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July 22, 2008
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Tutorial Index
Intro
What a Critique is NOT
What Is Advanced Critique?
Guide To Advanced Critique
Writing the Advanced Critique
An Example of a Critique
Conclusion


Intro
Advanced critique is as much an art as your deviations are art. It takes skill and the careful sculpting of ideas to make a comment into a helpful, discerning, judging piece of advice that will aid the deviant to create better art.

In recent years, advanced critiques have gotten a bad name and there are only a few left who understand or know how to write a good critique. And there are many who shy away from writing critiques for fear that they will be accused of flaming.

This goal of this guide is to train you on how to write a critique.

Step 1... check to see whether the deviant has requested an advanced critique. Just because someone is on DA does not mean that they want to be critiqued.

What a Critique is NOT
1.   Critiques are not something that can be rushed. You must take time when writing them, or they will come out haphazard and of no benefit at all.
2.   Critiques are not written ENTIRELY IN CAPS. Since the age of IM and chatrooms, using caps has been held synonymously with shouting. Caps may be a way to get someone's attention, but caps do not hold attention, especially if used continuously.
3.   Critiques are not written in chatspeak or leetspeak. An example of a bad critique would be: “OMG!!!!111 FYI, I <3 ur art! C I BTDT, and u r0x0rz imho!”
4.   Critiques do not use emoticons solely to express feeling as these do not explain why the deviation is desirable or undesirable.
5.   A critique is not a summary. A summary reports what the deviation is about. A critique, on the other hand, analyzes, interprets, and evaluates the deviation, and searches with the goal of answering the questions why? what? and how well?
6.   Critiques are not just limited to positive words. Critiques are a synthesis of positive and negative points.
7.   Although they may run contrary to the thousands of other comments you get, critiques are not a form of flaming. Flaming is destructive; critiques are designed for the improvement of art.
8.   Critiques will not always be agreed upon by everyone. Art is very much a matter of taste and not everybody likes everything.

What Is Advanced Critique?
Merriam-Webster defines “critique” as “the act of criticizing”. The definition of “criticize” is: “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly. Synonym: Evaluate”. To “evaluate” is “to determine the significance, worth, or condition of something usually by careful appraisal and study”

Thus the goal of an advanced critique is to determine the significance and artistic merit of a deviation through careful appraisal and study of its merits and demerits.

Guide To Advanced Critique
Take out a piece of scratch paper, or open a writing program so you can assemble a few notes on the deviation you are going to critique. Don't write the critique directly on the deviation yet; let's assemble our thoughts before we type the critique on the deviation.
If the deviation you are critiquing is a collage, you should repeat this guide over for each image in the collage, and then once for the collage as a whole.

First, consider the deviation in an unspecific general manner. Jot down a few notes for yourself on things you liked or didn't like about it.

Next, consider the tools the artist used to make the deviation. While it's easy to determine whether a deviation is pleasing to the eye or not, to write a critique both the artist and the critiquer must be familiar with the tools used in the design of the deviation.
As examples, to critique a photograph both must understand the use of a camera and terms like shutter release, depth of field, rule of thirds, aperture, autofocus, exposure compensation, etc.
But for a photomanipulation critique, both would need to understand the various tools in whatever program was used to create the image, and addition terms like aspect ratio, layers, blending, CMYK, RGB, pixel, etc.
For a poetry critique, consideration would need to be given to definitions of words and syllable count. Terms like enjambment, anapestic, iambic tetrameter, elision, quatrain, and meter might be used.
Remember that similar tools are not the same. As an example, both GIMP and Photoshop can be used to manipulate photographs and can produce the same results. But although the end result is similar, the tools are different, and different steps are used for different tools

Ask yourself
1.   What tools were used to create this?
2.   Am I familiar with the tools enough to offer specific suggestions on their use?

If you are not familiar with the tools, perhaps you should leave the advanced critique with specific advice to someone who is. This does not mean you can't comment; you can comment on what you liked about the deviation or didn't like.
But specific advice requires specific knowledge. Don't be afraid to admit to yourself that you need to learn more. But, conversely, don't be afraid to use what you have learned in writing a critique.
If you have any comments to write on the skillful use of tools in the deviation, or suggestions on how to use the tools better, jot them down on your paper.

Now, let's consider perspective. Some deviations will only speak loudest to certain people; sometimes no one will understand the true nature of the deviations except the artist who posted it. I've noticed this especially with literature deviations, since language is so mutable and flexible a tool.

Next, consider your perspective first.
1.   What emotions and feelings well up when you look at a certain deviation?
2.   Why do you feel those particular emotions?
Write down your perspective, and the emotions you felt on your paper, and the reasons why you feel them.

Next, consider the perspective from the deviant's viewpoint.
1.   What might they have been thinking and feeling at the time? It sometimes helps to read the artist's comments at this time as this can occasionally enlighten this question.
2.   Get to know the artist. Check some of the other deviations in their gallery to see if you can isolate the common theme that this artist focuses on. Do any other deviations this artist has shed light on the feelings in the deviation you are critiquing?
3.   Do the emotions and feelings that I felt match those of the deviant? Or are they different? In this way you can determine whether you are able to relate to the deviation.
Write down your thoughts on the perspective in the deviation.

Next, let's look for positives. Write down on your paper as many elements of the deviation that you feel are good and enhance the deviation quality for you. Put a specific explanation next to the element as to why you liked it.

Next, look for a few negatives. Write down a few elements of the deviation that you feel could use improvement. and include specific explanations that cover the following questions:
1.   WHAT can be improved
2.   WHY you didn't like it.
3.   Suggestions on HOW to improve that element
4.   Only aim for a few areas in this. It's easier to be negative than positive, but an advanced critique does not concentrate solely on the weak points, but tempers constructive criticism with acknowledgment of deviation's good features. If you have more negative than positive notes written down, consider organizing the negatives by their severity (what you feel needs the most attention) and cross out the low-ranking problems.

Writing the Advanced Critique
Now, it's time to organize your notes and get around to writing the advanced critique.
Some tips to follow when doing this:
1.   Organize your thoughts so that when speaking about a particular element you cover all the things you have written about that element.
2.   Try to give your critique a introduction, middle, and closing. The introduction can be a summary statement or paragraph and this summary can be repeated at the end as the closing statement. The middle should be where the comments on your in-depth appraisal and study of the deviation are. The ending should provide a polite summary of your thoughts with a closing statement so that the critique is wrapped up and complete.
3.   Use complete sentences, punctuation, and good grammar.
4.   Don't group all of your negative points together, but space them out throughout the critique and place positive points and comments in between.
5.   If you are granted the opportunity to critique a deviation not normally marked for Advanced Critique, be sure to thank the artist for letting you critique it in the comment.

An Example of a Critique
So after contacting *Cefin via notes, I asked for permission to critique his amazing collage Nature's Elements. Although the collage was not marked for Advanced Critique, he granted my request to critique his work.
I spent about 30 minutes working on the critique.
Here are my initial notes I made:

Notice how I complete the tutorial four times for each individual picture, then once for the total collage.
Nature's Earth is breathtaking!
My Emotions:
expectance - can see both of her eyes, not covered up by hair or angle of camera
anticipation - eyes are wide open, not half-closed
Deviation Emotions: anticipation
Positives: leaf texture on cheek - wish more textures?
hair - nice highlights on individual strands, looks like real color
Negatives: none

Nature's Fire
My Emotions: irony - eyes looking up, like caught half-way in a eyeroll
advancement: eyes looking up at target; goal to be reached
Deviation Emotions: anticipation - distant window in center of eyeball is focus
Positives: hair again
Negatives: Dotted lines tracing fire art on cheeks. Think actual texture would work better.

Nature's Water
My Emotions: sadness - eye of right of picture has a light colored portion near the lower eyebrow that looks like tear.
Deviation Emotions: something lost? - object looked at in eyeball is black this time, combine with pseudo-tear crit
Positives: hair again
Negatives: none

Nature's Wind
My Emotions: depression - eye not looking at camera, almost complete whiteout of eye. Looks like real tear in eye closest to camera.
insecurity due to unknowns - whiteout eye
Positive: saturation and bleaching of picture. Nice grayscale
Negative: Dotted lines. Not sure if wind can be captured in texture, maybe cloud pictures?

Nature Collage
Comment: Nice collage, excellent capture of complex emotion


Then I take my notes and write a critique based on those notes.
Here's what I eventually decided to write.
Thanks for permitting me the opportunity to write this critique.

Your girlfriend has some amazing eyes, no matter what color they are. I found it amazing that despite it being the same face and the same eyes, each picture had its own unique feeling and emotion. "Breathtaking" would be the one word I would use to describe each picture. I took the time to look at each individual picture in the series in order to write the critique. Let me tell you what I thought about each individual picture. I'll start at the top of the collage.

Nature's Earth is beautiful. The leaf texture used under her eyes is well placed and well manip'ed. It looks like it belongs there. I wish there could have been a few extra textures, but simplicity is usually the best, so this one texture was an excellent choice! Also her hair is excellent in this picture. It looks like real coloring; each strand not colored to a single color, but possessing a shade of the color, just like it would look with real hair coloring.
The emotions I felt from looking at this picture were expectance and anticipation. I felt that because her eyes were wide-open (not half-closed) and they weren't covered up by hair or by the angle of the camera.

Nature's Fire possesses almost a sense of irony. Her eyes are looking up, almost as if she was caught halfway through an eyeroll. However, it also has a similar feeling of advancement that Nature's Earth has, perhaps more so, since the distant window framed in her eye is something that would have to be climbed to be reached. Her hair is once again stunningly shaded and perfect for the composition of this picture. The only thing I found that was negative in this picture was the line art on her cheek under her eye. I almost feel that it detracts from the fire, and that an actual texture might have worked better.

Nature's Water has a sad feel to it. The eye on the right side of the image has a light colored portion near the lower eyebrow that looks like a tear, but it's unclear from this image whether it's a tear of joy or sadness. The emotions I felt tended towards sadness due to something being lost. I think I felt this way because the object framed in her eyeball is black this time, and combined with pseudo-tear in her eye made me think of losing something. Like the previous pictures the positive attribute that stands out is her hair. It is once again stunningly shaded, and perfect for the composition of this image.

Nature's Wind has a definite sad feel to it, almost bordering depression perhaps. Her eyes appear to be deliberately avoiding the camera in this picture. There appears to be some moisture in the eye on the left (another tear perhaps?). The grayscale combined with the near whiteout of the eyes stumped me momentarily as I tried to figure out the feeling being expressed here. I looked at the near whiteout of her eyes and thought that they looked sad, and possibly insecure, as if she was looking to the future but was unsure what was coming. The positive attribute in this picture would be fine bleaching, saturation, and the subtle use of grayscaled tones. It's a very nice white/gray picture to depict wind, without being so white that nothing can be seen. The only negative I saw in this was the use of dotted lines again. I would recommend the use of a texture, but I'm not entirely sure how one would go about depicting wind as a texture (perhaps pictures of clouds?).

All in all, this collage is breathtaking! Each picture works so effectively with all the other pieces to display a wide range of complex emotions and feelings. There were so many beautiful things about these pictures, I wouldn't have time to type the critique if I were to mention them all. Her shading on her hair was definitely a positive throughout all four pictures. The only negatives would be the occasional use of dotted lineart to express an element, as was done in Nature's Fire, and Nature's Wind. Other than that, I could see nothing in these manips I would suggest improving. Your girlfriend has beautiful eyes, no matter what color they are.


Conclusion
Can you see how I followed the steps listed in the tutorial of writing critiques in both my initial notes and later in the placement of thoughts in the written critique?
Now it's your turn! Do you think you can do it too?

I hope this tutorial, and the sample critique will aid you to writing many effective critiques that will aid other deviants to hone and refine their abilities in the future.
Advanced critique is as much an art as your deviations are art. It takes skill and the careful sculpting of ideas to make a comment into a helpful, discerning, judging piece of advice that will aid the deviant to create better art.

In recent years, advanced critiques have gotten a bad name and there are only a few left who understand or know how to write a good critique. And there are many who shy away from writing critiques for fear that they will be accused of flaming.

This goal of this guide is to train you on how to write a critique.
It includes simple step-by-step rules and a final example to walk you through how easy it can be to write a critique.

I would like to thank *Cefin for allowing me to critique one of his collages, Nature's Elements and include the critique in the tutorial as an example.

Edited 4/25/2011 - Added a chapter index to the file with clickable links to navigate the tutorial much easier. Special thanks to `namenotrequired for helping me with this.

2008, 2011 by Sean Murphy, All Rights Reserved
This tutorial is for use on DeviantArt Only, and may not be copied to other websites either in whole or in part.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2008-07-31
Guide to Advanced Critiques by `cypher-neo offers another insightful look into offering someone a great critique without being terribly confusing. So give it a good read and critique some lit. Go! Go! ( Featured by LadyLincoln )

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

Please sign up or login to post a critique.

:iconheltinde:
Heltinde Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for creating something as helpful as this!
I hope you don't mind that I have featured this in one of my own articles about critiques.
If you're interested, you can find it here: fav.me/d5tx5h8

Have a wonderful day! :heart:
Reply
:iconarchaeobibliologist:
archaeobibliologist Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Professional Photographer
I don't mind at all! Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)
Reply
:iconheltinde:
Heltinde Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
:nod:
Thanks again!!
Reply
:iconeclectic-reception:
eclectic-reception Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I find myself wishing this had included an example critique of a literature deviation. I don't know enough about visual art to critique it or to really understand what I like about it. Though, I'm hoping this will help me to write better literary critiques. Often times, I shy away from critiquing prose that could really use it because I can't find anything positive to say. I guess it's a lot easier to be negative because the issues you see in most prose are common, while the things you like are based more on opinion than anything else. Of course, there are commonplace techniques that work well in most literary pieces, but what do you say when you can't even find those? "I like your use of capitalization, and the way you added the correct punctuation at the ends of each sentence." xD Sometimes, it feels like the only positive technique an author has used is so obvious that it's not worth mentioning.
Reply
:iconjswebb:
jswebb Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013   Writer
Although I focus mainly on poetry, I take a great deal of time with my critiques; perhaps some of those would be helpful to you as you go about crafting your own critiques, whether for prose or poems. :) Here is the link, if you'd like to take a look.
Reply
:iconeclectic-reception:
eclectic-reception Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you. :) I will definitely have a look at those.
Reply
:iconjswebb:
jswebb Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013   Writer
You are very welcome! I hope they are helpful. :)
Reply
:iconarchaeobibliologist:
archaeobibliologist Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013  Professional Photographer
I did originally approach a laureate on deviantART to ask if I could critique a deviation of his as a sample for this Guide, but I decided against it. It wasn't that certain mistakes popped up so often in prose or poetry that I couldn't think of anything positive to write. I think the reasons I shied away from poetry and prose for the example critique is that writers tend to be a rabid crowd. It's sad but common, that literary critics on dA tend to tear into authors, and there seems to be no guide for deciding who gets the wrath. I've also watched laureates in chat on dAmn give completely opposite critiques and start fights over tiny rules. The literary crowd at times seems a little high-strung.

However, it shouldn't be too hard to use the rules in this guide to write a great literary critique. Just remember it's a careful appraisal of it's merits and demerits, so equal parts praise and criticism. By looking for both the positives and negatives, you're bound to write a great critique every time. One thing I've noticed that trips people sometimes in literary critiques though is figuring out what part of speech, or technique was being used. Find a good online guide and refer to it often.

I'd like to see some of your literary critiques once you finish them. Good critiquing! :D
Reply
:iconeclectic-reception:
eclectic-reception Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Sadly, that is true a lot of times. I think the problem is that, with literature, there are so many different ways to do the same thing correctly and incorrectly, so everyone has disagreements over what an author should and shouldn't do.

But I hope I can share some with you if they're not too horrid. Sometimes, words don't transfer from my mind to the page the way I want them to. ^^; 
Reply
:iconjswebb:
jswebb Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013   Writer
I do not know if they would be helpful at all to you, but you are welcome to view some of my critiques and see if they would be beneficial in your guide. :)
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