Critique Guidelines

Here are the guidelines for critiques that we will be using in this class starting on Monday. We will discuss the method at the beginning of class before we start your performances, but you can read over them now to get a preview:

There are a few key steps in critiquing artwork. These steps can apply to other specialties and fields, but we will only discuss them in terms of visual art.

  1. Description: The description of the object(s) is a matter-of-fact listing of what you are actually looking at. What is it? If you are looking at the Mona Lisa, you may say that it is an oil painting on wood, approximately 30″ x 20″, hung at such-and-such a height, the paint is applied in a delicate manner to depict a seated woman before a pastoral landscape. Other details may come out about the painted background and the way her hands are situated, but there is to be no interpretation or evaluation during the description process. Only hard facts about the physicality of the object are to be discussed – not history, context, or intent. It may seem redundant to describe work that everyone is standing before, but different people notice different things and it is helpful to point out those details. Describing the object(s) also sets the groundwork for the rest of the discussion as the following steps depend upon what is pointed out in the description phase.
  2. Interpretation: Now you may take what was discussed in the description phase and talk about how those factors come together and what it means. Do not discuss artist’s intention during interpretation, however you may bring in historical and environmental context.
  3. Evaluation: At this point you should be able to articulately evaluate the work based upon how well the work operates between what it is and what it is doing/trying to do. This should be the culmination and combination of the description and interpretation to result in well-stated judgments and opinion. If a work seems to be attempting humor, but the materials take themselves to seriously, you may raise that point. A work may succeed because what it is and how it operates are in accord. The artist’s intentions should still be left out of this phase. As a matter of fact, the artist’s intentions should almost always be left out of critiques. Artists rarely know what they are talking about in relation to their work.
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