How to give and get more from art critiques

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“Art director or freelancer, we all get exposed to critique,” says Pascal Blanche. “It’s about exposing your work to others’ eyes and opinions.”

And note that ‘discussing’ doesn’t mean ‘arguing’: this is not a zero-sum debate, but a process of constructive dialogue. That’s the spirit in which Sarah Robinson, creative director for Paizo in Seattle, approaches receiving a critique.

“I usually let them happen calmly,” she says. “I may not agree with them, but in that case I’ll just go ahead and make the requested changes to let them see how it would look, and explain to them why it wouldn’t work.”

Above all, you should never feel singled out, because receiving a critique is something every artist has to go through. “All visual medium is open for criticism,” Sarah stresses. “It’s going to happen, so if you can’t take it then maybe you’re in the wrong business.” And the pay-off is that you can use the feedback positively, to improve your art.

Jumping board

How you do that will vary in different situations, says Drew. “But generally, you can either implement the suggestions, or use their critique as a jumping board for being analytical about your image,” he says.

“Even if there are bits of a critique that I don’t agree with, there’s probably still something there to resolve. So I try to see if there are other routes to solving those issues, other than the suggested one, that will still retain what I liked previously.”

“Passion projects are where you can shine, and getting them critiqued is vital to making them better,” says Loïc Zimmerman.

Most importantly, never stop asking for critiques, because without them, your art is likely to stagnate, says Loïc. “I’ve done this job long enough that I have passionate people coming in, fresh out of school, who join and slowly fade over the years,” he says.

“It seems like there’s a layer of dust on them, and the flame, the fire in the eyes, just fades. And this is why you need to keep a critical thinking on your own work, and show it to the people who’ll help you get better.”

And there’s no such thing as an artist who’s too successful to ask for a critique. “Some of the best people I know ask for opinions,” Loïc points out. “You wouldn’t expect Jeremy Mann to tell you, ‘Hey, what do you think of that painting?’, but he does, because he’s curious. The most established people, the strongest ones, still want to know.” 

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