Chapter 1 - Who?
#UnCritic is a deviantART Group that stands for "Unofficial Critics." We offer a service for unsubscribed members of dA to give and receive critique, just like premium members already can.
Anyone can join the UnCritic community.
#UnCritic started as a community idea when the Groups Beta platform was publicly released. Originally known as #UnCritique (which has since been deleted as a group), the group had a rocky start, barely gaining ground at all. VBAadmin, the original and current Founder, decided to design a commentary template which still resides on our homepage today. With that done, he did the next logical thing: began critiquing. With our group's name plastered on every critique we posted, we soon began to become better known. Not too long after that, VBAadmin became a premium member, and as such began offering up 'proper' critiques. The group saw a slight decline until Christmas, when deviantART unleashed a deal that would drastically change the group's rise into the spotlight. The 'buy one membership, get one free' deal gave us a prime opportunity to make a new regular "~" user account and convert UnCritic into a premium member (after which we abandoned #UnCritique). Since the new Groups system was still being tweaked, old clubs that were registered as premium members could always upgrade to Super Groups for free, saving founders the $30 of a Super Group upgrade. #UnCritic only went uphill from there, becoming one of the top critique groups on deviantART.
Whether you're just an old ~regular member or a fancy *premium (or a =beta tester) we have a place for you. `Seniors, $admins, and ^moderators are welcome too!
Chapter 2 - What?
Defining exactly what a critique is can prove quite tricky. It is a very subjective matter in which each individual has to find his or her rightful place.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a 'critique' as "an act of criticizing" and "a critical estimate or discussion." But used as a verb, to 'critique' is "to examine critically." Now these definitions in general do not offer an answer as to what a critique really is, or what is expected from them. As you read the next few chapters you will be shown good and bad critiques, but it is always important to have an objective understanding of what something is to keep a level head in future debates.
The definition of 'criticize' is "to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly." I believe this definition is a lot more helpful in our quest to a better understanding of our topic. In the case of DeviantART, the critique system offers artists the possibility to 'critique' the work of other fellow artists. There is a difference between the comment and critique system. A comment can range from the basic "aww" statement to a full range critique of the work, while the critique system only allows judging and a concrete analysis of the work in question.
A critique in general should have some analysis of what makes a specific piece of art better and what could be improved. There should be no unnecessary insulting content or bashing of one's work. An objective eye should be cast on the piece being critiqued and the writer of a critique is generally devoid of all subjective opinions other than basic "I like this because…" It is very important to give suitable reasons for any comment, positive and negative, as they will in either case greatly help the artist develop in their style.
The subject of the art itself is almost always taboo to even mention in critique: some critics offer suggestions while others stay away from talking about it. Why is it so rarely spoken of? The content of the art itself is something that will likely come from the artist's imagination of emotions. Hence the dilemma: how can even the most well refined critic provide feedback on someone else's feelings? Still, some of the bolder critics decide to make some suggestions in this regard.
Chapter 3 - Why?
Why is critique important? Why do we have it, and what is it good for? As you may have noticed throughout your travels in the artistic world, and especially around DeviantART, not everyone is fond of receiving constructive criticism. Some people believe that when their art is not being fully praised, it's the same as not having good art.
Unfortunately for these people, they don't understand what they're missing out on. That's because critique is a wonderful tool to use to help improve your artwork.
Proper critique can give you an outside perspective of your work; what you can't see yourself can be spotted by a critic. This will help you fix the mistakes and errors, and can even help you prevent similar mistakes in your work in the future because you will know what you watch out for.
Criticism can give you wonderful tips and suggest what to improve: things that will ultimately make your work better in the long run. Last but not least, critique can give you a goal to set for yourself: for the future refinement of your techniques, your knowledge, and your overall art. And with the good critique that you receive, you can reach that goal so much faster. In fact, receiving critique might even make you a better critic.
Giving critique it is just as important as receiving it, here in the art world. Over time, you will have many experiences and learn a lot about what you can do with your artwork. Whatever knowledge you gain, you can share to help other artists you meet improve as well. Why? When you look at another person's work and try to find flaws, you will also see the strong points in it. The act of critiquing another's work can teach you a lot about what works and what doesn't. By doing this you will become a better artist and be able to hone your own skills while also helping others. You will find it easier to curb your mistakes, let alone finding it easier to create a great piece of artwork.
One thing to remember before giving critique is that what you say is your own opinion. 90% of the time, there is no right and wrong in art (that 10% is usually anatomy errors or other such technical mishaps). When not giving technical advice, remember that your critique is, in essence, just your opinion.
If you're not a premium member, writing critiques can be very difficult, as often you'll have to scroll down to begin typing your comment, thus moving the art out of your screen. One thing you can do to help you, is to open up your notepad, and begin typing ideas down as you're looking at the image. Whether this be first-impressions, immediately noticed flaws, or just a general feeling, having these notes can be immensely beneficial to writing up the rest of your critique. Alternatively, you could open up your notepad and write the entire critique whilst viewing the art, and then paste it into the comments section later.
This note-taking method works exceptionally well when it comes to reviewing a literary piece. You can make notes as you read it, with line-references if it's a piece of prose or a long poem. This allows you to look over your first-impressions during your second read-through, thus enabling you to contrast these initial ideas with those you obtain after reading through the piece a few times. It's essential that with any literary piece you read through it at least three times before critiquing. This allows you to not only give the artist your initial opinions, but also point out more technical points that you're likely to have missed on your first read.
Ideally, create a paragraph for each of the different sections of the critique. There are four individual sections: Vision; Originality; Technique; Impact. Within each, you should aim to point out at least one good aspect of the artists work, and one bad aspect. Remember that when a problem is found, a solution will appear. No one likes reading a critique which only points out bad points, without giving any suggestions . Always try and always mix the two, so you're neither over-praising of the work, nor under-appreciating it.
Vision - Vision marks how well you were able to design and display your concept or idea effectively.
When viewing the art, ask yourself such questions as: Can I see what the artist was trying to achieve? Is there a moral to this piece?
Originality - Originality is a measure of how creative you were in both the conceptualization and the creation of your art.
In my own critiques this section is generally the shortest, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be for you! When viewing the art, ask yourself questions such as: Have I seen a similar piece of art elsewhere already?
Technique - Technique is the way you depicted the subject matter in regards to style and form.
This is usually the longest section of my critiques, and when viewing it I ask myself questions such relating to basic things like light source (with illustrations and pictures), word choice (for literature), and just general comments on the way the piece was done. Is there something that I think looks odd? How would I do it?
Impact - Impact is the final impression you left on the viewer, as a summary of the piece.
I usually use this section as a kind of conclusion to my overall critique. When viewing the art, ask yourself: Does this piece leave an impression on me? Will I remember it for a while?
The "star rating" system is viewed by some as flawed and by others as a great summary of the critique. We believe that it is a bit of both: it should most definitely be glanced at momentarily at least, so that the artist can quickly see the points that he must improve on, but the stars themselves should not be the cause of either frustration or joy. A poor rating will be reflected in the commentary, which is almost always more important.
Chapter 5 - Fairness
Fair critique should always help the artist to make his work better. A proper critique is not just like a comment with your opinion: it's more thorough. If you think you can help the artist, then leave a critique, but remember to be fair. Mention both the good and the bad things about the artist's work: art can never be solely good or bad. Try musing over the piece for more than a few minutes, so you'll get a deeper view. One of the most overlooked items in critique that can be quite revealing is the title of the piece. Perhaps it's telling you what's behind that work (the artist might be trying to convey feelings, opinions, and other expressions). Include everything: the title, the artists comment, and (of course), the work itself into your criticism. Always remember not to lie to the artist, even if it's one of your friends. If you say you love it, but actually you think it's not good, then say it!
Chapter 6 - Tips and Tricks
There is no "right" way to critique, but there is a wrong way. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you critique the right way.
- Look at a piece as a whole, first. Don't start nitpicking for the minor details right away. Technical difficulties are one thing, but the overall appeal and impression the artwork gives on the viewer is much more important.
- If you can't seem to find a lot to critique, try stepping away from the piece for a short while. Don't expect to find things right away; a good critique takes time.
- If you're having trouble keeping your ideas in order, write them down in a bulleted format so you can easily keep track of the direction your mind is following when you're writing a critique.
- Be honest, but be kind. Not everyone likes honesty, but lying won't get anyone anywhere. Plus, if the artist receiving the critique can't take honesty, you're wasting your breath (or keystrokes, mind you).
- Tell people that you're "suggesting" or "giving advice" instead of flat out telling them what to change. For example, say "I would suggest changing this part" instead of "Make his eyebrows darker." Just remember to always be specific.
- Be wary of your own opinions. What may be your personal preference may not be someone else's. Know that they may not take all of your comments into account either, for the same reason. They are the final judge of their work.
- Encourage the artist. All the bad points you may have found in their work might disappoint them. Tell them what you liked about it or what you might see them becoming in the future, etc.
- If you have a lot of points piled up, try using bullets to shorten the critique and make it easier for the artist you're critiquing to follow.
Chapter 7 - Examples
Title: Where Will They Go Now? v2
This critique is a great example of a really good review for several reasons. It's not overly long, making it very easy for the reader to read, and it's full of quality hints and tips for Rokte to take on board and improve from. Remember, quality not quantity.
My primary reason for choosing this piece as an example is that JamesBardolph has given the art piece a very low devious rating, and is thus a perfect example of how to give constructive criticism to a piece which you don't find too appealing. Notice his use of words as he suggests improvements, and points out bad features. He's diplomatic, and also refers to a problem he also encounters. Nowhere in his review of the piece does he outright insult the art or the artist; like a good critic, he is respectful.
This critique is a wonderful example of how you can go really in depth and pull apart a picture, whilst still continuing to give great constructive criticism and praise. Lissa68 has also added different headings here, which is a great way to categorize your review.
The review itself is rather long, but when you consider the amount of detail that the critic has put into, it's really no surprise. Going into as much detail as she has can be immensely beneficial to the artist, since they can learn so much from it. Remember, the idea of critique as a whole is to aid the artist as much as you can.
Title: A drop in colour
I must admit, finding bad critiques was quite difficult, as most of the users on DeviantART seem to write rather good ones, and whilst this critique does have a few good points, overall it's not as formal and thought-out as a proper critique should be.
It's short. When writing official critiques you have to write at least 100 words, or else dA's system will not let you submit your review; here, however, it appears that du-la has given the bare minimum. They've also added very little in the way of constructive criticism, and when they have, they haven't explained their reasons for it. Remember: when writing your own reviews, ensure that you explain why you think something should be changed.
The critic's ideas aren't very well structured, and they seem messy and cluttered. This makes it very difficult for the artist to read and learn from what you're saying. When analyzing any piece of art, ensure that you properly order your critique, using bullet points, notes, or whatever else you find easy.
Chapter 8 - Summary
Critique is an art in itself, so technically, critique itself can be critiqued. Just don't try critiquing critics that critique your work, because not only would you make the critic annoyed, but it makes our heads hurt just thinking about it—it would also make you look sensitive to criticism, which is something that you wouldn't want... or would you? No, you probably wouldn't.
Individual chapters were written by the #UnCritic staff, and editing was done by VBAadmin.