How to Give Helpful Feedback

Giving critiques and feedback is a skill you will need as an artist. While most times you may be seeking feedback from others about your art, you will also need to play the role of critic to fellow artists along the way. This blog post outlines some ways to think about giving feedback and how you can best effectively do it.

Take Note Where the Creator is At: Feedback needs to be placed in context. Carefully note who you are providing feedback to. If you know this artist personally, it will be fairly easy to know what you can say to them. For artists who you know less or are on more familiar terms than friends, it can be helpful to understand where they are at in their personal or emotional life or a bit of their background. A few minutes of talking before the critique or having a cup of coffee can help ease into the critique and give you some background information.

 You wouldn’t tell a pre-schooler that their square-faced green self-portrait was bad, you would praise them.

Think about how you would talk to a high-schooler who is aspiring to follow a career like you versus or emerging artist who is seeking some tough feedback and really wants to grow. All three of these would take different (but honest and authentic) approaches.

Feedback with Purpose: Apply your creative knowledge, technique, elements and principles of design, and other background to fuel the feedback. Saying that a landscape doesn’t look quite right is not helpful, but describing how a few adjustments to the angles will improve the perspective is helpful.

Don’t be afraid to start the critique or feedback session by asking how you can be most helpful. By inquiring about the artist’s needs you can direct your feedback in a way that helps them move through the art.

This is Good: These three seemingly positive words are the least helpful, especially when someone is actively looking for some feedback to move forward with an art piece. Most times, if someone asks for feedback, they are looking to push the piece further or finish it off. Saying something is good isn’t constructive and wastes both of your time.

Damaging Feedback: Many artists can reflect on a previous moment of unsophisticated feedback or damaging critique. I’ve had the professor who lined up the art from good to bad, guess what end of the spectrum my work landed?

It is critical that you be mindful how your words can be helpful or hurtful. While you can’t control if well meaning feedback will be taken the wrong way, do your homework and getting to know the artist or their background as noted above can determine how to best deliver your words.

Remember, the feedback is not about you demonstrating your skills in critique. Its about supporting the artists and helping give them what they need by communicating the feedback in non-threatening way.

Critical Response: Liz Lermon designed a critique format called critical response which allows the artist or creator to be in control during a critique. Her method allows the creator to leave the critique feeling motivated rather than discouraged. This may be a form of critique that could be facilitated to create a safe space for the artist and worth exploring if this sounds interesting to you.

If you liked this blog post, you may also want to read this one too:

Responding to Rejection with Anger

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