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Constructive Criticism Where does one draw the line?

Aug 29, 2011

    1. First off forgive me and feel free to delete if this had already been talked about or it's too off topic. I did a search and didn't come up with anything so I should be in the clear.

      Also to clarify, this is criticism in regards to dolls like face up, sewing crits etc. It just happened to veer off into Art school subjects. I am also well aware there is a Critique forum so I wish that people would stop emphasizing it. This is solely a discussion on crits based from that forum or any other art website. I don't mean Criticizing people in the forums where it is not allowed. Yes I read the rules.

      Constructive Criticism Where do you draw the line?
      I guess what I am asking is where you guys draw the line between good criticism and bad criticism(Insulting overtly negative).
      What is your definition of positive and negative critique? Some people enjoy harsh ones some don't, how do you feel?
      I noticed a lot of times on various forums and arts sites I visit that most people don't even give Constructive crits. Usually its something along the lines of " I love it thats amazing!" when in reality it could use some work.
      Yes one could say that art is in the eye of the beholder but what about when that person openly asks for advice on how to improve. I even had a professor in College who would tear up art, light it on fire and make paper airplanes out of it. He'd also tell you it sucked and not give a reason.( Not saying that this is a good way to critique, but merely just an example of how far some will go. Just to clarify.) When one asks for crit they are opening themselves up for the good and the bad. Usually they don't want to hear the bad from my point of view.
      I suppose my disclaimer would be that I don't endorse overtly negative critiques but I also don't endorse ones that are coddled either. I believe in an honest fair critique, I was even known as the girl who would tell the teacher to rip me apart:) because I believe it helped me strive for a higher level and to get better. Even if that critique was considered harsh and mean.
       
    2. A lot of sites, to be totally honest, do not welcome criticism -- constructive or otherwise. This forum, for instance, isn't the place for it unless someone very specifically asks for it and posts in the critique forum. It's even in the forum rules -- it's the very first one.

      There are different styles of crit that people are accustomed to. People who have survived art school, for instance, are likely a bit thicker-skinned about criticism of their creative efforts than someone who hasn't. Even so, people can be especially sensitive about criticism of their creative endeavors, because these are matters of personal expression, and that's something that really must be kept in mind.

      Most of the people I know or know of who do creative things as a hobby -- and even plenty of professionals -- WILL NOT hear anything negative about their work and no matter how tactful, polite, helpful, correct, etc. one is in delivering crit, they will explode at the very thought that someone doesn't like their work as much as they do and does not find it to be the pinnacle of perfection. I find this irritating and unfortunate, but it's just how it is, and it's a trend that seems to be on the rise. (I have my theories, but I'm not going to go into them here.) Is it how it should be? Ideally, no, but it's an important factor to consider.

      Second, not a lot of people know how to properly give a critique. It isn't something innate; it is a learned skill unto itself. I hate to say it, but the examples you give of the professor lighting things on fire without giving a reason/etc. are absolutely examples of NOT giving good criticism. Without providing reasons, it becomes expressing an opinion in the form of a temper tantrum. It is no more helpful than the empty 'oh that's perfect!!!!!!!' encouragements can be.
       
    3. Oh I completely agree with you about the professor haha. It was meant to state to what extremes some people can go. I never had that done to me but if so I don't think I could even take him seriously . I've always liked what people have to say about my work bad or good and I do see your point. Even here people would shut down at the slightest bit of somebody not liking their work. You make a lot of good points. I am curious though as to what your opinion is on why one would ask for a critique and then not accept what they have to say? I've found that a lot of people do that as well. And I meant in the crit forums not anywhere else :) Too bad you won't go into your theories , they sound like they would be interesting to hear.
       
    4. Oh, there's a LOT of praise-seeking behavior that leads people to ask for a critique when they don't want a 'real' one. I see... an uncomfortable lot of that elsewhere, mostly in my work environment. There are others who will put something up and even ask, "Oh, I don't think this is quite right yet, I'm not quiiiiiiite happy with it yet, what does everybody think?" in our (all professional, which is what kills me!) artist conference chat area, and if you dare say anything but, "I think it looks soooo perfect exactly how it is, you're soooooooo brilliant!" they will go off like a rabid chihuahua on a red bull binge. I... don't open my mouth much over there when these people come in asking about their latest *cough*masterpiece*cough*. You'd see crazy, over the top melodrama spring not from, 'OMG HAET IT!', but even, 'It looks like a great start! I'd smooth out the forehead a little bit, since the pore depth looks a little strong there. I'm sure it will be a great seller like [good thing they did in the past]!' which isn't exactly, well, harsh, but is a simple, easy fix that they can put into practice immediately/etc. :(

      It may just be in anticipation of the same general trends that I just don't go into the critique forum here to say anything at all; and to be frank, my skills aren't in the doll area so I don't personally feel qualified to offer well-informed crit there anyway. I don't think one necessarily needs a pile of authority or experience to have an opinion or even a properly-informed opinion about most of the things people ask about, it's just a personal comfort issue with me.

      There are a lot of good tutorials/helpful hints on giving crit out there that I think would be great for people to read through. Tact is necessary, especially in an environment like this where it's uncertain who has a thick skin about these things and who is likely to handle it poorly. It may be a cop-out, but I find I do much better dealing with a few good friends that I know share my taste or at least comprehend it* and know they don't have to pull punches around me about these things -- and I do the same for them. We're pretty brutal with each other, but we know exactly how everything is intended and, well, we know the other person knows what they're actually talking about, which is a huge help.

      * Matters of taste come into it a lot online, too. Someone who hates all elf mods may not have the objectivity to be the best judge of how good or bad that new elf ear shape you put together is -- and may not have the self-awareness to know it's 'I hate elves!' talking when they say, 'Ew, that looks so terrible, why would you do that to that doll!' instead of a fair assessment of the actual work that's been done. I've seen someone with ZERO tact go off about how someone 'ruined' their dolls simply because they only liked sweet frou frou things and someone else did something more punk/goth/dark with the same sculpt -- that's purely a matter of taste, not in any way a fair critique of the artist's skills. (And in the case I'm thinking of, it wasn't even invited or asked for, which I find just beyond rude.)
       
    5. Hhhmmm, unless someone specifically asks for a critique, then I think it's best to only comment if you can say something positive. As Surreality mentions, anyone who went through art college probably takes the most scathing of critiques like water off a duck's back, but I have to say, that in the UK at least, even art colleges seem to be backing off from that tradition. Everyone seems to wear kid gloves and tell the students what they want to hear... is that character forming I wonder? Don't get me started on the "Self Taught Artist" brigade either, any kind of critique is frowned on there from what i have observed.

      I think we put ourselves up for that at art college though, expecting that level of scrutiny, but the average person taking a few photos of their beloved BJD and posting them on DOA is probably just looking for a pat on the head and a few tips about lighting in the main. It's a hobby after all ;)

      Oh, and your lecturer (tw*t, basically!) who set light to people's work as "Critique" sounds like a frustrated performance artist!
       
    6. PunkyPhresh: Did you go to Ringling? lol (location is Sarasota, and you have a teacher who tore up your art - no coincidence I think. Joe Thiel.).


      anyways!
      I love good harsh critiques, but not to the point that they're mean. There is a fine line between hating on someones work and being constructive. If you're going to point out some kind of horrid flaw, make sure you point out something good too (even if that something good is something tiny with in the whole of the work).

      So I suppose I agree with you.
       
    7. This subject it's self is quite a touchy one, let alone the act of actual critique. I hope people responding to this can remain calm, as I find it quite an interesting one as well. I'll certainly be keeping tabs on this thread. Please excuse my inability to properly organize these thoughts, I'm sure the following will run to and fro like a cat chasing a butterfly.

      I've found from my experiences, Surreality is quite spot-on. There are so many different ways to give and receive criticism, no two people will react the same to them. For me there are very few things I think I know enough about to offer an informed critique upon them. For this reason, I mostly avoid the constructive criticism area of this forum.

      I always enjoy receiving criticism, even when I have not specifically asked for it. I like getting inside someone else's head and viewing these things from their perspective, even when it is delivered in a purposely rude fashion. In my life it is some of the nastiest, most hate-filled comments made to me that I remember and learned from the most. They stuck with me and helped me change for the better over the years, even if it hurt to hear it at the time I am so very grateful for such things and I would not change it for the world. I often wish I could track down the people who said those things to me and thank them from the bottom of my heart.

      But not everyone is like that, for some people those types of events just cause inconsolable hurt and it is only the hurt those people remember. I find if you're a sensitive one looking for true criticism, you need to seek it from someone who knows you very well and who you know very well. Someone who you can handle possibly saying bad things about you and not hold it against them rather than a forum of strangers just for the fact that there are so many types of criticism and there are so many different ways people take that criticism. Not everyone will know you well enough to give it to you in a way that you can swallow and you may not be universal enough to accept it in all of it's forms.

      It is not always the person giving the criticism who is being tactless, it can also be the person who is tactlessly asking for criticism and who is too sensitive to be willing to accept what that may mean opening themselves up to. I always feel bad for the people giving true constructive criticism who get their heads cut off and yelled at for being rude when they are only answering honestly to what they were asked. The person asking can be just as in the wrong in these situations as the person giving the criticism, but the giving party is often the only one prosecuted for it.

      Note: All 'you's are general and put in place only to help the sentences flow. They do not represent any real person.
       
    8. Again, you make some pretty good points.:)I don't have a career in my field just yet but I'm hoping we don't have critiques when I get there. I would probably have to learn to hold my tongue even if they weren't harsh ones hehe. Tact is very necessary and I've seen it go both ways critique wise. This of course being all around people and not the internet. Thats too funny because my husband is an artist as well and we do the exact same thing, critique wise

      I think matter of taste is a big factor everywhere. In the instance again with that crazy professor.He would find the most distasteful things a great work of art and then things that were really good he would hate. His art is simple design like stuff so I suppose that is what his preference is.

      If A critique isn't wanted then it shouldn't be given, only unless its needed. Kind of like in art school or you know when its mandatory. Objectivity is a hard thing I guess, to put ones tastes aside and try and look at something from a non biased pov.

      And yes I did go to Ringling haha, He didn't tear up my art but I've seen and heard the horror stories. Funny how notorious that man is:sweat And I apologize for the touchiness of the subject I sometimes like to hear what people have to say on subjects that would be left alone hehe.
       
    9. That's pretty much where my theories lie, too. I've seen it in general schooling as well; there's no 'you did it wrong' any more, and with a mother who worked in the public school system... yeah, there's no 'this is not right/ok/acceptable' any more. Oh, it may not be OK or right or unacceptable, but what's even less acceptable is telling someone that. :(

      I went back for classes after my first round through college, and found a very different atmosphere. Granted, it was a different school -- but in about ten years' time, I definitely saw a difference in not just the way crit was delivered, but also in how people took it. We had all kid gloves professors save for one, and he was quite blunt and straightforward, but more importantly -- he was also right. It became very clear he was looking, too, specifically at the abilities of each student and how they were growing, and where their specific weaknesses were. It was amazingly helpful for anyone who actually listened to him.

      It became entirely clear just how far this extended at our final portfolio reviews, in fact. I'd missed our '3d' course selection due to a nasty concussion, and the only '3d' thing I'd done in that time was a doll dress for an off-topic doll since I had a case of the fidgets. I didn't think this would fly, but it was the only thing that wasn't 2d. He took a look at it, and a look at me, and just went over the details that could use work, what did work, and then told me, "This is what you should be doing." I ask him why, and his answer? "You're the best illustration student in my class this year. But this is the only thing you have ever handed in smiling." Pardon my minor case of hero worship here -- but to me, that is a great example of how someone can provide serious critique on the actual elements of a piece while keeping the actual person behind the work in mind.
       
    10. I think a good constructive criticism is something to be appreciated. It's important to be specific for it to be constructive, though! On this forum, it probably only has a place in the crit section.

      Edit based on topic edits: As long as you're being constructive and don't just outright say it sucks, if someone posts to a crit forum (which is asking for crit!) they should be prepared to accept opinions on how to improve their work. If you don't want those opinions, don't post there. People who get sensitive when asking for critique are quite silly. Rikka sums up my feelings quite nicely with this.

      Don't ask for critique if you just want an ego booster. In my opinion, as long as you are genuinely trying to help the person trying to improve their art and not just trying to veil insults, you can't go too far.
       
    11. I totally agree with what surreality has mentioned!
      Honestly even those who survived in art schools are likely to be ONLY a little bit thicker-skinned.
      Even they cannot accept negative critiques most of the time.See the flames burning in their eyes when you sounded a little towards negative?So don't even mention about a total harsh one.I bet you will see some "Oh I am going to thrash you one day" type of message within!
      That is simply human nature,most of the time people love hearing good and positive comments about something that they had spent their time draining their creativity killing their brain cells on.Yet on the other hand they are contradicting themselves by "Hey that comment is just way too good to be true you are just being hypocritical!":|

      I know of art schools they do teach students to learn to construct CREATIVE comments,instead of a sentence like,it's awesome,it's nice.Explain why is it nice and how is it awesome...Define the terms.
      I have to admit that I am a little thicked-skinned sometimes,more like,I may be one depending on my mood at the time....

      I had once encountered an incident,it was not even a critique but a suggestion about the group project we were handling...A group mate was completely unwilling to take in comments and suggestion even though the words were said in a really polite manner.She holds high pride in her work and tell her to change only if you can convince her.Unfortunately,she did not want to change even she was convinced. She threw a sentence " Just let it be!"...In the end,the project was screwed since we had no way but to follow her idea and she blamed the lecturer for it and did not bother to continue on it.

      That is an example from an art school.
      So even with people surviving in the schools can come with this attitude why not the normal people?
      Especially he or she has not endure the process....People may think that oh I am just being frank with my words since you are asking for my thought!

      Yet the ones who requested might not think about it this way,they grew sensitive about their endeavors ...That is just a natural process.....They may not be able to accept especially when the harsh ones appears from the bunch of praises?They might think that this person is just seeking for trouble......

      I think if people wants to avoid these they better put up a guide line upon requesting-_-
      Like what you want people to talk about your stuffs?
      The colour the mood the lighting of the photo? Or the quality the choice, the mix and match of details of your outfit or accessory?
      That might help......Since viewers are clear about what should they say or more like they know what you want to see.....
       
    12. There's also alot of 'Diploma mill' colleges popping up everywhere that promote this sort of kid glove behavior. I won't get into that though. I had a professor second year who was a extremely good teacher tell us that an epidemic is coming over young people. " They want something for nothing." I think was how he put it. Where they Don't put their all into their work, turn it in, and expect an A for it or praise. So I think work ethic comes into play there as well.
       
    13. (This is assuming that they asked for critique, not that it was given without asking) I don't see why we should assume they're really sensitive about crit - if they were going to be upset about any 'negative' connotations, they shouldn't be asking for it. If it's so personal to them, then they don't need any critique to justify they like it. Yes, giving insulting and completely negative critique isn't something we should get or give, but if they ask for an honest opinion, why do we have to lie so we don't hurt their feelings? Like PhunkyPhresh said, they're opening the floor for both good and bad crit. It's like asking to be thrown to the wolves, and complaining at the last minute "Wait, I wanted fluffy kittens!!"

      We shouldn't be lying to people, but, as rightly pointed out, we shouldn't be trying to hurt their feelings on purpose. At the end of the day, we're complete internet strangers. Our opinions can be taken or left as seen fit. So there's no point getting upset about critique if you're the one who asked for it. The truth hurts, but we can't be like the subjects in the fairytale "The King with no clothes", constantly lying to please the King/artist. If you didn't ask for crit but got it anyway, then yes, that's uncalled for and not nice.

      I also had a few people who asked for my critique in High School, and I gave them the truth nicely. I suggested things that they could do, I suggested what to improve, and most importantly I said "This is my opinion only" and they still looked at me as if I've bitten their head off (The others around me kinda laughed nervously and said that's what they would have suggested too, so it was an elephant in the room type situation).

      So if you asked for it, you can't really complain about the feedback. If people want only nice things said about their work, then the forum galleries is the place to go.
       
    14. I agree with points so far, I went to art college and the experience was exactly like Daniel Clowes 'Art School Confidential' everyone got told they were the top student, everybody got an A etc.
      On DOA I like a balance, I like people to say what they like about what I have done and then give me what they think is that one little thing they would change. Over all Im happy with what I do, so sometimes its nice to get what other people are seeing, but there is never need to be out right mean about something.
      I welcome harsh crit from people I know on a personal face to face level, that way you can laugh about it, not be insulted, joke around, ask questions. When its a back and forth conversation on a forum its easier to take things personally and more seriously. I think for me its lack of context, facial expressions, tone of how people are talking etc.
       
    15. "I agree with points so far, I went to art college and the experience was exactly like Daniel Clowes 'Art School Confidential' everyone got told they were the top student, everybody got an A etc."

      Off topic, I wish this wasn't so. It makes getting a job out of school very hard :) You think you're good enough and Bam!
       
    16. I'm thankful to have some pretty tough professors at my school. Our program actually requires that only the top 10 percent of students may earn an A, so it keeps things competitive, which I think encourages more effort.

      The internet is definitely not a place to expect "professional" critique, for the most part. "I like it" or "I don't like it" aren't critiques, they're opinions. (I have one professor that makes a loud "buzzer" noise any time anyone uses the word "like" while we're doing critique. :lol: ) And the stylistic preferences are definitely a huge factor in a hobby like this. Just because one person isn't a fan of a sculpt, or a certain style, doesn't mean it can't be very pleasing to someone else.

      I do think it's rude to offer critique when it isn't asked for, especially if you don't know the person. If it's a close friend and you know they want advice, then sure, go ahead. But you never know what's going on in a stranger's head, and a few harsh words at the wrong time can really hurt someone. A lot of people are in this hobby for fun, not to work on formal aspects of artistic expression.

      I think the most important thing in critique is to NOT make it personal. If lighting is bad in a photo, offer suggestions for better lighting rather than saying something like "I see you're too lazy to set your shots up correctly." And be specific. "The composition sucks" isn't going to help anyone if they don't know what you're talking about. It'd be more helpful to specify, such as "Putting the doll dead center like that doesn't create much interest in the photo - try angling your shot or moving the focal point to the left."

      And even when critique is asked for, it doesn't hurt to include at least something nice along with the negative points. That can soften things a lot.
       
    17. For sure, everyone has a lot of good points to add. I'm relieved this is going well:D
       
    18. I feel that if someone says "Open for Critique" then its fair game. One of my pet peeves is when someone posts something in the "Critique" area asking for tips and comments, but when given criticism by people, they immediately become extremely defensive.

      "Well, its only my first time." "I think it looks fine." "I didn't have the supplies." You put things up so people can point out what is wrong with it. *_* We're taking the time to assess the art, so I feel very irritated when they act like I'm purposely being mean to them. If you just wanted praise, then you posted in the wrong place.

      What is your definition of positive and negative critique?

      Positive critique is critique that will help the poster. Tips, pointing out problems, and ideas on how to improve are all good ways.

      "Your brushwork looks unsteady. Maybe you could lightly draw what you want in pencil before using paint?"

      Negative critique is criticizing without explaining why. "That face-up is ugly." It can also be offering opinions when the poster did not want any.

      I think that patronizing someone by always praising them hurts them more than it helps. Sure, it'll make them feel good, but then they will make the mistakes again.


      When I offer criticism, I always try to say something positive too. ^^
       
    19. I have a feeling this may well be locked as it's rather off-topic.
      But anyway, I believe in honest criticism that isn't bitch-slapping someone around the face with a dead sting ray. There's a thing called the compliment sandwich, where you say a good thing, then a thing to be improved, then good thing. This rather softens the blow, if there even is a blow.
      But I know about the whole art teacher thing. I had an art teacher who used to throw people's work in the bin if she didn't think they were working to their full potential. While this could be a bit scary, she was a good art teacher in that she only accepted your best, and so made you work harder and really improve. While doing my exams I loathed her because she was so harsh, but now I realise how helpful that really was.
      So basically I only give properly constructive criticism if people ask for it. Usually people don't want it though!
       
    20. First of all, there's a time and a place for criticism. There's a good reason why it's restricted to a particular section of this forum. DoA is not art school, and not everybody (even those who have been through art school and have plenty of experience with crits) is always in the mood to deal with it. Sometimes it's nice to just share something with other people without it having to be a big deal. Plus, on DoA there's a wide variety of ages and experience levels, and you aren't necessarily in a good position to judge fairly or know what that individual really needs.

      Now if someone asks for criticism, they have to be prepared to accept the fact that not everybody is going to love everything about their work. Good criticism points out areas that need to be changed, can give reasons, and remains encouraging. After all, the idea is to help the person work and improve, not discourage them from trying. The best professors I've had where people that would tell you what you needed to work on, but make you feel like you could do it. While some people do well under high pressure situations and sometimes do need a proverbial kick in the pants, there are many others who don't necessarily function well that way -- I don't mean that they have to be handled with kid gloves, but rather some tact is helpful. Personally I don't view teaching techniques that basically amount to humiliation and bullying to be constructive, and I don't find it good teaching. Being a good teacher is a skill in and of itself and one that not everybody has. Honesty doesn't have to be demeaning.

      A lot of people on the net gripe about how people can't take criticism and how important criticism is, yet are unable to give good crits. There's a lot of people that use criticism as an excuse to be a jackass, and that's not appropriate -- it's not helpful, and it makes people wary of criticism in general.