Constructive criticism – an oxymoron?
Critiques are a crucial part of any artist’s process, providing invaluable insight from both a trained professional (you!) and the artist’s peers as well as helping to “toughen the hide” of the artist. Some art teachers shy away from the critique, in many cases due to unenthusiastic participation on their students’ parts. But critiques can be a productive, positive experience for all involved! Consider our tips and questions below and build a successful critique into your next art lesson plan.
First, consider conducting the critique in the middle of the project, when there’s still time to make changes, versus at the end, or, worst case scenario, weeks after the project was completed when all recollection of objectives and process are forgotten.
Whether you’re critiquing in the midst of a project or once it’s complete, have each student present their piece to the class, describing their work and process and stating their objectives. (Read our post “3 Ways to Help Your Students Talk About Their Artwork” for tips on improving verbal communication.)
Then, have each student draw another student’s name from a box to determine whose work they will critique. Provide each student with a printout of the questions listed below and give them ample time to review the piece they are critiquing, jotting down notes. Remind your class to be constructive and think of the type of input they’d appreciate receiving.
Questions might include:
- Describe this work as a whole. What do you see? What was the first thing you saw? The next? Why do these elements stand out to you?
- Analyze the technical elements of this piece – be specific and use art vocabulary! What do you think of the composition, color palette, scale, texture.
- What is one word that describes the feeling this piece gives you?
- Did the artist achieve his or her goal with this piece?
- How does this piece succeed?
- How does it fail?
- How is the piece interesting or unique?
- What is one thing the artist did really well?
- What could the artist have done differently to make the piece work better?
Once students have had a chance to review and make notes, have them present their critique in front of the class, alongside the piece they are critiquing. After each response, ask the class if they agree or disagree with the critique, and why or why not. If there is something you’d like to mention that is not brought up during the class discussion, share your thoughts and then move on to the next question.
What other ideas do you have for conducting successful critiques?