The Why’s of Critique

Critiquing someone’s art, whether photography, painting, writing, or work performance is an art form onto itself.  First, you need to understand why you are offering the critique. 


These reasons would be the same reasons that you would ask for critique.  You want to learn and grow in your chosen medium, might be the best reason and top of the list. We all learn and grow as artists and people in our individual ways.  Some are visual learners, some are better off working in the field.  Some can read and be self-taught.  We all learn in all of these ways.  But we absorb knowledge better in some of these ways better than some of the others. 


For me it’s repetition.  When I was in college, I would take my notes in class and then rewrite them into a more cohesive format.  There were no computers yet, no laptops.  It was the act of physically rewriting and reorganizing the information that made it sink in deeper than if I just listened to the lecture.  I also did well if I researched and compiled information into either a paper or presentation.  It’s the redundancy of gathering, organizing, and reiterating information that makes this process so effective, that information sticks in my head. 


One might also be seeking critique to see if your message is getting across to the viewer.  What are you communicating in your art?  Is it a representation of nature?  Then the question becomes does it reflect that serene feeling that you had while you were there, at the edge of the lake?  Are you making a civil rights statement, at a black lives matter protest?  Is that message coming across to the viewer?  Are you working more abstract?  What feelings are you conveying?  The question then is, am I the viewer getting all this information as I look at your work?  Are your layers and shades of blue speaking to a serene blue ocean and sky, or are you feeling the blues?  Am I understanding that?


I was at a C&C meeting one day when I first started using HDR, high dynamic range photography.  And a gentleman made a comment to me that I had all this ghosting in my picture.  I got very defensive at first.  I looked at the edges of the subject and the trees and shrubs that were at the base of the picture.  There wasn’t any kind of ghosting!  And those are the areas that one would find ghosting in an HDR image.  And I asked him very suspiciously and defensively, what are you talking about?  Then he pointed to the clouds that were very obviously doubled up.  Every cloud was reproduced twice throughout the picture.  It was a glaring oversight that I didn’t see.  So, we often need someone with a fresh set of eyes to look at our work.  You might see something that I didn’t. 


Another reason to seek constructive criticism is that you might have a different perspective than I do.  We all tend to see things through the tinted lenses of our own experiences, beliefs, and lives.  No two people see the world in the same way.  


Perhaps you’re struggling with something or you have come to a technical block that is inhibiting your progress or development.  I’m sure there will be someone who knows how to move past that point.  A technique in Photoshop or Lightroom.  Or how to handle an exposure problem you have time in and time out.  There are always better and different ways to approach an issue, roadblock or problem.  Remember, there’s really nothing new under the sun.


One thing for sure we all need encouragement to keep moving forward!  To keep learning! To keep perusing our chosen medium!  This is more than likely the biggest reason we seek critique.  We all want reassurance that we are improving and getting better.  Inspiration comes from many places, and a common one are the people we are surrounded by.  It’s here that we get a boost in our creative direction.  The support that we need to move on.


If you are offering an evaluation of someone’s work, it needs to be for the right reasons.  The reasons you want to hear someone else’s point of view.  You need to offer it with the purest of intentions.  With a gentle heart and words that meet the person where they are at.  It’s only in this way that it can be accepted and applied.  So, there is always an encouraging voice urging us to go on.  A movement and development of the artist.  Encouraging words, that stimulate and inspire, not tear down and discourage.

Part 3

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