How to give and get more from art critiques

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Giving something back

As well as receiving critiques, as a professional artist you’re often asked to critique other artists’ work. But as we’ve already noted, no one likes hearing negative views of their art. So how do you go about it?

While diplomacy is key, soft-soaping the truth is not an option, says Sarah Robinson, who regularly reviews other artists’ work at conventions. “Hearing the truth is what helps,” she points out. “We all want to get better, and if we’re told that we’re awesome all the time, then there’s no chance of going to the next level.”

Image created by Dave Rapoza as part of a tutorial. “If the artist argues back, do listen, because they may change your perspective,” says Dave

Dave Rapoza, an artist for games and films who’s just launched his own comic entitled Steve Lichman, agrees. “You don’t do anyone a service by holding back,” he says. “People are looking for someone to be honest. Remember, they’re asking for critique. If they want compliments instead, they need to make that clear.”

Neither, though, should you simply spit out your own personal views of the work, says Loïc Zimmermann. “It’s not about you and whether you like the art or not. That’s not relevant,” he explains. “It’s about what is the artist trying to do, and how well they’re working towards that goal.”

“A critique requires you to do more than just look at the art; it’s about understanding the ambitions behind it,” agrees American artist Daniel Warren, who’s recently been working with Dave Rapoza on Steve Lichman. Daniel used to critique artists regularly online via Livestream and Twitch, and still does so for those who reach out via email.

“I typically try to first identify what field they’re trying to get into,” he explains. “Concept art? Book illustration? Comics? And then I frame the crit around the needs and requirements of getting into that field.”

This way, there’s a better chance of your critique hitting home, he adds. “It shows them that you actually took the time to observe their work and aren’t just giving them the boilerplate responses you give to everyone who asks for help.”

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