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How to: Give a Good Fine Art Critique January 25, 2017

I have outlined below what Pop My Mind’s ideas of what good critiques are. This can apply for when you are critiquing 2D artwork, creative writing, audio pieces or video – just adapt this to suit the medium!

Top Tips

1) If you have a choice of what to critique, choose a piece which you genuinely like and / or can see great potential in.

2) Use the sandwich technique:
Start the critique with the overall good points about the piece, and the reason why you like it. Then give some constructive feedback as to what to improve or what you could potentially change or develop in the future. Finally finish with some positive feedback as to what exciting directions you see the piece going in, or some finer detail as to what are the strong elements of the piece.

3) Use positive language and tone. You want to inspire the person to keep creating, not make them feel bad about their work. How you phrase your critique has a massive impact on how they will respond to it. You can really interrogate their piece and still leave them feeling great about it and motivated – if you do it well.

4) Don’t use overarching compliments such as ‘it’s amazing’, ‘cool piece’, or ‘that’s great’. Explain why you think it’s amazing, cool or great. What elements do you love, and why?

5) Be honest. What people want in a critique are genuine opinions and thoughts about their work, not a general opinion or a false compliment.

6) Don’t be scared to say what you think is letting the piece down. In general, the people who are having the critique want to be able to move their practice forwards and learn from their mistakes. You can easily tell them what you would do differently next time without offending them.

7) Make sure your criticisms are constructive – this means giving them pointers on what they can change or build upon. Don’t offer them criticism and offer no solution on how to improve.

8) Don’t worry about using fancy language etc. You don’t need a degree or excellent grammar to give a critique, you just need to give your insight into their work and explain it in a way they’ll understand.

9) Explain where you could see the piece or project going. What ideas, techniques or elements would you take into their next piece, if you were them?

10) Remember – your critique is just an opinion. The artist has the option of whether they would like to take your points forward, so don’t take it personally if they decide not to include your ideas into their next piece.

Aspects to Consider

• Structure and composition. How is it built? How does it lay on the page / what pattern does the sound make, what formatting have they used? Do you think this compliments the piece?

• Influences. Can you see any external influences on the piece? Do you think they contribute something unique and interesting to the piece, or not? Does the work feel natural or forced? Are there any movements or artists that you know of that could add more to their project?

• Use of medium. How have they used their medium? Is it experimental, traditional, playful, or safe? Do they understand the medium well and use it skilfully and to its full potential?

• Negative space. Is there breathing room in the piece? Are there things that they don’t say on purpose which create tension, or are they saying too much? Do you think the piece needs more simplicity or density?

• Attraction and repulsion. Does the piece draw you in, or repel you, or both? Do you think this was the intention of the piece? Do you think the balance is effective, does it need to be pulled back or developed more?

• Details. Has the artist built up enough detail in the piece? Is there enough variation? Does the piece feel finished, or does it need a little more work?

• Reaction. How do you feel when you see / read / hear the piece? Does this evoke any memories or sense of place in you? What would you interpret the piece to mean, if you didn’t have any information on it?

If you want to learn more from the Pop My Mind team, read how to make the most out of our website on our previous blog post! Fancy critiquing an artist? Get involved by commenting on this blog post, or emailing karis[at]popmymind[dot]com to give your take on a piece of work from Pop My Mind. We would love to hear from you!

Written by Karis Lambert

Image featured: Perception Management by Reece Reilly from popmymind.com

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