View Full Version : On giving and taking critique

04-01-2012, 06:27 PM
This post was originally made by member Griatch at http://www.gimpchat.com

I felt both his original post and many of the followup posts are quite valid. He has graciously allowed me to repost it here verbatim.

This is a repost of an old post I once made on GimpTalk, it might be of general interest though.

Posting your art - be it a sig, a photomanipulation, a digital painting or anything else - on the internet is implicitly inviting people to give comments on it -- critique. No, "critique" does not mean "negative comments". Critique include both positive and negative constructive feedback. I thought I'd put down some ideas and suggestions on this subject. This is of course all just my personal take on it.

For you getting critique:

First of all, if you don't want critique you should mark that directly in your post. This is fine and should be respected, but don't expect too many people to comment -- people don't like censorship. You should really remember that critique is always a good thing. Critique means a person have really looked at your work, taken it in and formed an opinion about it. They might not like what they see, but at least they are not indifferent to it, it's the difference between having an audience and having a group of people just passing by. Heeding critique is also - by far - the fastest way to improve your art.

Things to think about:

Try to properly address the constructive critique you get. If a person spent time writing detailed points of critique for you, you should reply in kind with a detailed response. You certainly don't have to agree with any of it, but then you should say so and why. Critique is a dialogue and also the one giving critique must feel the effort they made at least registered with you. If you don't take this time, chance is that next time they won't bother.
There are real people behind those nicknames who spent some of their time writing feedback for you. Always thank people for their feedback. Always. Also if the critique is jarring. You asked for feedback, you got it. Even better, go give feedback and critique on their works in return.
Also a simple one-sentence "That's great!" or "Nice!" is also a sort of feedback. A lot less useful than real critique for sure, but worthy of a thanks too.
If you feel people don't comment enough on your work, start posting critique and feedback on the work of others, they will hopefully reply in kind. If everyone just waits for others to comment on their work, noone will get any responses, ever.
Don't get defensive. If you get (negative) critique, you must take it for what it is -- an opinion of your latest work. It does not judge you as a person. If you feel personally offended, you have failed. Take a step back, take a cup of tea and return when the feeling subsides.
If you do get flamed with a clear non-constructive personal attack ("This sucks, you suck and you could just as well stop doing art altogether"), ignore them for the trolls they are and report the post to staff. Schmucks like that do not belong here anyway.

For you giving critique:

Few realize it, but giving proper critique is an art in itself. And I'm not talking about knowing any fancy art terms. No, the art lies in delivering your critique in a way that actually helps the artist, not just brings them down or makes them defensive. Critique is a sensitive thing. The artist has probably spent much time and put a lot of love into their work, it's not easy to hear it's not perfect, to have the flaws pointed out.

Things to think about:

Never forget that your goal is to help another person to get better. If you want to be critical just to be mean or to show off, don't post.
There is a real person behind that artist nickname. If the artist becomes defensive and feels attacked, you have failed. No one will heed your advice if you do not respect them. The artist is the master of this particular piece of artwork, not you. It's their work, their choice to hear you out or to reject your advice. Deliver your constructive critique in a respectful way, making it clear it is just your personal opinion. It will give the artist a chance to "save face" if you will, to accept your advice without having to swallow any pride. It's simple human psychology.
Sometimes the artist don't agree with your critique. Accept that. People have different opinions and it's their artwork after all. At least they now know others see things differently.
Critique do not only mean negative feedback, but also positive. If you like something, say so. Artists are not mind-readers, there is no such thing as "I don't need to comment because they already know it's good".
Any feedback is good feedback. A one word "Great!" is better than not responding at all, but you should really try to at least get together a coherent sentence on why you thought it was 'great'. On the other hand a one-word "Bad!" is not acceptable at all -- if you give negative feedback you are supposed to explain why.
If you give negative critique, make it constructive. "I don't like the right part of the image" is an opinion, but it does not help the artist at all. What is the problem? Is it the colour? Should there be something more there? Is the image too wide? If you can't put your finger on what's wrong ("it's just a feeling..."), say so, but don't leave the artist hanging with just a loose statement.
Of course flames and personal attacks are not acceptable at all. If you feel the urge to flame, just don't post.
There is always something positive to be said about any piece of art. Even if you have a lot of negative feedback to give, always try to squeeze in one or two things that were well done, even if they are trivial.

If you have more ideas and thoughts around this issue, post them!

The original post and an assortment of additional comments can be found over here at GimpChat. (http://www.gimpchat.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1318)

-Rob A>

04-02-2012, 12:19 AM
Great post and full of nice points to remember on both sides of the equation.

The best way to help someone is to make a sandwich out of it (Say what?):

1 - Tell them something good
2 - Tell them what needs worked on
3 - Tell them something good

It's like bread, meat, bread - hence the sandwich analogy. :)

Try it next time you want to help someone out and see if it doesn't go over well.

04-02-2012, 01:01 AM
Thanks for posting this, RobA, and thanks to Griatch for saying it in the first place. Sometimes it's hard to remember to toughen our skin as sensitive artistes :) These words should also go into every writing forum on the interwebs.

@ Jax: that is awesome, and very good advice.

04-19-2012, 11:30 PM
Very wise advice, and applicable to any form of self-expression where one makes their self vulnerable. Thanks for posting!

04-19-2012, 11:50 PM
Very well thought out and valuable advice. I am awful at giving critiques because I am afraid of a. sounding like a twit and b. offending someone. Thanks for posting this!

04-20-2012, 05:31 PM
Also it's good to remember that any feedback even negative can be a good thing. If nothing else it can make you take a more critical look at your work and check yourself. Most people do not like to just rain harshly down on someone else so be thankful they were interested enough to bother typing anything up. Of course, there are always some trolls who just love to have some drama in life due to their co-dependance.....ignore them because they could never take any negative criticism for themselves anyway. They need professional help and they certainly won't get what they really need from the internet.

Whenever I attempt to give a critique I try to look at it from the standpoint of what would I like someone to point out to me if they saw it in my work. I really appreciate the efforts here at the Cartographer's Guild to help one another grow as artists and I would hate to see that go away. Just do the best you can giving critiques and remember that most of us here are interested in seeing every single poster improve and grow so we can have even better stuff to look at in the future. Always offer positive points because if nothing else at least they were willing to share something with you.

Sometimes it stings a little but that's just how it is and there is no way around that. If we didn't have an ego it probably wouldn't even be an issue so learn to control that part of yourself. You don't have to agree but there is no point in starting a flame war.