Wednesday, February 03, 2010

How to critique art

A reader has written to me and asked about links to sites which provide helpful advice about how to critique artwork.

It's a jolly good question! It also made me realise it was a topic which I'd not researched - although I already knew of some links.

So much so that I've decided to employ the "wisdom of crowds" and invite you all to contribute to an exercise to identify useful links and suggest what you think is important.

I'll produce a revised summary of advice, tips and techniques after you've all had a chance to respond.

How to Critique Art - links to sites providing advice

First of all here are some links to advice which can be found on the Internet.  These are included in my new 'resources for artists' information site - How to Critique Art - Resources for Artists
In order “properly” to critique any given artwork (in a way that is acceptable by any institution assigning four-digit numbers to its classes), you need only remember the acronym “DAIJ.” It stands for “Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgment,” or as a clever student in my highschool art class once said, “Dem Apples Is Juicy.”
A couple of other tools

First ArtLex Art Dictionary which provides a useful resource for art terms

Let's also not forget the The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator which is always good for a laugh if the 'high falutin'' language we often read in critiques gets too much for you! This was its response after entering a family members birth date
I find this work menacing/playful because of the way the sublime beauty of the purity of line makes resonant the larger carcass.
The wisdom of crowds - what are your suggestions?

Three questions:
  1. Do you have any personal advice as to approaches to adopt when critiquing art?
    • for those providing the critique
    • for those whose work is the subject of the critique
  2. Do you have any suggestions as to any additional websites which provide useful advice?
  3. Which of the sites listed above do you think provided the best advice?
I'm looking forward to seeing your responses.

Additional References

A number of the sites assume familiarity with technical aspects of how an artwork is out together. Below are more of my 'resources for artists' sites which some people might find helpful.

Composition and design for artists
  • Composition and Design - Resources for Artists You can use composition and design to help to make your artwork more more pleasing to the eye. This lens contains links to - information and advice about composition and design for artists. - various books concerned with composition and design.
  • The Best Art Books - Composition and Design This site identifies leading art books about composition and design and includes reviews of art books about composition and design. It's linked to Composition and Design - Resources for Artists
Colour: What is colour and how can you use it
  • Colour - Resources for Artists What is colour? Do you know or do you want to learn more about colour and its use as an artist? This site provides links to information and advice about colour and how to understand and analyse it - and then use it as an artist.
  • Colour science, systems and models - Resources for Artists If you want to understand more about the science of colour, how it works and how people think (or thought) it works then this is the site for you.
  • The Best Art Books - Colour This site identifies leading art books about colour and includes art book reviews - for books about understanding colour, using colour, mixing colour. It was created out of The Colour Project on Making A Mark which involved book reviews by various artists.


  1. Also, you might like to see Elijah Shifrin's Guide on Art Interpretation. Art&Critique

    Great idea for a post. Critique is a confusing activity, made worse by the professionals, brought to light by these resources. Thanks.

  2. From your own sidebar links - although it is about 'mentoring' perhaps it covers common ground?

  3. I did look at Elijah's site - however I couldn't read what he'd written due to the distraction of the contantly flashing adverts. Which means I can't recommend it.

    I also found his site to be confusing - I didn't find the way he'd organised his material to be very helpful. It looked like he was suggesting we read backwards! If he improves his presentation I'll consider including the site. At the moment other sites and resources get to the nub of things faster.

  4. Katherine,
    Critique is an area of interest for me as my background is in education.I've written several posts on critique and the links to them can be found on my sidebar. Your referenced them previously in one of your weekly review posts.

  5. Margaret's blog is Painting On and she has posts about..........

    Talking about art

    * a. Pursuing art critique
    * b. A process for art critique
    * c.Critique etiquette
    * d. Critique groups

  6. Katherine, I didn't see it on your list (but I was reading quickly before heading off to a meeting) but the best format for critiquing that I've come across is dancer Liz Lerman's "Critical Response."

    It's available on her site:

    I'm not connected in anyway, except that in the late 90s I was privileged to be involved in a series of workshops while she was honing this method for publication. I saw it work successfully with artists from all fields (sculpture, painting, photography, collage, mosaic, textiles, writing, pottery, you name it).

    I have since seen this method used in critique sessions with WARM (Women's Art Registry of Minnesota), and I use an adapted shorter form in my classes for high school students and in my adult art classes as applicable.

    I really recommend it.

  7. Even the word critique can be seen as threatening to some people, especially if they have had bad experiences in the past.The critical response method obviously addresses these phobias to get the best out of the participant and the idea of being a partner in the process is fantastic.

  8. Hi Katherine
    FYI - the "how to critique like a pro" article in the first dot point is now redirected to a dubious site so you might like to remove it from the list.

  9. UGH!

    Very many thanks Brenda - I am so glad you told me. Unfortunately people are not above selling their websites to those who have content we don't want to see!


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