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Advice on giving a good critique

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Old 06-01-2003, 02:17 PM
CJ Swartz's Avatar
CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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I've stated before that doing a good critique of a work is difficult for me -- it's an excellent exercise in looking for the important elements of an image, and deciding what works well and what does not.

A few of our members are already experienced at giving critiques, and for the rest of us -- this will be a great place to practice this skill which is as important as our image manipulation skills.

I need a set of questions to go by when I try to do a serious critique -- I've borrowed a discussion on the subject from a website to give an idea of terms that I need to remember when attempting a critique.

"We are .. with Steven Friedman who is noted for his stunning digital artwork using a technique that he terms "digital natural media".

I: Could you then talk about how you view and evaluate your work.

S: For me, it is an extension of the photographic process. Photography has traditionally been evaluated on successful use of light, composition, color, and subject matter. These are what I have termed photography’s primary dimensions. The digital processes I use add two new dimensions – texture, and degrees of abstraction. A successful image for me means getting all of these dimensions in harmony.

I: What would you say makes you a successful digital artist over an unsuccessful one.
S: I guess I’d have to say that it has to do with how I have explored the medium and applied it. When I look at my own and other digital artists’ work I ask the following questions.

What was the goal of the artist? How has he or she accomplished this goal?

Does the image look contrived? Are the effects too obvious?

Does the image evoke a feeling or emotion?

Does it achieve a balance?

Looking at my earlier work, I would say that a big part of my progress is how I have applied the techniques that I’ve learned to achieve the realistic natural medium looks. To do this I really had to study paintings and examine how natural paint looks, how natural brush strokes look, how pastels look. Each medium has unique characteristics, and it was a challenge to get these just right. Some of the graphics programs have come a long way in emulating the looks but they are still not perfect. One of my main goals is too completely fool the viewer into thinking that the work is done in the medium I am trying to emulate. So that even at very close inspection, the "magic" that I used to create it is invisible to the viewer.

Okay, so now that I’ve got the look of a painting. The next criteria for me is "is it a good painting"? Does the balance of abstraction and realism work? Do the paint strokes look too uniform, or look too diverse? Does the tonality work for the image – is it too muted or too pronounced? Are colors too saturated or undersaturated? If the artist deviated from the natural colors, does the impressionistic style work for the image, or does it look forced and contrived? Does the image flow and are all the elements in harmony? Does the work as a whole feel balanced?"

above excerpt from:
Critiquing Digital Images

Last edited by CJ Swartz; 06-01-2003 at 08:09 PM.
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Old 06-01-2003, 05:17 PM
G. Couch's Avatar
G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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I'll add a few things to help explain what constitutes a personal attack versus a strong criticism -

Suppose I upload an image that you, the viewer, really do not care for. How do you phrase your comments?

You could say, "That stinks!", "Why do you bother?", "Is this supposed to be a restoration?", "Oh great we have to see yet another scanned object!?"...these would all constitute a very poor choice of comments and can be outright attacks. It's best not to even joke...we do not have the advantage of hearing the inflection of your voice when you comment, so what might be meant as humor can come across as downright mean.

If you did choose to comment this way, what have you achieved? You have angered me (the image creator) and even if you followed the rude comments with constructive advice it's likely I was so upset I did not read any further! Plus, it's now highly unlikely you will get any comments about your own work from me.

Now rewind to the dislike the image I have uploaded but rather than pounding out a quick, thoughtless remark, you could say something like, "This is an interesting image but just does not work for me", "I don't think this is the strongest image I have seen you create, perhaps you could...", "I think you might have gone overboard with this restoration, perhaps less can be more for this image...", "I like this, but I would like to see you branch out into some new subject matter..."

Notice that all of the comments express that the viewer is not crazy about the image but does so in a very considerate way. They all also lead into comments that will hopefully flesh out the initial reaction. If it were my image, I would be much more willing to listen to this type of criticism than an attack.

Remember - Critique other's work in the way you hope they critique yours. ...and these are just images after all, not measures of our value as human beings.
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