quilting

Critique vs criticism

I’ve been making a list of topics to write about here on my blog and before the list gets too much longer I thought I’d talk about one of those feared and most often misunderstood subjects:

Critique - Wooden 3d rendered letters/message

I cover this topic in depth in my Artistic Development online class that starts on June 4, but I thought I’d touch on a couple of points about this topic here on my blog today.  And the first thing I want to make sure I get across is that to Critique a piece of artwork does not mean criticize it!

A critique should never be a negative experience whether you’re giving one or receiving one. It’s a learning experience.  It’s about evaluating the work, learning from it and using that information to inform your next piece.  It’s not about whether or not you like the work it’s about evaluating the work based on the execution of the design and the techniques used.

And while we’re on the subject of critique let’s talk about how to ask for one.  If you stand at the front of the room, hold up your quilt and say “what do you think” you will no doubt be greeted by a round of applause, ooh’s and ahhs, magnificent, I love it! responses and while I think we can agree that is a wonderful feeling it doesn’t help you if what you’re really looking for is honest feedback or help with a design issue or direction.  Now if you stand in front of the room, hold your quilt up and ask:

  • Is the composition balanced or do I need to change the scale of the elements?
  • Does your eye travel around the piece or is it focusing on a particular spot?
  • I would like feedback on the color combination I used – does it read happy or sad?

These questions give the viewers some guidelines to evaluate the piece and will most likely result in more tangible feedback that you can consider and use. So before you ask for a critique, think about what information you want or need and then ask the question.

And here’s a couple of things to keep in mind when the tables are turned and you’re the one whose being asked to give critique on a fellow artists work.  If you’re asked “I feel like the design is unbalanced and it needs something to make it pop, what should I do?” keep your responses neutral and leave your personal preferences out of them.  Use “have you considered” or “what if” instead of “I would” or “you should”.  If you’re unsure what the person is asking for, then ask for clarification before you offer your thoughts.

And lastly, when it comes to critique or feedback on another artists work wait until your asked for it!  Giving unsolicited critique on a fellow artists work is not usually appreciated so wait until they ask, make sure you understand what they’re asking for and remember to always be thoughtful with your responses.

Further resources on the subject of critique:

Lyric Kinard’s pocket guide to critique

Jane Dunnewold’s critique checklist

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