The Art of Criticism: How to give and take good critiques as well as spot poor critiques. / by Kasandra Murray

09_Sketch-Book-Mockup_Sheep.jpg

Criticism.

The rest of the world considers criticism a bad thing, but as an artist, it is what keeps me moving forward. Critiquing is how I learn from my mistakes and fine tune my skills. Not all feedback is equal, which is why I wanted to write an article on how to give and take criticism, as well as how you can turn a bad critique into a good one.

Below is a quick break down of good and bad practices when it comes to criticism.

What to do:

  • Find a community of your peers and receive criticism from there.
  • Take a class and get feedback from a teacher/professor.
  • Actively ask for feedback all the time wherever you can.

What not to do:

  • Don't ask friends or family to critique your work.
  • Don't take any critiquing personally.
  • Don't try to argue why a critique is wrong.


I believe the list of what to do is pretty straight forward and I won't dive any deeper into it. Instead, let's talk a little more about what you shouldn't do when it comes to receiving criticism.

Don't ask friends or family to critique your work.

Your friends and family opinion about you will hinder their ability to give you constructive feedback. I will also go out on a limb and say that most of your friends and family have no formal training in the arts which means their feedback will be of lower quality. 

Don't take any critiquing personally.

I get it. Taking criticism on something you have worked hard on can be difficult. Don't raise your defenses every time someone says something about your piece you may not like. I have been drawing for over 20 years and still to this day people give me fantastic feedback on all my work. Remeber you want to get better, which sometimes means you will have to hear things that may come across displeasing to you.

Don't try to argue why a critique is wrong.

Most artists make the mistake of fighting their critique. Don't do this.  If you feel like a criticism you have received is unjustified you should do one of two things:

You should thank the person giving the critique and sit on what they said. If after some time you still disagree then make a deliberate decision and form a strong reason why you shouldn't follow the critique.

An example of when not to follow a criticism is when someone disagrees with your subject matter because it makes them uncomfortable. While in college I decided to put together a female empowering Weber Grill ad campaign which utilized figures like Rosie the Riveter and Amelia Earhart. My professor at the time did not like the concept because he felt that women wouldn't connect with the campaign. I disagreed with his criticism but told him I would do more research before proceeding any further. Note that I still was taking his criticism seriously, I just wanted to provide him with actual evidence that his criticism was an inaccurate assessment. I decided to present my idea to the women in my class and get their feedback. The support for my concept was overwhelming and helped me prove to my professor that his criticism was unsupported.

The other thing you can do is thank the individual for their feed back and move on. If you truly don't want to take their criticism you don't have to. If you find yourself ignoring criticism more than taking it, then you are still doing it wrong.


Lastly, I would like to talk about how to turn a bad criticism into a good one. Some times you may run into a person who gives criticism that leaves you with nothing to improve on. Those types of critiques tend to have these items in their structure:

They are vague with their displeasure of a particular part of your piece.

Example: "Eww what is going on with their leg?"

What to do: Ask them specifically what their issue is.

They just say "I don't like it." with no explanation why.

What to do: Ask them to give you more details on what they don't like about the piece.

They attack you personally.

What to do: Ignore. Don't indulge someone who is being an asshole.

Another way to get better criticism is to ask the person critiquing you what they would do instead. Create a dialog with people who are offering their feedback that is open and friendly.

That's it!

Remember that criticism isn't a bad thing. Always strive toward being a better artist for yourself and your community. 

Your biggest fan,
-Kasandra