Kids who are serious about art- how do you give them constructive feedback?

  • Hi everyone. My 11 year old niece has just asked me to give her "an honest critique" of her artwork. She says she's tired of people telling her that her stuff is great without any real feedback. I can tell from her artwork that she has a lot of fun with it, but that she also takes it seriously and wants to improve. She works digitally and does mostly characters that look like they are influenced by both anime/manga as well as western animation. She lives long distance from me and I think if I met with her in person, it would somehow be easier to give advice without overwhelming her. But I'm not sure how to approach this through email and phone calls. I want to be helpful but I don't want to kill her joy, if that makes sense.

    I know a few of you have teaching backgrounds, and that you all are just smart in general, so I wonder if any of you could offer some advice?

    Should I point out maybe one or two simple things she could do to improve a piece? Should I give her one thing she could work on in general? Should I suggest any fundamental exercises?

    If any one has some thoughts, that would be amazing. I haven't been 11 years old for quite a while and my own kids are not that age yet, so I feel a bit clueless here. It would have been nice to get some helpful art advice when I was younger, so I'd like to do that for her if possible. 🙂

  • I used to teach kids and from experience they want to feel good about what they're doing and don't want to get overwhelmed. It would help her if you first tell her what is good about the drawing. be specific. let's say she shows good proportions or she drew the eye well.

    then focus on only 1 area of improvement and make the steps clear and doable. 1 week in the life of an 11-year-old is a long time! so better not give her homework or an assignment that takes more than 1 day. you can email on a weekly basis but let the assignments be as short as possible for her to see improvement quickly. "You drew the eye really well, now let's do the nose, watch this video and copy it then show me". the video shouldn't be too long either but I think at 11, she can handle up to 20 minutes if she's enthusiastic about learning.

    when she shows you her work next time praise it, and be specific about what improved then give her a new assignment.
    if you want you can tell her what the main goal of your assignments is. "your skill at drawing portraits will improve a lot in 1 month" or "your ability to see and draw form will improve in a month". and do a comparison of before and after to show her she's really improving. and keep in mind that you're a professional illustrator with years of experience, so don't hold her to those high standards.

    oh yes and if possible, have her try different mediums, it's makes learning more fun especially when there's repetition.
    pencil, colored pencils, markers...etc

  • @tessaw I am not teaching kids but i have an 11year old son that loves to draw 🙂 I discovered similar thing to @HeidiGFX, which is that my advice can't be too long and i shouldn't get him overwhelmed. So each time I try to point out whats cool about his drawing and find something tiny to improve. I also showed him a cool youtube channel and some books that inspired me and he got interested in them and tries to get better. It's this one The guy makes things easy and fun. He tries all possible mediums from cheep crayons to drawing in VR. I think that what attracted my son to his channel. I can see that he already improved a lot after watching a few little videos. It's not manga, but he has got cool drawing fundamentals classes.
    And here is one of my sons latest drawings 🙂 0_1538375457275_smoczyslaw3.jpg

  • @heidigfx Wow, thanks for the great advice. As always you write with a lot of clarity! I appreciate how specific you were and how you gave me examples.- it makes me a lot more confident. 🙏🏽

  • @aska Oh cool, you have an 11 year old! I remember seeing some of his stuff on instagram. He's great! It's nice to hear you confirm some of the same points that Heidi made.

    And oh yes, I've seen a few of Jazza'a videos. I'll have to take a look through them a bit more. Thanks for the recommendation.

    That dragon is so cool, btw! Seems like a really ambitious piece. You must be very proud of him. 😊

  • @tessaw My son was flattered, when i showed him what you wrote.Thanks:-) Yes, I am very proud of him, but i am trying not to imagine that he will be a great artist one day. I need to remember it's his choice. Art is a great hobby too 😉 I have also a 7year old that loves to draw, but this one takes no critiques yet 😉 I just focus on the good sides. Otherwise he gets stroppy with me 🙂

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    Agree with above, my youngest loves to draws and always asks for me to critique him. I always start off with what I love about it and then something i think he could improve on. I might even show him on another piece of paper.

    You can also have her join the forums and let the rest of the community do it for you 🙂 LOL

  • Great advice everyone. In my experience the sandwich method works well. Validate something specific. Point out an area or two for improvement. Then praise for the general work. My students respond well to this.

  • @aska ☺ That's funny, you always hear about parents really pushing music, sports, or other academics onto their kids, but are there parents out there demanding that their kids slave away at art? It's interesting to think about. 😃 I have a six year old. I don't critique her art, but I do try to sneak in art lessons without her knowing. We've been playing a guessing game on our walks, where we point out something and try to determine what simple 3d shapes it's made out of. Lol.

    @Chip-Valecek Thanks Chip! Haha, maybe I will. We'll see how she responds to my critiques first. 😄

    @chrisaakins Thank you. Glad you added in your experience with students. The sandwich method seems to work for both kids and adults!

  • @chip-valecek getting critiqued online might be a traumatizing experience for a child, especially when this is a place for professional adults who don't know how old the kid is xD

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @heidigfx thats true, its pretty traumatizing to me and i'm 41 👴 LOL

  • I am neither a teacher nor a parent, so my experience is extremely limited in this realm, but reading your post I thought of something that happened to me when I was around 11 years old that I think has stuck with me my whole life.

    I was always drawing cartoons as a kid, I was influenced by the newspaper strips and tried to emulate the cartoons I liked. All the adults around me always thought I was good at it and it was like, oh great, you have this talent. So my aunt suggested that I send some work in to Disney. I put together some pieces and my parents sent it off. I had no idea what to expect, but someone from Disney wrote back, a brief note, but they told me that it was great that I was drawing, and if I was serious and wanted to be an animator someday, that I should learn to draw from life. They explained a little bit that even though animation isn't realistic, the practice of drawing from life was essential to being a good animator.

    I guess the point is that for me, it wasn't so much about having someone critique me, but the fact that A. they wrote back B. and that they gave me a sense of direction. I wish I had more of that when I was growing up, adults who told me that they believed in me and had the knowledge to guide me to challenge myself.

    I think it's awesome that even though you're far away from her, you are so eager to help!

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