Critiquing art in a positive way

What is critiquing art in a positive way?

First, we need to understand the difference between just generally giving feedback and critiquing art.

I feel strongly that we all need to learn how and when to critique or give feedback on someone’s art.

For me, feedback is given when someone presents their finished work for public view…..

and they have not asked for ideas for changes.

Giving feedback is a great opportunity for you as the viewer to describe what you like about the work:

  • Do the colours create a pleasing contrast or composition?
  • Did the artist capture a particular look or expression?
  • Does the design look balanced?
  • Is there something unique you like about it?
  • What do you see that you particularly like?

These type of comments helps the artist (quilter) to know what resonates with the viewer.

It’s fun for me to hear the comments people make about my portraits as it allows me to see all the different perspectives people bring to my art.

Unless someone is asking for comments on what they could have done differently, don’t offer your opinion.  

Leave those comments for a critique. Do not offer a critique unless it has been requested.

It’s important to realize that if something isn’t to your taste/style you don’t need to comment on it. 

Just pass it by, ignore it and don’t comment, or look for something in the composition that you do like and comment on that point.

So what is critiquing?

Critiques give many people the willies!

surprise and fright

The thought of other people making critical comments about our work sends chills down our spines.

We too often have an overly critical inner critic so to think of anyone else making those kinds of comments about our work is a no-go zone.

A well-done critique however should offer insight and suggestions for improvement.

It can, and should, include comments on what was done successfully and suggestions for change.

It’s helpful when requesting a critique of our work to be as specific as possible about what parts we think are OK and what areas don’t seem to be working.

When this happens, you as the viewer should comment generally on what appeals to you in the piece. Any other comments are to be directed only to the areas where advice was sought.

For example, in presenting a landscape someone says that they’re happy with the sky and the water but feel that there is something not quite right with the trees.

You can comment on what appeals to you about the different areas of the landscape and then offer suggestions for changing the trees.

In this example, you wouldn’t offer ideas on what the person could have done differently in the sky or the water. Or make disparaging remarks about the person’s work.

Critiquing art effectively

Remember these points:

  1. Critique the work, not the person.
  2. Avoid statements like “you should have,  you should do “x”,  or why didn’t you…?”
  3. Don’t malign the person’s judgement.
  4. Be polite. No harmful language.

If you’re not sure why the artist (quilter) thinks there’s something wrong with an area, ask for clarification. 

Going back to the previous example, you could say something like “What don’t you like about the trees?” This helps them to be more specific –  maybe it’s the size or the colour or the fabric used.

Offer suggestions for improvement using statements such as:

  • What if you……?
  • Have you considered……?
  • What about trying…..?
  • Maybe consider…..
  • Have you thought of…..?

These comments leave it open for the person whose piece is being reviewed to accept or reject the ideas presented. It may even spur further ideas for them.

Because in the end, it’s that person’s own taste that’s important and we need to respect that they are the artist.

“Creativity takes courage” – Henri Matisse.


Photo represents accomplishment.


Interested in improving your own art?

You can ask yourself these questions about your own art to see if there are ways in which you can improve your own technique. This is the way to grow!

Does this help you to know what to do when asked for feedback (critique)?

Comments welcome!

2 thoughts on “Critiquing art in a positive way

  1. Robyn

    Hi Valerie very sorry I have over stepped the mark with Elizabeths post …communication is not my strong point…and I very much appreciate your post on critiquing ….I have printed a copy and will study it for future use ……thankyou for all your imput


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