort of place where people aspire to place their art for a crit eg when did any of you last post any work there?). For me - the point at the end of the day is that most art stands or falls as piece of art - not as a work in a particular medium. A good work in pastel is one that can sit alongside quality work in oil or acrylic or watercolour and look very good - its the way it works in most galleries!

As an aside, I think there might also be a case for there being a 'beginners' forum on WC where general and overarching principles to do with art could be 'taught' and promoted - and where loads of encouraging noises can be made. This might then have the benefit of reducing the number of times the "same old same old" bits of advice (re composition / use of values / etc) need to be trotted out by more experienced artists in various forums across WC when work is commented on - because often some of the basics of art have not been grasped by newbies before people start to work with their media of choice.

(PS 90,000 might be the number of people who have registered over time but that is nothing like the number who have posted in the last year never mind those who visit on a regular basis. The latter is probably much more like the 500-1,500 members who are online at any one time - see the Home Page top left for more details. Of course there are many more who just lurk and never register - but they are watchers not members)

10-23-2006, 02:54 PM
With a more rigid rules structure for posting any work or comments, it feels like WC might become a school/college atmosphere instead of my current perception of it... which is likeminded artistic souls gathering together whenever they can during their free time for basic human comraderie and sharing and yes, constructive crits when asked for. I think more strict enforcement of rules could easily be more successful in a setting like an online college/schooling, especially if there are paying "students" who would know they had to adhere to such guidelines or risk monetary loss.
If I am going to break rules because I post the wrong kind of response here and there, will I be chastised or my comments deleted and will the moderators/guides then take on the care of the many people who will not follow these exact rules?
I think the current style of WC is great and I would hesitate to bring about more strict rules for participation because then I think alot of people who are shy or are just starting out in their artistic exploration might not ever feel strong enough to get out of the allowed beginner forums where they would be restricted to until they "learned" more of how to then participate in the more seasoned forum areas. It feels too segregated.
I'm more for integration always and for a simple request in each and every thread started by an artist to requests crits/comments if they choose.


Kathryn Wilson
10-23-2006, 09:21 PM
Folks, please don't think that the Moderators in this forum are not responding because we are not participating. We are reading and digesting all that is being said and will take into consideration what the majority of our forum wants. We are not about to tell anybody else how to run their forum. If Kerri E. deems it that all of WC be run exactly the same, then she will let us know. So far, this forum has been run by its members and what they feel is appropriate and for the most part it has been a fun and encouraging place to be.

I started this thread because the staff for this forum felt it needed some feedback on whether the pastel forum members were getting the quality critiques they needed and wanted. I could not possibly presume to impose guidelines in other forums.

It looks like from the poll that most of our forum is happy with how things have been handled, with maybe a little push to learn how to critique, we will resolve most of our additional critiquing needs.

Those that voted that we are not doing a good job have deemed to be quiet and not voice anything other than a vote - how can we possibly help if they don't tell us why.

I do want to say that at some future point, we will be closing the poll as this could go on and on and never be resolved. We will then post guidelines based on what has been discussed and we will work hard to have them meet most of everyone's needs. We cannot possibly keep everybody happy.

So if you have anything further to say, better step up to the podium.

01-08-2007, 08:43 AM
Kat, I just read your Critiquing Guidelines sticky, and it is excellent. Thanks to you and the staff for all your time and effort!

01-08-2007, 03:54 PM
Kat, I just read your Critiquing Guidelines sticky, and it is excellent. Thanks to you and the staff for all your time and effort!

I'll violate the critiquing rules here (after all, Kat didn't ask for C&C on the guidelines :lol:) to second that opinion, Wendy! It's very well written - everything is spelled out quite clearly - and one can see that a lot of thought went into establishing the guidelines. Thanks so much to all the staff who took the time to work on them. :thumbsup:

01-13-2007, 09:18 PM
John, I added another line to the Poll - re learning how to give a critique.

Is this important enough for us to consider a permanent thread with a guideline on how to give a critique. Let's hear from everybody on this one -

I don't know if I am in the right place to reply to Kat. I haven't visited wet canvas since I joined. I read what was written about critiquing and I thought it was all very well said. Thanks. Artcher

Kathryn Wilson
01-13-2007, 10:49 PM
Good place to be - good see you posting! Thanks for the kind words, Nance!