Critiques can be rough. Showing off art in any capacity opens us up to criticism and undoubtedly we’ve all had varying experiences after asking someone what they think of a particular work of art. Less-than-constructive feedback can go as follows:
- “It looks bad.”
- “The eye looks weird.”
- “I like it.”
- “I don’t like it.”
- “Is it supposed to be that guy from that anime?”
Despite the uselessness of some responses, quality feedback and critiques are immensely useful. We may go out of our way to avoid asking people what they think, but a good critique can point out how others view a piece of art that we ourselves have been staring at entirely too long, to the point that we can no longer actually see it.
You can’t always control how someone else gives you feedback. You can, however, control how you give constructive criticism to another person, especially to reduce the eminent sting of negative feedback, ensuring the other person does get defensive and shut down or tune you out. Ultimately you want to walk away with something useful.
Why solicit feedback? For a few reasons. First off, learning to “Do Art” is as much learning to SEE as it is learning to CRAFT. We all go through periods of improving our skill level and improving our ability to see (and they don’t always improve at the same time), so there are points that soliciting outside opinions can be immensely useful. Second, we get a bit “mentally saturated” with our own art and lose the capacity to see the big picture of a given work after staring at it for so long. There are a few tricks to re-seeing our own art (give it a break a while, holding it up to a mirror/flipping it, sometimes just scanning it) but this is not fool proof.
Getting outside feedback, especially from people who are good at giving a constructive critique, is highly valuable and even if you still feel defensive about it at times, it’s something you want.
How To Give Feedback
A common method of critiquing a work while avoiding a particularly reactionary response is called, by people much more creative than me, the “sandwich method.”
The sandwich method of criticism involves placing the ‘bad news’ between two positive responses. You might state that the use of color is effective, that the piece of art could use more work on the perspective or composition, but overall it captures the mood of the work well. From there it is much easier to assist a person on how they can improve that composition or perspective.
Some people dislike this method and find it deceptive; whatever the case, keeping feedback constructive and positive is almost undoubtedly the best route.
The best critiques tell you both what you are doing correctly, what needs improvement, and how you can go about that improvement. This is worth keeping in mind whether you are on the receiving end of feedback, or on the end doing the critique.
Why Coddle The Artist?
I’m not here to force someone else into developing a strong backbone and thick skin. Nobody’s here to draw because they have to be, and if someone is feeling self-conscious or awkward, they may easily just throw their hands up and walk away. And this goes for writing, or anything else really. Constructive critiques can help a person improve without feeling terribly self-conscious, getting angry, or otherwise feeling reactionary.
Being able to accurately critique a piece of work also involves learning to see the merits and flaws in that work. That in itself is a skill that takes work and practice. So don’t worry if you’re not good at this skill right away – it will come in time.