This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

How to get your artwork critiqued

Every once in a while, someone asks me to give their opinion of their artwork. I learned a long time ago to smile brightly, say something like "interesting, highly original!" and then change the subject. But I don't do that all of the time. I always start out with that as I assume that the person that I am talking to does not really want his work to be critiqued, but for it to be praised. Over the years it has proven to be a safe assumption most of the time. I have no desire to be confrontational, or to have someone get mad at me, or to argue.

But very rarely I have spoken to someone who genuinely wants to know. Instead of "how do you like my website?" they will say something like "How can I make my website better?" I am still cautious, as I have been burned many times by people who have gotten angry. I can still recall the stifled, and sometimes not so stifled, rage. So, getting me to do a real, genuine critique takes some coaxing. I am shy about it.

My first experience with critiquing artwork is when I became an instructor at The Art Institute of Phoenix in the 90s. I had been assured that the students were there to learn, to make their artwork and design better, etc. and I innocently jumped right into the types of critiques that I remembered from my days at ASU. I shouldn't have been surprised to find that the vast majority of the people resented criticism, even from an instructor. But, it was part of my job, and I gave feedback (which is what I renamed it) as gently and as privately as possible.

I still remember one particular student who confronted me about his grades. He said, "Stop just giving me A's, tell me how to make my artwork better." And I've known a few people like that. From the student's point of view, they are "brain pickers". I've come to recognize brain pickers, and I open up to them. As a student, I was one of them.

So, if you don't mind, may I pick your brain on a subject?