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Critique Guidelines


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From: {Sorry the link no longer exists: The Art Critiquing Process}. Several pages of information at this site with some examples. Brief description:


The Art Critiquing Process is a method of organizing the facts and your thoughts about a particular work of art. In some ways it is similar to the Scientific Method used in your science classes. The Art Critiquing Process is broken down into FOUR areas. Each area specifically looks at one section. The FOUR steps are Description, Analysis, Interpretation and Judgment. Each section must be covered in order, beginning with Description. This order helps you to organize your thoughts and to make intelligent and educated statements about a work of art. It is very important that you are familiar with the Elements of Art* and the Principles of Design** as they will provide you with the vocabulary and knowledge necessary to critique art intelligently.


Please remember that not all people are going to agree with everything you may say. People bring into the Art Critiquing Process their own sets of stored knowledge and experiences that are unique to them.


* Line, Color, Texture, Shape, Form, Space, Value


** Rhythm and Movement, Balance, Proportion, Variety and Emphasis, Harmony, Unity

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Teaching Students to Critique Part of the Featured Spotlight

By Joyce Payne


This How-To covers the basic elements of art critique.


What is a critique?


A critique is an oral or written discussion strategy used to analyze, describe, and interpret works of art. Critiques help students hone their persuasive oral and writing, information-gathering, and justification skills.


Provide direction and guidance with the critique to ensure that students stay on task and address the purpose and objectives of the lesson.


Below is a sample set of focus questions for an art critique related to four major areas of art criticism: description, analysis, interpretation, judgment. (The number of questions and aspects of specificity will vary according to the art form and number of works in the critique).



Describe the work without using value words such as "beautiful" or "ugly":


* What is the written description on the label or in the program about the work?

* What is the title and who is (are) the artist(s)?

* When and where was the work created?

* Describe the elements of the work (i.e., line movement, light, space).

* Describe the technical qualities of the work (i.e., tools, materials, instruments).

* Describe the subject matter. What is it all about? Are there recognizable images?




Describe how the work is organized as a complete composition:


* How is the work constructed or planned (i.e., acts, movements, lines)?

* Identify some of the similarities throughout the work (i.e., repetition of lines, two songs in each act).

* Identify some of the points of emphasis in the work (i.e., specific scene, figure, movement).

* If the work has subjects or characters, what are the relationships between or among them?




Describe how the work makes you think or feel:


* Describe the expressive qualities you find in the work. What expressive language would you use to describe the qualities (i.e., tragic, ugly, funny)?

* Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced (i.e., analogy or metaphor)?

* How does the work relate to other ideas or events in the world and/or in your other studies?


Judgment or Evaluation


Present your opinion of the work's success or failure:


* What qualities of the work make you feel it is a success or failure?

* Compare it with similar works that you think are good or bad.

* What criteria can you list to help others judge this work?

* How original is the work? Why do you feel this work is original or not original?



I cannot get this to post in a separate entry. I will try again at another time. Sorry for the length of this...



Works/San José Critique Group


OK. So what is this critique thing all about?


The Goal


The aim of this group is to enable artists to move forward with their work by offering constructive criticism in a supportive and encouraging environment. Constructive criticism can help artists see things in their work that they might not be able to see on their own.


The Format


To help the group understand a little bit about each artist’s sensibility and what the work means to him or her, it is important for each artist to discuss his or her piece before critiquing begins. This kind of give and take forum, in which the artists first introduce their works and then invite feedback, pushes them to come to terms with their intentions and take responsibility for what is actually there.


The Criticism


Criticism is not a guessing game. It is an informed, multi-faceted way to communicate verbally what one sees as successful or unsuccessful in a given work of art. And it should be noted that not everyone will agree on the criticism of the same work. It is up to the artist being criticized to take away from a critique session the ideas, questions, concerns and comments that resonate within him.


The art of critiquing


How a critique works - what to expect


Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (It is an act of faith and courage to put one’s work out for criticism. Being able to trust the goodwill and kindness of those doing the critique is essential to openness and growth).


When you present your work to the group, be prepared to speak about your intent and to pose any questions you have about the work. Be brief and concise; the less you talk, the more time you will have to hear others’ responses.


When you respond to others’ work, be clear, concise, honest, and direct, without being mean.


Be specific about your criticisms, suggestions, and observations. Vague or abstract conversation is not useful to the art-maker.


Stay focused on the work, and avoid extraneous or competing conversations.


Remember, you are commenting on the work, not on the artist. Refrain from making personal references by avoiding the word “you.” Instead, talk about “it,” the artwork.



Consider the work in several contexts:


1. The artist’s intent (most important)


2. Other work being done by comparable artists


3. Other current work in the greater world


4. Historical artifacts or exemplars.


Avoid using vague or meaningless words like “nice,” “I like,” “good,” or “bad,” unless you can follow them with specific and convincing supporting statements or explanations.


Be constructive. Give the kind of information you would value receiving on your own work, i.e., commentary that helps the artist see the work in a new light, provides specific ways to improve it, and contributes to creative growth.


Questions for Consideration


Approach each work with respect and enthusiasm for the artist’s efforts. Some questions to consider are listed below:


Is the artwork complete? If not, what changes can still occur?


What is the artist’s intent: What was the idea?


How does the complete artwork compare to the artist’s stated goal?


In what specific ways does it meet or fall short of the goal?


How thorough was the process of generating alternative ideas before choosing one to refine and develop? Before beginning, did the artist push ideas past the first solution that came to mind? (Consider sketches, writings, background research, samples, and studies to test materials and techniques).


Do the materials and techniques seem appropriate to the idea?


List specific strengths of the work. These might be conceptual, technical, material, formal, or the interaction of any of these.


List specific weaknesses of the work, things that could be improved to make the work stronger or more powerful. Again, these might be conceptual, technical, material, formal, or the interaction of any of these.


What is the emotional or psychological impact of the work? As a viewer, how does it make you feel?


Is the composition strong? Consider the work in comparison to a checklist of fundamental compositional design elements and principles. Do these all support and strengthen the idea or intent?


Design Elements


Color Space


Form Texture


Line Value






Principles of design


Balance /proportion - relationship of one element to another


Harmony/unity - is the work a whole rather than separate sections?


Variety - of shapes, line, textures, light, etc.


Emphasis - focal point


Rhythm & movement - how does your eye move about the piece?


Has the work been carefully finished? This question refers to the details that make the work’s presentation seem professional and might include the following: armatures, contexts, frames, joins, mountings, stands, or supporting devices, among other items specific to the work itself.


Has there been careful attention to detail?


Is the work well crafted, especially in relation to the type of image and idea?


Does the work meet the standard of excellence to which the artist aspires? Does it compare favorably to other work being done in the medium by others at the level with which the artist would identify him or herself?


After the critique


Using the feedback effectively


Only after reflection about the responses to your work – or perhaps after further experimentation – can you begin to decide for yourself what is useful and what you can discard. Ultimately, the work is yours, and the decisions about its direction are yours. The critique is a device to help you see new possibilities and to help you divorce your ego from the process of art making and see the work more objectively.


The notes you take about your work may lead you to ask follow-up questions of one or more group-members. Don’t hesitate to ask them. The clarification works best when the thoughts are fresh. If you feel confused, touch base with members between meetings to clarify or continue conversations. If you try a suggestion and it works, contact the person who made it to express thanks or continue the discussion. Some pieces take longer to resolve, so you may bring them back to the meetings more than once. Jot down your follow-up questions to bring back to the group next time. Bring the completed piece for last words.


Use the critique group to improve your own skills in self-criticism. As you listen to what others say in response to your own work, compare their comments to your own evaluations to see how you can gain better insight into your process and creative problem-solving skills.



Guidelines from The Creative Critique by Susan Brandeis (Professor of art & design, College of Design, North Carolina).

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Thanks for the refresher Janel. It's interesting, in my formal art education never once was I taught how to construct a critique. I'll print out the text you submitted and have a look over it. Food for thought.


Count me in on the idea of having a critique forum. I've got a few new things ready for photography.

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