Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Critique

A critical review or commentary, especially one dealing with works of art or literature.
A critical discussion of a specified topic.The art of criticism.
tr.v. Usage Problem., -tiqued, -tiqu·ing, -tiques.
To review or discuss critically.

[French, from Greek kritikē (tekhnē), (art) of criticism, feminine of kritikos, critical. See critic.]

USAGE NOTE Critique has been used as a verb meaning “to review or discuss critically” since the 18th century, but lately this usage has gained much wider currency, in part because the verb criticize, once neutral between praise and censure, is now mainly used in a negative sense.

On Critiquing
For those who want a critique or want some feedback on their work, like all polite conversations, there are rules.  The first would be obvious, and that would be for the artist to say that they are open for critiquing or need advice on a particular piece.  In other words, the artist needs to invite feedback.  A simple and good example might be from a glass artist who asks for feedback on the lighting and stand she had created.  It is a good question and really asked us as a group of visual artists to think how a glass piece looks under different conditions.   It was to the point and was asking us as the viewer if what she intended was working.  Lastly, the critique should be NEUTRAL.  It’s about an object, not a person.

When asking for a critique it is helpful to have a format and this is what I would like to address now.
On Asking for a Critique
·      Be specific in what you want critiqued.  Is it colour?  Is it composition? Is it the drawing?
·      Give some backround so the critique can be given in context.  For example, if you are working on warm and cool relationships, state that so the audience knows what to be looking for.
·      Stay open.  Critiques make us vulnerable.  But as artists we know that they are valuable.  But some information is more valuable than others.  Don’t feel that every thing offered is valuable or correct.  But do stay open the ideas.
·      Before asking for a group critique, ask yourself if you would rather have feedback from a smaller group or just an individual. 
·      DON’T ask for a critique from a group just to hear nice things.  That is not valuable. 
·      But it is perfectly OK to say, “I would only like to hear something nice.” But understand that that isn’t a critique.

·      On Giving a Critique
·      Remember a critique is neutral.  It is between praise and censure.
·      Address what the artist wants critiqued.
·      Be considered in your response. 
·      Ask questions.  While the artist may ask for a response in a specific area, you may not have enough information yet to offer a good critique.  For example, if the artist is saying that she isn’t sure if the particular colour is working, you might ask what the theme of the work is about?  What led to that colour choice? And then would another colour of the same temperature possibly work? 
·      If you don’t know the answer, say so. 
·      Remember that just because you see something a certain way doesn’t make it the right way.  Like the category above, stay open.
·      Remember to say what is working. 

Finally, I would like to add what Robert Glenn wrote on11/18/2011
How to Critique Yourself”

Yesterday, Michelle Lonsdale wrote, "I'm currently in my second year studying Fine Arts at a university. I'm working on a research assignment investigating artists' self-critiquing methods. What thoughts, beliefs or rituals do you use while critiquing your work?"

Thanks, Michelle. Your question is such a valuable one. With all the current running off to get things juried and critiqued by others, self-critiquing might seem an unpopular sport. It isn't. The acquired ability to critique oneself is the fuse of great art and the silver bullet of the pros. While all artists work differently, here are a few thoughts:

Quality develops when the artist and the critic are honed into a functioning co-op within the same skull. The "ritual" is to pry the artist away from the critic. The artist can be flamboyant, egocentric and prejudiced. The critic needs to be patient, humble and strict. A split personality may be the price you have to pay to see your work through fresh, unsullied eyes. The operation doesn't hurt--much.

Divorcing yourself from the preciousness of your efforts and seeing your work as it really is takes time and mileage. This means "alone time" in your working area. I'm sorry, but my observation has been that no quality work or strong direction will arise in environments where consultants are readily available.

On the other hand, a valuable ploy is to constantly upgrade and rethink standards of excellence, most often done through books and other media. This doesn't mean your style will be influenced by the exposure, but rather you may improve by association with those you admire. "You're only as good as the company you keep," goes the time-honoured expression. The mere act of holding onto great works or seeing them in museums magically transfers a sense of timelessness and creative soul. Fact is, you will not generally improve by misguided staring at your own efforts.

Not surprisingly, when you switch from creation mode to critique mode, you tend to lose the magic of inspiration and substitute a more pedestrian, mechanical approach. A checklist is valuable. In serious sobriety you need to write and follow your own list. I use a series of varying questions: Meaningful subject? Strong patterns? Middle tones? Interlocking gradations? General gradations? Echoing shapes? Flowing design? Alluring counterpoint? Lost and found? Focal point? Big and small? Overall simplicity? Complex shapes? Visual depth? Interesting surface? Arial perspective? Sophisticated colour? Natural believability? What could be?

Best regards,


PS: "Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it, you are lost." (Samuel Butler)

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