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How To Critique Someones Work

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Isabella F A Shores

1stAngel Owner at 1stAngel Arts
I'm an oil painter and photographer, who also makes time to paint with words through my short stories and published poetry. Seascapes and animals are the primary focus of my oil paintings; however a variety of intriguing subjects and styles are likely to spark my creativity.

My art has shown at the World Art Exhibition in Orange County, California, and my commissioned paintings are part of private collections in America, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

When away from my easel, I'm the Founder and Chief Editor of the successful 1stAngel Arts Magazine, and the Community Manager at

I live in Manchester, England, and am happily sharing my life with a mental budgie, two Alsatian puppies, and a long-suffering, sculptor-boyfriend . . . not necessarily in that order. :)
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Oftimes on the internet, and off, we are asked what we think of someone’s work. Nowadays also we have people sharing their work and expecting us to say something.

Some people always say how good something is even if, inside, they are cringing at the awfulness of the subject.

Some people always ram in like a bull in a china shop and point out all the things they would have done differently.

Some people stay quiet for fear of hurting.

So which is right? Well, a little of each really.

Firstly, giving critical statements about work is not appreciated by the majority unless you have done the courtesy off asking first if you may. This is good manners and it is the first part to good relations between yourself and the person whose work you may wish to point out bad bits on.

You may be answering a request for critique in which case of course you will not need to ask permission and the coast is already clear.

If someone asks for critique it may be they do want everyone to say how lovely it is, or they may be asking for real advice as they are unsure of what they have done, or they are trying a new technique and want to get feedback, or, and this is not rare, they are unsure of themselves all round.

Whichever they are it is always important to follow the unspoken rules for stating what you think. If it is done properly then you can speak the truth without any fear of hurting or annoying.

1. Keep your critique positive.

This does not mean that you have to say the work is awesome, or say you like it if you don’t. Keeping it positive means that you never say you hate something about the work. When saying what doesn’t work, mention also areas that do work. Never leave the person on a downer.

2. Ask questions.

Part of the work may have been staged in a certain way on purpose which you cannot see. If you see an area that doesn’t work, find out why the person did it that way before criticising it. It makes the person look again at their work and ask themselves the question. This way they are seeing the problem for themselves.

3. If you see something that really does not work

Explain how you see the work. That, to you, that one area does not seem to work well and always explain why. This helps the person pinpoint exact problems they may not be able to see.

4. Remember that your critique is your opinion only

You should therefore only make suggestions. Instead of saying, ‘That needs changing!‘, you should be wording it more along the lines of, ‘Perhaps a little more of this may work?’, and then explain what you would see there in place of what they have done.

If someone has trusted you to critique their work then it is up to you to do so but, always with respect. The secret of a good giver of criticism is to make the person see faults for themselves rather than have them hit over the head with them.

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