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Critiques-To Speak or not to Speak that is the Question? February 20, 2009

Posted by leskanturek in Class Discussions, Class Topics.
Tags: , , ,

Crits are one of the basic tools instructors use to teach art. They can be a useful opportunity for students to exchange ideas and thoughts on their work, provoke reflection, and help you improve


a crit can be something a student endures and becomes frustrated and bored with. Here are some thoughts of mine about crits….

Critique Goals:

  1. Allow students time to step back ” and see their work.
  2. Hear teachers/professionals and peers opinions.
  3. See how other students handle the same problem.
  4. To encourage students to verbalize their thoughts on their work.
  5. Get students used to critical thinking about artwork in general.

What Keeps Students From Talking/Participating at Critiques?:

  • They don’t want to criticize/make negative comments about other students work.
  • Only interested in comments on their own work.
  • Shy, fear of being embarrassed. Not confident about speaking in public.
  • Tired from being up late the night before.
  • Bored,or don’t think the work up on the wall is worth commenting on.
  • The crit is going on too long.
  • Lack of knowledge / the student doesn’t understand the criteria with which work is judged on.
  • Uninterested in the assignment. They didn’t do a good job on it (and know it). The student doesn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Some Strategies for Participating:

  • Decide before the crit that you are going to participate and make comments.
  • Look at the pieces up on the wall, get up close. Pick pieces you want to discuss. Then, raise your hand. Crits go faster when everyone pitches in.
  • Sometimes you know aspects of your peer’s work more than the instructor. Is this their best painting/drawing? Maybe you saw something they did outside of class that has a bearing on what’s up on the wall at a crit.
  • Describe the piece. I think this is one of the most important things you can do. Verbalize what you see. Be factual, not judgmental. ex: “There are a lot of small elements in this piece, so nothing in particular is being highlighted”. Everything is the same size. You’re using complimentary colors. The assignment was about a dog, you choose not to show a dog. Try to just observe and describe what you see. “The assignment was about loneliness but there are a lot of elements in your drawing”. Describe the piece…the comment will come to you.
  • Ask yourself if the solution meets the criteria of the assignment. Maybe it is a good drawing…but not for this assignment.
  • Express yourself constructively. Mention what works in the piece , then what can be improved. Suggest ways it might be more successful. Avoid expressing your comments as “good  or bad”, they don’t help you troubleshoot a piece. Color isn’t “bad”. The color scheme you used might not support what you’re trying to accomplish in your work. It might be too dark, too light, too close in values or hues…those comments help you fix the piece. “bad” won’t give you any further insight.
  • Compare and contrast two similar solutions (or two opposite solutions). “Isn’t it interesting, Joe painted a bear and Cindy painted a bear yet I’m more drawn to Joe’s because of the lack of blood”.
  • Be honest. Not an easy thing, but instructors know when you didn’t spend enough time on an assignment, or can’t draw hands etc.  even if they don’t always say it in front of the class.  Speak up, say: ” it’s not finished”.   “I’m not happy with it, I need more reference on buildings before I go on” . or “I rushed this, and didn’t leave enough time”.

Speak to your instructor.  If crits go on too long maybe  a time limit can be invoked.  If your work is always critiqued  last say something. If you don’t understand why one piece works and another piece is unsuccessful, ask.



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