How to Give Critique

Hello all!  Wonderful snow storm we’re having today (read: NOT wonderful.  One might say its awful!).  Its a perfect excuse to stay in and write and crochet.  Though we are tempted to go to Taco Bell and see if our least favorite ex-manager is stuck in the drive-thru.  That might amuse us.

Again, my friend Lisa and I have a table at Anime Milwaukee.  That is February 18th-20th.  If you’re into anime and in Milwaukee, come check out our art table.  We’ll be happy to sell you something!  We will also be at Anime Central (or ACen) which is May 20th-22nd.

Why are we going over critique?

I’m starting to think that people don’t actually know what critique is.  I spend a lot of time on devintART.  As such, I’ve seen a lot of people act like a blunt critique is a personal attack.  I’ve already gone over how to TAKE critique, which is important, however, its also important to pay it forward.  Learning to take critique should happen before you start to give critique.  At least I think so.Critique is easy!  You just point out what’s wrong!

That’s kind of how critique works.  Yes, the basic of critique is pointing out what is wrong in a piece, but its more than flat out pointing it out.  Just pointing out what is wrong doesn’t help the other artist or writer grow.  They’ll be aware of what is wrong, but they won’t know how to fix it.  A good critique will give a suggestion on how to revise the piece.

Simple, right?

No.  Not as simple.

Why isn’t it that simple?

It takes time and skill to learn how to figure out what isn’t quite right in a piece.  When I went through writing workshops you could tell when someone wasn’t as skilled in the writing area – they would have comments that were along the lines of “Wow!  That was really good!  The language was spot on and I wouldn’t change anything!”.  While a comment like that feels good, it doesn’t exactly help the author/artist/whatever improve, you know?

So part of giving critique is experience.  For instance, I hardly critique on drawings.  I’m not good at drawing and will never claim to be.  However, I do know anatomy to an extent.  So I can point out stuff like that.  But the general rule?  Stick to what you know.  As I know how to write, I tend to gravitate towards the literature section of deviantART.

Taking Style into Consideration

This is something I go back and forth on.  Sometimes I think taking style into consideration is really important, sometimes I think it needs to go die in a fire.  I think it depends on the quality of the piece more than anything.  I will admit that I have a bit of an issue with lyrical poems.  I primarily write narrative and persona poems.  Lyrical poems have never spoken to me in the same way.  Hence, I tend to critique against lyrical poems.  However, if someone writes an amazing lyrical poem that has other mistakes, I’m not going to harp on how the poem is lyrical.  What I think I’m trying to say is that if the piece fits with the style the artist/author/whatever is using, why critique style?

However, some people stick with one style and that doesn’t always work with certain pieces.  Sometimes a style just clashes with the tone of a piece.  I wouldn’t make a sonnet about horrifying memories I may or may not have.  In general, probably won’t work.  You know, since sonnets are usually about love.  I wouldn’t use a fluffy bubble-eye style in a piece that has a lot of gore, unless I wanted it to look even creepier (When They Cry anybody?).  So what I’m getting at here is if a piece seems awkward, maybe its because the style is hindering the piece rather than expressing it.

Blood and bubbly eyes...perfect match!

Experience Level

Another important thing to take into consideration is the artist/writer/whatever’s experience level.  You should tailor your critique to that.  Giving a scathing critique to someone who has just started drawing?  Probably not the best idea.  I’m not saying you have to baby the people, but being a little gentle would probably be the better approach.  On the other hand, giving a “WOW!  this is so awseome~ shiny shiny desu~~~” to a seasoned artist?  Probably not the best idea.  They’re probably looking for a stronger critique, something that will help them improve their art and style.  Something that what help them pursue their career. I’m not saying all critique has to be fluffy bunnies or scathing.  I usually try and find a nice middle ground.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more I could get into, but I think this will help people for now.  I can always come back to it at a later date.  Critique is a two way street.  You have to know how to take it and you have to know how to give it.  I’m always in favor of constructively critical comments.  Remember, style isn’t always a shield to hide behind and really remember the level of experience of the artist/whatever!  We should be encouraging each other to continue to get better, not scaring them off of art forever.

What are your experiences with critique?

~Laura

Both images found on Google Image Search.

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