|A Different Perspective|
If you are a photographer, writer, painter or simply someone who loves viewing art and providing feedback to the creator of that art, you should be aware that often the content of your critique can be utterly dismissed simply by the manner in which you offer it. Anyone can provide a critique, and most do. Stating something as simple as "I like that" is a critique. It's not a very good critique and it doesn't help the artist improve, but it is a critique nonetheless. Likewise, "that sucks" or "that's not my cup of tea" is equally valid as a critique, and is similarly dismissed out of hand as not being useful.
Often opinions are offered simply to express the appeal, or the lack thereof, of a work, to stroke the artist's ego, or to stroke the ego of the person providing the comment (I can do better than that.) If, however, your objective is to help the artist improve or, at the very least, to consider your perspective, you need to be able to convey your message effectively. Anyone can provide a critique, but having your opinions heard, understood, and accepted as valid is more about a constructive approach to communicating those opinions than the actual opinion itself.
The key to getting your comments understood, accepted, and considered is to provide respectful, polite, and even-handed commentary. If your goal is to help the artist improve, you should also provide constructive critique.
|Find What Appeals to You|
There's no faster way to have your commentary rejected, deleted, and any future communications promptly ignored than to approach the artist with anything less that politeness. You may absolutely hate the artist’s work, but if your goal is to get the artist to heed your opinion, you are not going to do it by being mean spirited or disrespectful in your approach. It's said that respect has to be earned, and if you want the artist to respect your thoughts, you have to provide respect as part of the process of delivering your opinion. So drop the snarky or condescending attitude and be polite and gracious with your words. Even if you're an expert in the artist's field, there is no reason to adopt a know-it-all attitude. Obviously your words will carry more weight if you are indeed an expert, but a gracious novice will influence the artist far more than an arrogant expert ever will.
|Be Polite and Respectful|
While it is important to be honest when presenting your opinions, don't confuse honesty with meanness. With some thought, you can truthfully state your perspective without resorting to unkindness. Malice has no place in a constructive critique and will shut down your communication faster than almost anything else. Too many people try to use “honesty” as an excuse for petty cruelty. These people seem to enjoy pointing all the flaws in a piece of work as spitefully as they can. When they get called on it their claim is that they are “simply being honest and the artist can’t take an honest critique.” Honesty is good. It does neither the artist nor the viewer any good to receive a less than truthful critique. But anyone with at least half a brain knows the difference between honest and just plain mean.
So, what can be done to make your commentary more likely to be considered, accepted, and utilized by the artist? There are a number of approaches that can be used, singly and in various combinations, but you should start by finding something positive to say about the work. Always strive to start with that. If, after thorough consideration, you can't find at least one positive aspect to the work, then reconsider whether the piece is even worthy of the critique. After all, why should you go to the effort of providing the critique if it’s so awful as to have no redeeming qualities and you simply can’t help the individual improve?
Consider the artist's perspective and the message (if any) that he or she is trying to convey. Tell the artist what you perceive the message to be and how effectively the piece “spoke” to that message. If you feel the message is weak, explain why you think so and offer any suggestions you might have on how to improve the delivery of the concept.
|Be Honest, but don't be Mean|
Finally, when summarizing, identify the overall impact and appeal the piece has for you and provide some words of encouragement, even if that means suggesting another avenue of creative expression. Of course, you may not have the time or the inclination to follow all the advice provided in this article, but if nothing else, you should understand that kindness, respect and encouragement will do far more to get your message across than any level of expertise or experience you can claim.