Are you SURE you want a critique? by M Theresa Brown

Critiques. If you are an artist, you cannot escape the universal  useage nor  overexposure of the word, “Critique.”  It is used randomly about the art world to the point where you either embrace the concept or reject it entirely.  In art,  Critiques are used in grade school, in art lessons,  art lecturers and schools of every calibre. But without a doubt it has gained widespread usage on the Internet message boards! But is a critique really what all these artists are asking for?

A decription of the word: “Critique has been used as a verb meaning “to review or discuss critically” since the 18th century, but lately this usage has gained much wider currency, in part because the verb criticize, once neutral between praise and censure, is now mainly used in a negative sense. But this use of critique is still regarded by many as pretentious jargon…..”

Ouch. But let’s truly analyze what a Critique is supposed to do and I cannot say it any better than a friend of mine did when asked about a Critique on a message board recently:

“Ah, critiques…
critiques do two things–

1. Establishes that the work has come to the point where the artist’s abilities have reached their limit with that particular vision,
(or they’ve run out of time as in a classroom environment or commission, e.g.)

2. The people who are critiquing have two issues–

     a. They are not all trained in the language of design and communication to reach clarity with the artist about what needs to be done and WHY,and because of that

     b. they then bring into the discussion their own personal tastes and responses to the work, which may alter the directional vision of the artist, or worse, totally obscure the need for any design changes that would improve the work. (All the “attaboys” without content.)

Sometimes critiques can be harsh if the person posting does it to receive positive response.  Many early learners face this reality when their design and drawing knowledge come to the fire and someone points out a design issue that needs correcting (in their opinion).

I don’t offer critiques much any more, unless it is one-on-one where I can be certain the person hearing my words understands the reasons for my saying them.”Elin P.

My friend’s definition was so well put that there was no way to improve upon anything that she said!

So we go back to what the requester of a Critique is REALLY asking!  And this is where you must be critically honest with yourself!  Do you want a critique (possibly at the hands of someone you should NOT be taking advice from) or a pat on the back?

We  never outgrow the need (and fun) of Show and Tell.  That is good!

But whereas a real critique in a controlled environment by persons whose advice you respect can be invaluable to you as an artist, more than likely what you are going to get is someone’s personal opinion.  And that will happen 99% of the time you open up your work and abilities to a mass critique or an art group.  Be careful what you wish for!

Want to know more? Join Theresa and Steve June 18 for an all day seminar in Raleigh! Laast one until the Art of the Carolinas!





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