Critiques: What to say when you don't know what to say
All of us have heard about feedback events during our time on deviantArt. Many of us have participated in them, while others have declined to do so for various reasons. Some of these reasons include fear of receiving critique on one's own work, fear of being attacked for critiquing someone's work, fear of not knowing what to say, and feeling inadequate to critique a deviation from someone who is perhaps more skilled than we are--especially if the deviation is created using a medium to which we are unaccustomed.
We especially want to focus on this last reason.
Here is a conversation that we had recently in a dA chat room (names have been changed):
Us: We are planning a cross-medium, dA-wide critique event for Project Educate!! Will you participate?
DeviantX: Hmm. I don't know.
Us: Why not?
DeviantX: I'm a photomanipulator. I can't critique literature, for example.
Us: Yes, you can! Everyone has a valid viewpoint, right? If nothing else, you can tell the writer how his or her words made you feel. That feedback is invaluable to the writer because it tells him or her that the words are coming across the way they were intended.
DeviantX: Hmm. I didn't think of it that way.
Us: So, will you play?
DeviantX: Sure! Why not!
Providing feedback for individuals who are more skilled than you are or for artwork that is created from media to which you are unaccustomed can be uncomfortable at first. But, with a little bit of practice, you'll learn that you, too, can critique like a pro.
Now, here's our disclaimer: Some individuals would say that, as a photomanipulator, your feedback for a literature deviation (to continue the example described above) may not be as "useful" as feedback coming from another writer. This is a valid point when it comes to technical aspects. A visual artist may not have the background and vocabulary to be able to critique paragraph structure, anticipation/suspense-building, and climax. But, that does not mean that you have nothing valuable to say about the meaning of the piece itself.
Visual artists critiquing visual art may have an easier time, as "good" art will utilize good composition, light and shadow, perspective, and often complementary colors/tones. So, it is usually (not always) safe to structure a critique/feedback bit around these concepts. Sometimes, though, we feel as if we do not have enough technical knowledge or skills to be able to address these things adequately, or we are afraid of saying something stupid and embarrassing ourselves. Don't fret! Help is here.
Here are some "talking points" that you can use when you are providing feedback for pieces for which you lack technical skill or knowledge.
For all art:
How does the piece make you feel?
What is the take-home message? With what impression does it leave you?
Does it tell a story? What is that story?
What did you really LIKE about it? (Remember: critiques don't have to be completely negative!)
What do you think the artist's intent was?
Reading the artist comment can be useful. Sometimes an artist asks questions about their deviation, and it's always good to answer them in your comment.
For visual art specifically:
Where is your eye led? Is that where you think it SHOULD be led?
What do the colors say to you? Are they soothing? Somber? Bold? Uncomfortable?
Are the sizes of each item in the picture appropriate relative to the others? Should they be?
Think about the items in the light. Are there also shadows?
Is this something you would hang on your wall? Why/why not?
Is there texture? What do you think about it?
For photomanipulations especially: Is it seamless, or can you tell that there are many parts put together?
For written art specifically:
What is the tone? Is the piece suspenseful? Humorous? Angry? Happy?
How do you like the characters? Are they stereotypical, or not? Why is or isn't this good for the story? Do all the characters have different roles and personalities?
In case of fanfiction, are the characters true to their original personalities? Is there any character development?
Did it leave you wanting to know more?
How's the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure? Is the writing style clear?
How are the descriptions? Did the artist describe everything that needed to be described? More? Less? Was it entertaining to read? Did it bring the story to life?
Is there any dialogue? If not, do you think there should have been? If there is dialogue, was it a natural conversation, or was it forced? Was the conversation relevant?
How to Comment - Pointers and ExamplesThis guide was written by #ProjectComment as a Group, by deviants for deviants. Not only have we sought suggestions from our volunteers, but we have examples of constructive comments from the rest of the community as well, making this a true, collective effort. After reading this, it will be hard to not write a constructive comment.
Each category of art has its own set of pointers in alphabetical order, suggested by our volunteers. If you have any more to contribute, spot a mistake, etc. please feel free to contact us!
General Pointers for All Categories
(Contributors: !AGBBibag, *Anjellyjoy, !art-acheiver-4eva, ~CyberChristFF, ~eldestmuse, ^Kaz-D, ~leannecoleman, *MachinesBleedToo, ^pullingcandy, !seventysevenpercent, ~xblackxbloodxcellx, ~Zombienvy, ^3wyl)
Atmosphere/Mood/Feelings created – Does the artwork evoke any feelings and emotions within you? What kind of atmosphere/mood/feelin
PE: The Basics of Giving CritiqueA lot of people seem to think that giving a critique requires you to have an art degree and a lifetime of experience. This is merely an excuse barrier to stop you from trusting yourself in the art of delivering a fine critique. Today's Project Educate guide is an aid to help you consider the basics of critique, and in particular critique on dA.
This article has been written as a guideline overview only and one persons advice. There are hundreds of existing "how to" guides for critique already existing on dA, so if this one doesn't suit you, take a browse and see what else you can find!
The key rules to critique
1. Keep in mind you are writing a CRITIQUE not a CRITICISM. Be wary of your word choices and make sure you keep in mind you are helping the artist for improvement. Be Constructive, not Destructive.
2. Consider you audience- who is the artist reading this critique? How may they react to your words? Be wary of patronising the person you are c
The Feedback ChecklistGuidelines updaed by ~Ludjia
This checklist's been written to show everyone that giving good feedback is not hard Here are some simple key points to keep in mind along with detailed descriptions on why to apply them to your critiques and how.
Remember you want to help someone improve their work, think like a teacher.
1) Show your respect.
Be criticial, but be nice. Feedback is a gift, your way of supporting a fellow artist. Talk like you would to a friend.
2) Discuss why you like at least one good thing.
Remember, feedback is not about giving praise. If you like something, explain why.
3) Discuss at least one thing to improve.
Avoid phrases like "I don't like...". Rather say "I think ... can be improved." Tell how you would improve things. What would you do to make it better if it was your picture?
4) You can give feedback on any aspect of the art.
See? You can do it!
In the end, remember this: If you think something is a valid point, then it is valid. No excuses, no wavering . . . you should stand firmly by your word. If you perceive something a certain way, then others might, too--and that, our friends, is useful feedback for the recipient.