Several nights ago a painting from a Facebook group called Level Up! was on my Facebook feed. This image, like many on Level Up!, was seeking critiques; and as usual I checked the comments to see if there were any actual critiques being made or if they were simply expressed opinions. There weren't, and I was slowing down on work, so I decided to look over the image thoroughly. However, based on the content of this image I knew my critiques could either easily be accepted or rejected. I took a gamble, I wrote, made some draw-over suggestions for clarity, and went to bed.
The next day, I woke up to see my notification feed had exploded. There were likes and dislikes, and the dislikes were especially strong; name-calling me as an idiot, a liar, gymnophobic (afraid of naked people), not knowing what I was talking about, and enforcing that "all art is subjective". What did I do? I laughed. It was honestly funny because the critique wasn't meant for viewers, but for the artist. It was funny that people outside of this image thought that they could hurt me, call me terrible things and question my knowledge. It's like a person asks "what do you think of this pizza I made," I say "it's burnt, you may wanna try this-or-that so we can enjoy your pizza more", and someone from across the street goes "HA!! You're an idiot. I love pizza!" .... which I never said I didn't like pizza.
I remember there was a time not too long ago where I'd get a negative comment about my critiques, and it would bother me throughout the day. Now I question why I let comments that aren't even involved in a conversation bother me. The best part is the original artist saw my critique, and acknowledged it by giving it a "like". Whether he actually enjoyed it or not I don't know, because he didn't comment. Truthfully I can understand not wanting to get involved since all the other comments seemed out of control. But he saw it, and took that information as it is.
When someone asks for a critique, what are some things to consider so the artist doesn't find your critiques too harsh? Additionally, how do you make your critique as bullet-proof as possible to avoid misunderstandings? I'll add that the bullet proof is for yourself and not your critique; because no matter what it is you say publicly to a public environment, you will very likely if not always get at least one negative comment for the sake of being negative.
TAKE IT AS A GRAIN OF SALT
Always, always remind people that your thoughts are just that. Your thoughts. They do not have to take anything you say, and therefore have nothing to gain by taking what you say personally.
RECOGNIZE WHAT THE ARTIST WANTS
Is their artwork intended for a specific audience? Is it a children's book, art for animation, or possibly abstract? If they mention it, awesome! Less work for you. If not, be sure to clarify how you're viewing the artwork. By stating "I'm viewing this as a children's book, so all my comments from here on out will be based on that understanding. If it's not a children's book, please disregard what I've written.", we the viewers have a clear and easy way to distinguish what it is you're thinking before reading further.
DON'T ADD OPINIONS
Make sure your words are constructive criticisms. Opinions are suggestive, and can only supply so much information to the artist without them having to guess work how to "fix" a painting. Often times, opinions will clash and ultimately can be pretty useless (sorry, but it's true). You can certainly have opinions, but unless it'll help the artist, best keep them to yourself.
MAKE YOUR POINTS CLEAR
If you point out something the artist could fix, but don't give any solutions or directions as of how to fix it then it's frustrating for the artist. If you don't know how to express something, try looking up reference or other means of expressing the point you're making. If unable, you can simply leave a message saying "If that statement didn't make sense, feel free to message me for clarification."
DON'T TRY TO SOUND SMART
Often times when you try to sound smart, you'll sound stupid. If someone says "I need a critique", and you're looking at their work and honestly can't see anything to improve on it, don't try to make something up to make yourself look smart. On top of that, if you actually do see something that could be improved, but don't know how, be honest. Otherwise, it goes back to that burnt pizza where you see the problem, but don't know how to fix it and instead suggest "maybe you should add less cheese so your cheese won't get burnt."
DON'T GET BUTT-HURT
Possibly the most important, don't get offended or hurt if the artist doesn't take your critique. It's up to the artist to decide whether to follow your advice or not, and that's completely alright.
Giving critiques can be a little daunting, especially if it's online where everyone seems to be extra bold to knock you down. However, so long as you keep your cool and remember it's for an artist-in-need, it'll be worth it. Do you remember receiving a great critique? What made it great? Let me know in the comments below.
All my best,