Every day (or so it seems!) an artist I’ve never met in my life asks me to look at their work online and give them feedback. Usually I try to explain as kindly as I can that asking strangers to judge your work is not meaningful, for all kinds of reasons.
The fact is everyone has an opinion, but not everyone can provide a useful one.
As artists, we do need feedback. But feedback from whom?
Seeking a high-quality art critique from a reputable source is crucial. However, your artwork is your baby, it’s important to protect it. This is especially true in the early stages of your career when you’re more vulnerable to criticism.
So what should you look for when seeking feedback on your art? Who should you turn to?
In this article, I’ll outline the questions you should be able to answer before you think about asking anyone to look at your work.
What are you looking for in the art critique?
“Hey, look at my website and tell me what you think about my work” is not an appropriate request. What exactly are you looking for when you ask for someone’s feedback?
Do you want to know what they think about your art?
Do you want to know what they think about how you price your art?
Or are you simply asking how to be an artist?
The more specific you can be when asking someone to critique your art, the more helpful your critic will be able to be.
Here are a few examples of specific questions you could ask when someone is critiquing your art.
- How does this piece of art make you feel?
- What do you think about the subject matter?
- Do you have any input on my choice in color?
- Do you think the price point on this piece feels fair?
- Do you know where I can sell my art?
- Does this piece feel finished or do you think I should keep working on it?
- Do you think that the composition in this piece is successful?
- What do you think of the title of this piece?
Sometimes you may not be able to articulate what kind of feedback you need. That’s ok too. If you’re feeling vulnerable about the piece, simply ask “What do you think is working?”
How will they see your work?
It’s also worth bearing in mind whether or not the person critiquing your art is looking at your piece in-person or online. It makes a huge difference and depending upon the kind of feedback you are looking for, their insights might be valuable or totally worthless.
So much beauty and detail can go missed when our work is seen only as a jpeg image on a computer screen – or worse, a phone. And if photography isn’t one of your strengths, much of the true vitality in your piece may go unappreciated.
Choose your critic wisely
Before you request anyone to give you an art critique, it’s important to find out what their credentials are. Why are you placing value on this particular person’s feedback?
This is especially true online, where there are lots of people posing as art ‘experts’ but who may not have any real-life experience in the art-world. Make sure you understand someone’s level of experience before you place any value in what they have to say about your work.
Once you have found somebody capable of giving you a meaningful art critique, please don’t ask them to do so for free. It’s important to understand that art professionals with degrees, accreditations and decades of experience in the art world are not going to be able to give you any kind of profound art critique when seeing your work via a jpeg on a social media platform.
Artists always bristle when someone asks them to do their work for “good exposure”. The same goes for Artist Coaches and Art-world Experts too. If you send an email asking them to look at your website and give you feedback on your work, what you’re really asking is “Can you do some work for me for free?”
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment before you hit send.
When artists book one-on-one sessions with me, the feedback I’m sharing is based on a career spent looking at art, studying art, and making art. I’ve spent my whole life preparing the insights I give.
I’m not about to jump on Instagram at the request of someone I don’t even know and tell them how to make their work. I’m not so vain as to think that I can get a full understanding of someone’s artwork from a quick glance at a website. It would be a waste of everyone’s time.
Be clear about what you need from the feedback
Finally, it’s important to be clear about what you need from the feedback. If you’re feeling particularly sensitive about your piece, for the love of Da Vinci tell the person who is critiquing your art!
No-one is a mind reader and they can’t know to be careful with the language they use or the comments they make unless you tell them. The quality of the feedback you receive will be much higher if you can guide the person critiquing your art.
Similarly, if you feel completely separate from the piece and have no problem throwing it in the trash and starting again if need be, let the person know they can be brutally honest with their feedback.
Or perhaps you know something is definitely wrong with the lighting or the composition but you can’t place your finger on what it is? That’s extremely helpful to let your critic know about. That way they’ll be able to look at the piece through that particular lens.
Critiquing Art: Best Practices
So to recap; when looking for someone to give you meaningful feedback on your artwork, understand these key things:
- Be as specific as possible when you request feedback
- Make sure the person you’re asking has good credentials
- Don’t ask professionals to critique your art for free
- If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, let the critic know in advance
Your chosen art critic needs to know who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why. It always helps to see the work in person because digital images leave a lot of detail out.
Most importantly, protect your artwork. Don’t just toss it up online and allow anyone to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When asking for an opinion, be clear about what you’re looking for. Make sure that the person you’re asking can deliver meaningful insights.
And if you start feeling defensive or hurt by someone’s response to your art, remember the phrase I use, “That’s interesting.” When someone gives me feedback I don’t like, I say “That’s interesting.” because it is. Whether I take it or not. But this way I at least consider it and I’m not pushing back or closing down.
And these, my friend, are the most interesting ways that I know to get feedback on your art.
Would you like to SHOW + SELL MORE ART? I’ve helped thousands of artists and I can help you too.
Join now. It’s free. No spam. Unsubscribe when you want.
Working in the international world of contemporary art, Crista Cloutier has spent her career selling art and marketing art to art galleries, museums and private collections.
Using her professional experiences, Crista has created The Working Artist Masterclass, where she’s developed a global reputation as an artist’s coach. Crista can teach you how to be an artist; including how to sell your art, how to sell art online, how to sell photographs, how to price your art, how to succeed at art fairs, and even how to find your art style.
Crista has worked with established, blue-chip artists to raise their profile and attract greater opportunities. And she’s also helped thousands of emerging artists to build a professional art practice. To learn more, visit https://theworkingartist.com