View Full Version : The Fine Art of the Critique

03-31-2000, 01:27 PM
Suggested Goals of the Art Critique (from an art education curriculum)for the Artist as well as the Critic:

1 - Understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.

2 - Describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks.

3 - Accept other's work and ideas as unique
expression of themselves.

4 - Recognize that we should learn from our mistakes as part of the creative process.

5 - Critique artwork through the use of: proper vocabulary, art elements and design principles, meaning, feeling, mood and ideas.

6 - Understand there are varied responses to specific artworks.

7 - Recognize that unsuccessful efforts can be a constructive part of growth in the creative process.

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

03-31-2000, 05:57 PM
Maybe it would be helpful to the 'critiquers' if the 'critiquees' said something about their post. For example, what is the style? What are they trying to express (if anything)? Is there an area they would like help with? Are they just looking for reactions? Are they unsure about composition, values, colors, etc.
Personally, when I ask for a critique, I don't want someone to tell me it's a pretty painting. I want to hear all opinions, then I'll take another look at the work and see if there are things I can change to better express what I was trying to convey in the first place. When I put a piece up for critique, it's because I'm not entirely satisfied with it and I'm looking for feedback. I appreciate the way folks here are not shy about giving me their opinions...after all, I asked for them!



03-31-2000, 06:13 PM
Cindy, those were good goals. I have a problem understanding #2 - could you elaborate a little?

[This message has been edited by henrik (edited March 31, 2000).]

03-31-2000, 06:39 PM
Henrik -

These are not rules, only "suggested goals". #2 means that sometimes it can be helpful and interesting to understand the personal background of the artist. A good example is the wonderful responses I received in the art history forum on the van gogh exhibit.


I also appreciate directness in a critique and I don't think anyone here puts up there pictures so people will say, "pretty". We all have friends and reletives for that if that's what we're looking for...

I like your suggestion that the artist say something about what they are looking for in the critique. I think this would be helpful. I try to do this myself.

I am only suggesting thought starters that may possibly help us help each other more. That's what we are all about, right?



03-31-2000, 07:11 PM
Hm - I thought of that but it says "people's experience" which is really plural (or does people refer to one person (one people sounds odd)- was it ment to say "painter's experience", or "viewer's experience" ??

03-31-2000, 08:42 PM
Here's another method:

meant for writing but can be applied to painting...

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

[This message has been edited by cagathoc (edited March 31, 2000).]

04-01-2000, 06:35 AM
Hi everyone..I would like to think that we are all on this planet to help each other grow..achieve our individual goals..offer support and helpful comments (based on our own experiences and our own knowledge ((and this changes as we progress in life)).
I have respect for people who are honest in their comments, and from what I've seen, eveyone here does a great job (in whatever way we can) of offering that support.
Nice to see your list Cindy. I always feel it is a nice reward when SOME who view our work...seem to be in touch with the elements that caused us to create it in the first place. Responses are good, and I for one would prefer even negative responses over NO response. Michael
(but here I am speaking of responses to subject matter I suppose, rather than how well something was done).
a final note..the subject of a particular piece may also be dictated by VERY strong underlying motives...motives which viewers may not immediately..or EVER..grasp.

[This message has been edited by MichaelRH (edited April 01, 2000).]

04-01-2000, 08:50 AM
i'll be the bad cop....milt

04-01-2000, 09:10 AM
personally. i don't think art needs critics. but on the subject of critiquing, i don't think we need to know the artist's background. all we need to know is what's in front of us. all that background stuff is for the buyers, or maybe just for those who want to know. but i don't think that will enlighten one's critique of a piece of art. i think as this board evolves, we will understand each other better, and that's enough to give an informed critique. in the beginning i was always lacing my crits with compliments, beacuse i know crits read cold can be misinterpreted. but now everyone knows me, knows i mean to help, so i've left the back patting to others. i try to relate to the level of the artist. and only give as much as i think the artist can handle. sometimes this means just one suggestion per art piece to bring the artist along step by step. some artists can take the full razz. other artists are developing a nice style, and crits have to be handled so as not to upset the applecart. bruce and the guy who did digital art(who hasn't posted in a while) are good examples of this.

i think the best way to handle crits is to show the artist options in solving a problem. this will let them choose or get their creativity going and growing.....milt

ps....and i always think it's important to tell the artist why something isn't working

04-01-2000, 10:20 PM
When we post in critique...what are we looking for??
I have posted because I am interested in hearing what others might do with the piece! Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees...so to speak and we need fresh eyes to view what we have been slaving over for however long we have been doing it.
I value others input either positive or negative. I take what I feel is relevant to my style and go from there.
Just because someone says do this or that, doesn't mean I have to do it!!!
I find the critiques here very supportive...and it's nice to know why something isn't working. 9 times out of 10 we, the artist, know that something is amiss in the piece...and that's why we post, to see if others agree and can point it out and tell us why it doesn't work.
If you don't want honest input...don't post!


PS...cheaper than an art instructor!!!!!

[This message has been edited by RyderArt (edited April 01, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by RyderArt (edited April 01, 2000).]

04-02-2000, 12:20 AM
One thing that has been missed a few times in the critiques is the very question the posting person has asked. I've noticed this several times. It is as if the critiquing person only looked at the picture and never read the question. Some have clearly stated "I know this or that isn't working, and I plan to fix it, but the problem I'm having is fill in the blank." The responses addressed everything except the question. If we are trying to accomplish a particular style, then that would be helpful if stated.

04-02-2000, 12:37 AM
My thoughts too, and now I don't have to do all that typing.

04-02-2000, 12:39 AM
Hey!!..who you callin' an applecart???!!

04-02-2000, 09:34 PM
spot on Msue...I asked if I needed anything in the foreground and until a second post post got everything but! ...not that I minded it was all very interesting and I valued the input ....but DO read the artists input.

04-03-2000, 09:37 AM
Hey, I can take a tough, constructive critique as well as the next guy - or I wouldn't be posting (and you can see how often I do! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif)...

The suggestions I posted were meant to be thought starters, as much for myself as anyone else here. They were meant to be taken as a beginning for a discussion of how we would like to approach the critique. It never hurts to examine what you are doing, how you do it and why...

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

[This message has been edited by cagathoc (edited April 03, 2000).]

04-03-2000, 09:41 AM
Originally posted by RyderArt:
If you don't want honest input...don't post!

Forgot to include this quote in my response above...

Again, the point has to do with what we can get out of our critique forum ... My suggestions were meant to say that we can get even more out of it. We can expand what we are doing to include even more areas of thought that are relevant to our art; to consider all forms of art and how other areas of thought influence art, such as psychology, politics, religion, etc.

These discussions already go on here. That's part of the reason why I love the people at this site so much. I simply thought it would be an interesting discussion topic.

[This message has been edited by cagathoc (edited April 03, 2000).]

04-03-2000, 03:03 PM
msue, granny....then do this....reiterate the question, mentioning that no one got the point.....milt

04-03-2000, 10:27 PM
Hi Cindy Im not great at critique especially
other peoples work, but I go according to
what i see. If i like it, I will compliment
it If the artist needs comments,or ideas
then of course other artists input would
be greatly helpful. I certainly appreciate
other artists critique. Everyone has a
different eye for art.

04-04-2000, 12:20 AM
Cindy, are you saying that you would like to get the type of discussions that are going on in "Debates, Art & Society, etc." to also be part of critique?

04-05-2000, 02:10 PM
I feel the same as Janet in that I don't give detailed critiques. I feel that there are people here who are far more qualified to do that than myself. However If I like something, I dont find anything wrong with telling them it is nice or even pretty it that is the case. Sometimes that little bit of encouragement is just what the person needs. Especially with that first posting. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-06-2000, 08:41 AM
Want to hear something wierd?

I think the longer you paint, the more you become the you that you are striving for, and eventually you avoid critiques for fear of losing perspective of "who" you are.

I think Robert Henri in his book "The Art Spirit" spoke at length about cautions of joining certain societies or associations, or painting groups, because you begin to fashion yourself to fall in line with their demands so-to-speak. And in "Art and Fear", the other book I've been enjoying again for about the third time, you risk losing your voice.

I discovered that in my 20 some years of wildlife art competition. You seek to please the judges, to the point of trying to find out in advance what they'll be looking for. Artists competiting in the Federal Duck Stamp program pay big bucks to fly and take workshops from past winners to learn how to produce a winning piece. The work will of course take on a persona that looks predictably enough like the artists instructing.

Then...of course "making it" means earning an income finally from your work, so after getting rejected from a number of publishers whom represented works of artists you thought was similar in styles to your own, you hope simply to find a publisher. They of course invest a great deal of money in printing and in marketing and place great demands.

I have been wanting to be a member of a reputable plein air group, or oil. Truth is, it is difficult getting into some high end galleries without such membership in your bio. But..to be a member of PAPA, one must make pilgrimages to California and pay homage to the notion that California Impressionists are the true guardians of the light in America. After such pilgrimages, you must get accepted in.

Well..of course all this means your work must meet their approval.

When painters are seeking growth expediently, and famished...thirsting- they are more open to learning from all artists they perceive at a higher level. There is less danger at their intermediecy and much in common among good painters from the stand point of design, composition, etc., to yet learn from. However, as you reach a higher level, you become personally more selective from whom you would be open to hear critique.

To the average person, this would appear as arrogant.

I simply want it to become known however, that all artists are seeking to gain a voice. To be heard. When you develop such a voice, protecting it is more what is at hand and not so much arrogancy.

There is little to be heard where everyone is shouting. Every so often, however, a voice is so unique...so different, and so mature that it stands out from the crowd.

When you come to a point that you begin to have such a voice, you guard it.

What such an artist whom has such a voice has to remember is that his/her voice is not alone, and there are other styles. It is difficult stepping out from the mode where one's mind is always so focused, and this is the opportunity we have to associate in community. To do such is healthy. Complete isolation is not good. So, such artists need to learn patience, and remember back to the time they were so thirsty and needing encouragement.

What younger (and I'm not speaking age) artists need remember, is not always to take critique so personal, because in being offended and ganging up on one having their own voice whom complied in giving the critique...you risk chasing them away when they assess it not worth their time to be involved with such potential controversy. They lose out in the association needed by coming out from isolation. You become de-humanized in isolation, and less sociable. Such often needs to be recovered.

It is a process of learning people skills as well as artistic. A balance not easily attained. You may have great people skills but little artistic understanding, or great artistic understanding and little people skils. Balance never comes easy. It takes work. So...having said such, let's all work a bit together...


"Art attacks can skill!"

04-06-2000, 09:13 AM
Thank you, Larry, for your perspective... well spoken!

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

[This message has been edited by cagathoc (edited April 06, 2000).]

04-06-2000, 10:04 AM

04-06-2000, 10:14 AM
Thanks Larry and Cindy..for clarifying this process. As a long-time teacher, used to giving critique...I must say that when I do that, there is a set of circumstances that must be met...did the person ASK for the evaluation, are they far along enough in their development to withstand the truth and how much? How will this affect their will to create?..and lastly, what are my motives..do I love this person enough to help them grow..will they see results, positive ones, as an end of my critique? I always love my students and fellow artists enough to answer the last question, the rest is a judgement call, based on what I know of that particular personality...unfortunately, we here on wetcanvas, do not know each other well enough to gauge the effect of a really honest critique. That is why I will not be brutally honest in a public forum...if someone emails me, and asks, in private, I will tell them what I see, couched within my own perspective. The object of critique is always, always to help the other artist grow...not just hand out barbs...perhaps introspection is the first rule of critique.