Source: Pandora's Box A useful knowlege for every community How to Give Constructive Criticism The Basics Read the Artist’s Description This may sound silly, but it’s such a practical idea that so many seem to forget. Reading what the artists say is imperative to leaving a comment that is helpful – They may tell you what medium they used, the time it took to create it, if they’re looking for suggestions, or if they even want criticism. If any artist every makes a note about not wanting any criticism, then don’t feel compelled to post something that’s analytical. An artist will post such a note for a reason, and there’s no need to critique something if it won’t be appreciated. So what there’s no description? Then just comment at your discretion. If you can see others have left criticisms that were poorly received, you may not want to critique the piece, unless you like getting a rise out of people. Know Your Audience If it’s possible, take note of how artists respond to criticism – If they seem very thankful for it, then go for the critique, but if they don’t seem very appreciative for it, there’s nothing wrong with just pointing out the good points. It’s also a good idea to know the artist’s age, but that can’t always be found. Generally, young teenagers will be a lot more sensitive about their art and more likely to get offended easily. Beginners also may need an extra boost of encouragement to help them pursue a developing talent. Also, certain artists work in certain styles that you may not be familiar with, so something that you may consider a flaw was actually something intended by the artist. The genres that tend to have this problem the most are anime (“the eyes are too big”) and fantasy (“the dragon shouldn’t have that many claws”). Choosing Your Words Comment on the Art, not the Artist While this may seem a little trivial and even unnecessary, avoiding personal words such as “you,” your,” and even “I” or “me” can make a world of difference. Art is very personal to its creators, and using such words tend to make the artist feel attacked, even if that’s not the case. Instead of saying “your feet need work,” try saying “perhaps his feet would look better with a little more shading;” rather than "I'd like to see more shading there," try "adding more shading there would improve the drawing." Avoid Demanding Words Speaking of “need,” don’t use it. In fact, avoid “need,” “should,” and any other word that demands the artist do something with his/her work. Instead, offer suggestions. Replace “the eye needs more detail” with something like “adding more detail to the eye would give it more depth.” That way, not only do you explain why adding more detail would be an improvement, but you let the artist decide what he wants with his work. Using Slang and “Txt Spk” To keep it simple, don’t use them. You don’t have to use completely proper grammar and not too many artists will yell at you for a misplaced modifier or a split infinitive, but showing a general understanding of a language will make you seem more knowledgeable and lessen the chances of someone getting very annoyed with your criticism. Avoid long threads of punctuation, like rows of exclamation points (!!!!!!!) or a lot of ellipses (…………), and spell out words like “you” and “are.” Because really now, you don’t save that much time by forgetting two letters. Being Detailed Saying things like “I don’t know why, but so and so looks weird” isn’t going to be a lot of help to the artist. If you don’t know why something looks odd, then how will the creator? It’s very important to explain clearly why something looks like it could need improvement; otherwise the artist will probably get frustrated. For example, rather than saying “the hand looks weird” try elaborating on what makes it look weird – Is it the shading? A lack of detail? The size and muscle structure? Adding those little tidbits can make a comment incredibly helpful. Also, try expanding on the adjectives you use to describe the aspects of the artist's work - There are so many other words that can be used other than "good" or "bad" (and using "bad" can be a little harsh, which may upset some sensitive artists). Think a little more about what's "good" about something - Is it beautiful? Unique? Interesting? Constructing the Constructive Criticism Balance the Good with the Bad This is what constructive criticism is all about – Letting an artist know his/her strong points and the areas that could use some improving. Sometimes people forget that little “constructive” part in this term, and tend to focus too much on the negative aspects of a work. There is nothing wrong with telling someone know that the anatomy of the hand looks a little weak – Now the artist knows he/she needs to practice drawing hands more. But, on the flip side, there’s also nothing wrong with telling someone that the eyes in a picture look beautiful – Then the artist knows how to make eyes look in future drawings. Beginning and Ending on a Positive Note Starting on a pleasant note with the artist is a good way to begin a critique. The artist will generally feel good about the strong points in the picture and will be more likely to accept some suggestions and criticisms after hearing the good news. However, it’s not a good idea to end on a negative note – That will leave the artist feeling a little unhappy and maybe cranky or irritated, making the likelihood of an angry artist yelling at you very high. Try ending with a sum up of the good points in the drawing and letting the artist know that they have done a good job. Final Advice Don’t be Anonymous Some communities, like Elfwood, will let you leave comments without actually being a member of the community. If this is the case, it’s best to include at the very least a first name and if you’re comfortable with it, a link to a personal site or an e-mail address. Flamers are notorious for being unidentified, and adding a means of contact will often make the validity of your criticism more believable. You Don’t Always Need to Criticize Sometimes you just may not see anything that you feel needs to be critiqued, and that’s fine. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything. In fact, sometimes just adding a comment that mentions how great a work is can really brighten an artist’s day. Some People Just Can’t Handle It Sometimes, no matter how well written your critique is, some people just do not like criticism and will react negatively to it. If you get a few flames here and there for a critique, don’t let it stop you from giving constructive criticism in the future. This is generally pretty rare, however, so if you find yourself getting a lot of negative remarks, you may want reevaluate the way you go about criticizing someone. Practice, Practice, Practice! Now, this may sound like something that a critic would tell an artist, but the only way your critiques are going to improve is if you keep working on it. It may take some time to “perfect” a critique, but the more you work on it, the more naturally it will come to you and the better you’ll get at helping others.