Sarafina Fiber Art

Sarafina Fiber Art

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Formal Critiques

Critiquing artwork is both precarious and helpful.  If you submit your work for critque you will gain insight to your strengths and suggestions to make your future art even more fabulous.  I would like to find a way to present formal critiques online via YouTube and my website.  In preparation for that, I am going to spend this blog contemplating what a good critique should be, for me as much for anyone else who cares to think about it.

My first formal critique was in college art class.  We all pinned up our work at the end of the day and  had at it.  Of course we all wanted for everyone to love what we made the best and the criticism was a difficult pill to swallow.  But I learned to look forward to the conversation.  I began to see how helpful it was to analyze our work.  It's a critical step and second half to creating from your heart.  I also began to realize how much I learned by examining another person's art more thoroughly - the process serves the critique-or as well.

The first part of a critique - gushing.  The good news first is a friendly way to begin a critique.   Compliments are important, but even the compliments should be pointed.  We need to hear specifically what a person likes about our work; what they see that we did well or, in a more emotional aspect, what moves him or her about the work.  

On Facebook we make a lot of vague comments.  That's cute!  Very nice.  Wow.  Amazing.  Well done.  Etc.  Vague does not imply that we don't mean what we say -  we do.  But those kinds of compliments don't make much impact in a critique.  We must be as specific as possible in order to make the most impact.  Don't gush like a spilled glass of water.  Gush like one of those long range water pistols at the carnival that make the racehorse move.

We put our heart and soul into what we make and usually make something to the best degree of our capability, so why would we want anyone to say anything critical?  The critical half of the critique is equally as important.  Just because you did your best does not mean that your "best-line" isn't constantly moving.  Critical insight will move that best-line faster.  I'd say I improve with almost every creation... of course there are always flops periodically messing up that pretty learning curve.  But generally, the whole reason you study an art form, as opposed to just making art, is to enjoy the process of moving that best-line.

A few points to consider when we are critiquing art are style, method/technique, execution, quality, materials, composition, color, size... and of course there are more.  It's important to try to see the creator's point of view.  (Which, by the way, serves the critique-or as well as the critique-ee, pushing us to recognize other points of view and grow our own vision.)  Make your points in the spirit of pulling from the artist that next level.  Do not ask the creator to jump to your peak but to their next level.  Again, be as specific as you can with your comments. 

Critiques are not for everyone.  Deciding if it is for you has nothing do with how serious or skilled you are or whether or not you are a professional.  You may not want a critique if you are as happy as clam making your art and that is all that matters.   Only participate in a critique if you are willing to and wanting to hear the feedback.  Or, if you are in a class and have to. ; )

I will plan to critique needle felted sculptures in a video format.  I need to have the piece in my hands.  If you are interested you would have to ship your art to me and be prepared for me to have it for a month or so.  The details of how to apply, along with an agreement, will be announced once we sort it all out via my Facebook page and newsletter. 

(We could also try a formal critique on Facebook.  I will have to think about how to do that.  Needle felting, for me, is very hands on so I am not sure if we can work from just photos.  I would love for more people than just me and the artist to participate because I believe it helps everyone, not just the artist.  Feedback welcome on this subject.)

More soon on this subject.  Happy creating.


  1. I have in the past asked for help and an objective view on my work, mainly with regards to my pictures. I have had some very positive help by doing this, and I for one would be more than willing to participate. :) Great idea.

  2. "Do not ask the creator to jump to your peak but to their next level." I love this! This type of critique can be very helpful, if done in the spirit in which you have described. I myself, have not yet attempted any fiber art, but have plans to do so with the fiber we harvest from our alpacas. Lurking and hearing what artists have to say to one another would be a valuable experience for me as well.

  3. truly beautiful work~ you must have a beautiful heart!

  4. I have just come to discover the wonders and joy that are Sarafina Fiber Art! I've been needle felting and selling my little dudes since 2007 and fully appreciate your description of how your art is constantly progressing with each new discovery. Sometimes I think I learn more from my failures than my successes... :). With a background in Landscape Architecture, I came to understand and appreciate a good critique. To have an opportunity to be part of a group of artists with a similar mindset would be a phenomenal way to get to that next level of artistry!

  5. Sara, I am a beginner in needle-felting and would be glad to share my work for you to personally critique.

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