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How to Critique Art


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Video Transcript, Natalie Linn

When I was in high school, I was tasked to create a dragon out of clay for my art class. I did the assignment, I turned it in, and it looked nice, but my art teacher sat me down afterward and looked at me like “’You can do better than this.’

I realized that yes, the dragon was adequate, but if I had pushed myself with the assignment, I could have made something really cool, but I had chosen not to. I was confronted with the fact that up until that point, I’ve been resting on my laurels.

So, after that critique, I was able to acknowledge that I needed to push myself forward in order to get better at art and it really helped me in art school. I brought an illustration piece to draw in class one day for crit and my friend did as well. We had spent the whole weekend working hard on these pieces and we were excited to hear back from our classmates about them.

Even though the crit was going along and everybody was getting extensive feedback, we didn’t really get any comments on our work. We got, maybe, two comments from our classmates and then whatever the teacher said was so insignificant, I can’t even remember anymore.

After class, after this bad crit, we walked out and we looked at each other and we said like, ‘What happened? Why did no one want to talk about our work?’ We felt like it was sort of unfair that because we had gone the representational route, we didn’t get to learn from our pieces like our classmates did.”

Video Transcript, Tatiana Florival

Tatiana: “I had this one assignment where I literally didn’t do anything for the assignment. It was the night before, and I was like, ‘Oh man like I have to fulfill this assignment!’ So I ended up making a few drawings that were like really bad and rushed. I hung them up for crit the next day, and then it was my turn to get the crit.

So my whole game plan was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to make up something about why these drawings are important to me. It’s only fifteen minutes, I’ll just get the fifteen minutes and no one will look at me twice again and it’ll be fine.’

And so I did my whole spiel like, ‘Oh yeah these drawings really were an expression of X,Y, and Z.’ And of course everyone was like, ‘All right Tatiana…’

I think the worst crits are when everyone’s just staring at your work and literally no one has anything to say. And it’s silent for ten minutes until one of your classmates is trying to help you out and they’re like, ‘Oh, well I think… that looks cool!”

I was just left with such a horrible feeling. I was like, ‘You know, I’m in art school, I don’t have a lot of time left. I really can’t be wasting my time, other people’s time, because when someone’s taking the time to look at your work and give you feedback, that’s really important.

I was trying to summarize what I was doing and why I was doing it, but I was taking up a lot of time just rambling on and on. And then one visiting artist, he looked at me and he said, ‘What’s one sentence that brings together everything in this room?”

I kind of thought that was unfair of him at the time, because I was like, ‘Oh, of course, this was much more complicated than one sentence. Or I’ve been thinking about much more things than I could fit in one sentence.’

Looking back on it, I think it was a really great critique because they gave me a lot of constructive feedback on different ways I could look at my practice, and different ways I could understand myself more. And I think in the context of making artwork, that’s really important. Because once you can start to understand yourself and why you do what you do, that’s really going to lead to you making some work that really reflects what you want to do.”

Video Transcript, Alex Alemany

“One time I was given this assignment where I had to draw a skeleton, and I decided to be very ambitious, and I drew two skeletons. And it took me a really really long time, and so I was very proud, and I went to class, and I put it on the wall, and it did not go over well for me.

Basically, I didn’t read the assignment sheet correctly. We only had to do one skeleton, but I did do two. And that was so valuable for me to learn. That was my freshman year. And it’s really really really important that you just stay true to the assignment, because later on in life, you don’t read the assignment, or you’re not producing exactly what your clients want. It’s not good.

My bad crit experience was when the professor forgot the assignment, so I basically came in and I was the first person to be critiqued, and he just completely forgot the assignment, and I was just ripped apart in critique, and then I kind of just didn’t know what to say because I figured, ‘hey this professor, you know, he, better than anyone, should know this assignment, so I’m just gonna sit there and take it.’ He eventually found out that he got the assignment wrong and give me a big apology at the end of class, but that was an experience.

Oh my gosh, he was like, ‘this is so bad Alex.'”

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