The Value of a Good Critique
January 29, 2015
As a creative—in school and in your career—you’re going to get a lot of feedback, and you have to learn how to put this feedback to good use. Putting your work in the public eye can make you feel exposed and vulnerable, but it’s all part of the creative process. No matter how talented you are, no one creates a masterpiece on the first try.
“Critiquing one’s own work and the work of others is perhaps one of the most challenging things that new students encounter when studying in the creative disciplines. It is also arguably one of the most valuable,” says Stephen Butler, Director of Curriculum Development and Learning Resources for The Art Institutes.
Learning the best practices for a critique can take time, but, when done properly, this process can fuel your creative growth. Here’s a look at how learning to critique can help you.
Work out the Kinks
When you’re entrenched in a project, it can be difficult to look at the big picture or see your work from a different perspective. A fresh viewpoint may offer ideas that never occurred to you—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Critiques can be a great way to work out the kinks and grow as an artist.
Develop Thick Skin
It’s going to burn the first couple of times you receive less-than-stellar critiques or unexpected comments on your work. Pouring your heart and soul into a project that doesn’t get the reception you expected can be disappointing. However, the more your work is reviewed, the easier it gets to process and accept opinions about your work—which, in the end, can help you to produce a more impressive piece of art.
Ask the Right Questions
The best critiques—of your own work or someone else’s—start with an open mind. “Asking questions is, in my opinion, the best approach,” says Butler. He suggests beginning with these four questions
- What was your goal?
- What was your inspiration?
- What are you hoping to communicate or convey?
- Did you do research?
These questions can spark a productive discussion, moving you and your classmates away from statements about liking or disliking a piece, and instead toward a conversation on whether the artwork accomplishes its intended goal.
Establish Your Voice
Not only will mastering the art of a critique allow you to gain the respect of your peers, but you’ll also be better equipped to explain your own work to your clients, peers, or instructors. With critiques, Butler says, “We are challenged to be more insightful as to why we create, what we create, and why we are unique.” Plus, you never know when a client will ask for a critique of an existing logo or website design, and having classroom critique experience can prepare you to present an informed opinion without inadvertently causing hard feelings.
Find Your Niche
Just as some critiques help you discover opportunities for improvement, positive critiques let you know where you stand out. It’s one thing to think you excel in an area, but when your skills and ideas are validated by your peers, you know you’re really onto something. Knowing where your strengths lie can help you focus your talents and find your niche.
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