Episode 10: Critiques
Eric Castleman last edited by Eric Castleman
At my first SCBWI conference last year I paid for a critique. I felt I was ready to hear the truth, but when I recieved the critique I wasn’t happy with what the AD had to say. I went and googled her art work and started justifying what I felt was a bad critique by convincing myself that this person wasn’t a good enough artist to critique my work. A week or so went by and I realized she was completely correct, and I started doing what she said, and my work started getting noticed a lot more and now I cannot do work without doing what she recommended.
Also, I have accidently given critics when they were not asked for, even though it seemed they were asking...cringe
Teju Abiola last edited by
Once you realize that you can always make a new piece of art, critiques aren't bad at all. If you want to improve, they are imperative. I had a critique from my AD this summer, and once I fixed it, it was obvious. Thank goodness she saw what I couldn't. I also realized when working for someone else, I feel not at all bad about critiques or starting over. They are literally paying me for my time and my skill and to listen to them and make whatever changes they want. Working on something that isn't yours is pretty freeing, honestly.
You still need to keep that mindset when working on your own work. As a creator, you can create again. Everything is changeable. Nothing is precious. Sometimes you don't want to, but think back three years or even one; some work you loved is nothing compared to what you do now.
I did get a critique from a teacher on a thumbnail/sketch part of a book cover project, and he didn't get it. He said he didn't like it and I should redraw it. Now, I had spent a long time drawing this out the weekend before and was pretty done and ready to move on to the finish. I disagreed completely with him. I knew he couldn't see where I was going with it. So I ignored him, and finished it out how I wanted. And guess what, he loved it. When you accept a lot of critiques and give a lot of critiques, you can recognize when things are personal preference or just a not-good crit.
I always try to accept all crit that is offered or suggested, even/especially when I disagree. Sometimes I implement it and sometimes I ignore it, but I always try to think about why someone would comment on whatever it is. Why is it good? Why do I want to ignore it? Why do I feel strongly either way? If I ignore it, then I have to accept that I might fall on flat on my face and fail due to stubbornness.
Also, I can see and comment on what makes other people's work good but I'm self-blind. I'm so used to trying to constantly fix my work and not being attached to it too much, that critiques help me understand that I don't suck. It's like, 'oh, I'm doing something right too, not just only needing to improve'.
So yeah, I love critiques. Without them, I couldn't have possibly grown at all.
Eli last edited by
@teju-abiola Thank you--you always have such valuable insights! These are all points that I need to internalize
jasondmcintosh last edited by
Thanks for this episode. It truly got me thinking quite a bit about my own artist path: All through grade school and high school and even into college I was considered one of the better artists in the school. My critiques were repetitious streams of "Wow, that's so cool!". But this was coming from people who themselves were not artistic, but wished they were.
All of that inflated my ego and bled into my artistic career as an adult. In truth, it made me a fragile artist. When I launched my business and started working for real clients, I would feel decimated when a client (who was not artistic, especially) would tell me they did not like something I developed for them. It would bother me for days on end. It took me several years to toughen up, especially since I had no formal artist training beyond high school.
In hindsight, I can see how some qualified, honest reviews of my work would have helped me so very much. Now, I know my work is far what it should be and indeed could be...which is a frustrating feeling at times (but perhaps a necessary feeling, as I don't believe one ever feels the 'I've Arrived' feeling for very long).
I also believe the cultural 'currency of likes' can be a dangerous way to gauge feedback for the same reason I stated above. I have been tempted to measure my artistic success of a piece by how many 'likes' an image garners. But, in truth, this is just going back to the same elementary school rating... a thumbs up by a non-artist is not a true critique. It certainly feels good, and can help build a following and perhaps turn into a client pool or drive revenue, but will it make my art better? In my opinion, I don't think it has for me.
I'm super late to the game in terms of my age and wanting to be serious about my art. For me, being painfully honest with myself concerning my artwork is critical. So finally...I've learned that basically...I've got much to learn. :0) Fortunately, I've finally found a great pool of artists to learn from!
This was a really good episode. From start to finish. The opening discussion about art as a hobby vs a job really got me thinking. I don't make art now for a paycheck. I'm doing it to make things (obviously) and to get better at making things. Now would I like to get paid for my art work? Of course but then does that change my relationship with my art? I'm already critical with what I put out. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate, but it's always something I made for me to share with others. How will I get about making something that someone else will share with others? I don't know lol but it's something to think about.
As far as critiques, I don't know why, but I never feel hurt when someone points out things that are wrong with my art, no matter how hard I work on it. I always feel like anybody anywhere can teach you something. Even if the advice, counsel, critique is wrong, you can always pick something out of it to internalize and work on. But that's me.
Now I would like to pose a question: who should give critique? As a very amateur amateur who maybe doesn't have a trained eye, I feel like my critiques would be limited to "eh this looks off" but I may not know why or "these colors don't work" but again may not know why. Should such a person hold back from critiquing?
It makes those who listened a stronger art community. I like how it mentioned getting specific about the help you need. If you can pin point what you need help on, it’s easier to get those type of suggestions. And makes us, especially us on the forum, better equipped to help each other.
I would love to see a pod cast on the measure of success as an artist. The direction you started to go in the beginning. I’m certainly a hobbiest at this point. I make exactly the art I want to make. Downside, don’t get paid. But i am mostly happy with what I’m creating and see growth in the right direction. I could ramble on about personal fulfillment as an artist, but I won’t. If anyone wants to start a thread about it I’ll certianly chime in.
@leothejediartist To your question, "who should give critiques?", I think if someone asks for your feedback, you should try to give it to the best of your ability. Using the Oreo or Sandwich technique mentioned in the podcast, start with a positive, then state some observation of a challenging aspect of the work, then end with something encouraging. Even though it's sometimes difficult to do all three, it's also important to be truthful, in a constructive way. When at a loss, I might ask questions to understand better what the artist is trying to do. Even if you consider yourself "very amateur", your opinion is valid and could be helpful.
chrisaakins last edited by
@teju-abiola I love hearing your thoughtful comments. One day when I get my act together I would love your input. Right now I am just trying to absorb all the info I can. I am a weird combo of being both a self taught artist and a new certified art teacher. After reading everything I can on these forums, I realize two things, I can trust my instincts and skills but I have TONS to learn.
Samu last edited by Samu
I just finished listening to the podcast. Great job, congratulations!!!
About the new coke, actually the history I read about is much more interesting. It started with the "Pepsi Challenge". This challenge was something like they put two glasses, one with coke and another with Pepsi, without any clue which were which. People tasted them and decided what they like more. The majority of People choose Pepsi. It seems that the challenge was real, coke made his own test and they concluded that Pepsi tastes better for the majority of people. So they panic and thought that in a few years all the people are going to drink Pepsi and that they have to make something, so they did. They make the new coke with "better taste" and it seems like it was his worst error in history with a lot of losses, so they went back to normal regular Coke.
From I read the conclusion was that People in a quick taste, preffer Pepsi because is sweeter, Coke is a much bitter. On the moment you rationalize the flavors and came up with "yeah, this is sweet, is better". But in the long run Sweet it can be a little too much, like cloying, and bitter taste better after the first impresion.
It happened too with test screens for films. People watched a movie and really enjoyed it because the characters are great, the plot is consistent, etc, but when they have to rationalize and explain if the film is good or bad they came up that is bad because really you can forget the whole movie after you go out of the cinema. The film is solid and fulfills his mission, which is entertaining, but people need something more so they can feel that the film is good. But that is not an obstacle for the film to be a financial success. So they have to change the way in which they made the screen test too.
I think I read about Pepsi challenge in a Malcolm Gladwell book. It can be "Blink". I don't know if is everything true but is very interesting to think about,.
Samu last edited by
And about the critique, when I was a Tattoo Artist I learned that when you ask for critique you simply don't say nothing back, no excuses no arguing, You take on your mind what you want and throw away what you don't but you have to be a good player and don't bite the hand of the people that are giving you his time and attention.
And when you are on the other side and are asked for critique, I always ask "what do you want for me, to be kind or to be sincere" They always say "sincere" so basically what I just made was to prepare the person for the critique, now they know that this is serious and they are going to take some heat! I love it!!!
And if someone says "kind", I simply would tell "oh you are so great!!! Keep up the good work man!!!!"
NicholeMarie last edited by
This was a fantastic podcast, now for my critique: Something I would like to have a discussion about is when an artist thinks they are ready for a critique, but really aren't. So the punch seems even harder, because it was unexpected. What's the best way to come back from that? I'm curious to see the response from instructors and fellow student artists as well. Because you do see those who get an unexpected punch and some fall and don't get back up from it.
I try really hard to go into a critique thinking that I will have to start over or make some hefty changes to my piece, or like Lee said, pretend it's a study or just for the sake of learning. But occasionally, my skin does get a little thin, and I get defensive. Not to the point of tears, but there's a bit of a sting from what critics have said and frustration and overwhelm, build up and I can't let it go. Usually I just let time do it's thing and I forget about it, or just ignore it and move on, but I don't know if this is the best process. Haha.
And I really did like the story at the beginning with not considering art for work. I feel like I have found my sweet spot. I studied graphic design in school and that's my job, but illustration and watercolor is my hobby. I do sell my illustrations, but knowing full-well that it won't support me.
Thanks again for another great podcast. Keep 'em coming.
Teju Abiola last edited by
@chrisaakins Aw, thank you! We are all getting our acts together, and absorbing info is certainly the best way to do so I think realizing we can trust our instincts is also important when learning things or else we don't develop enough confidence and second-guess everything we do. The confidence thing is something on which I personally still have lots and lots of work to do!
It was a good episode. Lots to think about. I was a little convicted by the idea of asking for feedback, but not giving it out. I struggle with that. I feel like I’m asking for a critique because I have no idea what I’m doing... which makes me feel under qualified to give out critiques. I try to anyway, but it’s uncomfortable. And, I feel like anyone hearing my critique of their work could just go look at mine and then dismiss what I have to say based on what I’m not doing well. It’s tricky. And I guess learning how to be humble and diplomatic about it is a big part of it.
What I particularly like is when people point out specifics to me. “ there’s a tangent” or “here’s an anatomical issue” or “your perspective is off a bit here.” When I show people something and they start talking about it in vague terms, I feel just as lost as ever. Or more so. I guess I need to work on doing the same. And, I’m definitely guilty of asking for a “critique” on a finished piece when all I really want is validation.
ArtofAleksey last edited by
I really appreciate episodes that give me more pieces of the puzzle as far as what else should I be doing to improve and move forward with my art. In some of the previous episodes you talked about how to juggle life/work/art when you’re still learning and developing. I’d like to know, do you have advice on how someone who has a job on the side and needs to make time to practice art go about finding a critique group where they may not be able to attend regularly because the time they have available is already thinned? Or would in this situation online critique groups are a good solution? And if so, how can someone go about finding an online one where the other artists in the group give critiques that will genuinely improve your art rather than just having something to say (or other critique group issues you would face)?
A really important podcast. Maybe the most important yet!
I want to just highlight again something that is VITAL to all critiques of an illustration:
Know what you are trying to say. Or put more simply: Know what your keywords are.
Keywords are two to three words (no more than a single sentence) that encapsulates the feeling you are trying to communicate in your image. The best keywords are verbs and adjectives. Words that carry emotional weight in our culture.
If your critique-er doesn't ask what your keywords are, be sure to tell them! Otherwise you could be trying to illustrate "happy apples" and the person critiquing could be talking all about how they would visually communicate "depressed oranges".
Anatomy, perspective, composition, value structure, color palette, medium; these are all just tools to communicate an idea, a feeling, to evoke a response from your viewer. Important yes, but only in so far as they help you communicate your "keywords".
Note: I recognize that the critique of an "illustration" is different from a critique of a "study". A study is more of a technical exercise. In my recent "Dynamic Expressions: Drawing Heads and Hands" class we rarely discussed "keywords" and all feedback was focused primarily anatomy and technique. While in Lee's and my "Turbocharging your Creativity" we discuss each piece's intent, its "keywords" at great length to better enable our students to visually communicate their ideas.
Laurel Aylesworth last edited by
Loved this podcast as well. One of the reasons I appreciate the format of SVS classes is that I don't have to sit through people getting defensive about the feedback they received on their work. Articulating exactly what you want to get from any critique is something I'll incorporate going forward (yes, I've fallen to that need for validation instead of looking for actual feedback). I'm happy to offer some of my time if anyone wants a critique of their work. Let's punch each other in the gut.
chrisaakins last edited by
@laurel-aylesworth I checked out your website. I love your style. The mermaid in the teacup cracked me up. Where do you get your ideas?
Laurel Aylesworth last edited by
@chrisaakins Thanks Chris! That's a good question. I have no idea - LOL
Do you have a website?
chrisaakins last edited by chrisaakins
@laurel-aylesworth No. I just have an instagram account. I am not currently marketing my work. I am a full-time art teacher and in grad school. So this is my diversion from what I should be doing. You can follow me if you want to see my work. @chrisakinsart
Larry Whitler last edited by
Jake, Will, and Lee,
I love the podcasts, guys. I listen to them on my drive to work.
The discussion you had regarding critiques brought my thoughts to those negative critiques I've read about the works of other very accomplished artists. Norman Rockwell comes to mind. So does Thomas Kinkade, Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, and even Charles Shultz.
The critiques of all of the above mentioned, well known, artists' work has been ruthless. And yet, after their deaths their works are revered. (And, yes, I've even been to a Charles Shultz exhibit at an art museum.)
I sat next to a guy at a baseball game some years ago and he was yelling the most horrible insults at the guy playing right field. His sentiments were clearly reflecting his loyalty to the opposite team and he had, in no way, any interest in furthering the skills of the player.
If a critique is to be constructive, as it should be, then the real question is how do we know, as artists, if the critic offering the critique is doing so with a teacher's heart and genuinely interested in helping the artist improve? If so, then the next question is, "How do I use this information?"
Critiques can be critiqued, too.
Just yesterday I was at a restaurant. It is a "sit down" restaurant but they also offer an "all you can eat" salad bar. The two women across from me were loading up on the salad bar. I mean their plates were piled as high as Richard Dreyfuss's mashed potatoes in the movie "Close Encounters."
When they couldn't stuff their faces any further they asked the waitress for a "take out" box. The waitress informed them that "take out" boxes are not offered for the "all you can eat" buffet (after all, it is NOT the "all you can eat AND THEN SOME" buffet!).
So the ladies became angry. They asked for the manager. I heard them telling the manager that their waitress was rude and unprofessional. (I had the same waitress, by the way. She was as sweet as can be.) Then I saw one of the ladies writing something very wordy on a napkin. Oh my gosh! The waitress was going to be reading a horrible critique!
Horrible and horribly self serving.
I felt bad for the waitress. Would this cause her to quit? Would this ruin her day?
So, focusing back on art, I knew a very talented portrait artist. He worked in pastels. He had an easel set up at a local art supply store and I used to watch him work. I learned a lot by just watching him.
One day I asked him if he was part of the local Artist's Guild. He said he applied but was rejected. I asked why and he said they told him his work was too "photo realistic." I knew what they meant. His work was VERY photo realistic. But it was also beautiful and I'm sure the people who have his works hanging in their homes think so as well.
Here's the part that gets to me. That same Artist's Guild invited a portrait artist from New York to show his work in their gallery for a full month. Among the oils were also some pastels. Brilliant work, no doubt, but why did the Artist's Guild dismiss the talents of the local artist at the art supply store?
I guess my point is this. As artists we must simply create. We're never going to please everyone anyway.
One last thought, in Harry Chapin's song "Mr. Tanner" he tells the story of a baritone that sang beautifully. He worked as a tailor as his day job and saved up enough money to rent out a performance hall where he gave a concert. The reviews in the newspaper read, "Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards. His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
consistently interesting. Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order."
Harry Chapin then writes, "He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends. Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
Excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed. He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes."
If we truly are made in God's image, then as children of The Creator, we must also have a natural desire to create.
If you are creating, then keep it up.
You three gentlemen are making a great contribution to the lives of those you touch. Even the assignments you illustrated that you "hated" doing has given great joy to those who have seen your work.
Thank you for what you do and thank you for sharing your wisdom and guidance with young people aspiring to become as great as they can at their craft.
Remember, just before dying, Leonardo Da Vinci said “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”