How to Get and Give Feedback for Artwork // 10 Tools
Watch the video tutorial.
If you’re an artist and you want to improve on your craft quickly, then you’re going to want to get really good at giving and getting feedback.
Today we are going to go over some practical tools for giving and getting feedback.
Read the full text from the video.
Give 1: Be Proactive
Giving feedback is proactive.
If you want help from others, the best place to start is to help them first.
In fact by helping them you help yourself.
You learn more about other artists, their artwork, how they work and thereby broadening your knowledge of what you can do with your own artwork.
Also you begin developing a language to speak about art and gain confidence in expressing your opinion.
Give 2: How to give feedback?
Great feedback has a good balance between positive and negative.
I like to think of it like a “Critique Sandwich”.
The bread is the positive feedback and the filling is the negative.
I like to go back and forth between the two multiple times but I always end on something positive.
We want feedback to be balanced because too much negative leads to defensiveness and too much positive is just reassurance which doesn’t improve skills.
Give 3: In Person
In Person feedback opens up the conversation for faster questions and responses.
In this situation ask questions first to figure out what feedback they need.
- What do you love about this piece?
- Where do you want to improve?
- Where did you struggle most?
With this you can meet them where they are in skill level, and not overwhelm them with feedback that is well beyond their skill level.
Give 4: Online
Questions are harder to ask due to response time.
Instead you have to do a bit of investigation and figure out where they are in their artistic journey.
It helps if you are part of the same course as them, in the same class, or the forum has a particular theme.
By knowing these things you can tailor your responses to be more on target for what they need.
Also, try to remember these are not faceless names, they are real people with feelings and aspirations just the same as you.
Your words can have a profound effect on others.
A great way to bring some empathy into the conversation is to envision that they are right in front of you.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to always direct your feedback so that its purpose is to motivate and keep the artist moving forward.
Give 5: Giving Feedback Can Be Uncomfortable
Practice, over time you will build a language and confidence.
In the beginning focus your feedback on objective data points as much as you can.
Instead of saying “Your perspective is wrong” say “When I compare the image with your drawing I see that these vanishing points don’t match up”.
Also, avoid aggressive language such as “you should” or “you didn’t”.
Instead use “I feel” or “I think”.
“I feel that the over use of black in this painting is dampening its overall brightness.”
This softens the negative feedback and provides some specifics of where they can improve as well.
By using “I feel” or “I think” you’re explaining how their artwork has affected you and it gives it more purpose and meaning to their work.
Giving Feedback Summary
- Be proactive and give before receiving.
- Balance the negative and positive with the critique sandwich.
- Ask questions to direct your feedback.
- Have empathy and put a face to the name.
- Soften your words with “I feel” and “I think”
Get 1: Path to improvement
Feedback is the only way to improve on anything.
Plus with a good structure, feedback can help you improve faster.
It’s like Lean Manufacturing.
Which is based on a fast feedback loop.
- You Build something
- You Test
- You Improve
The tighter the feedback loop the more effective it is and the faster your improvement.
This is why it’s so important to get feedback as often as possible, even if it hurts.
Get 2: So Where do you get feedback?
Getting feedback has stages and the first stage begins with you and radiates out from there. Let’s go through each of those sages in turn.
#1 YOU: Self Critiqu
The best way to self critique is with a structured approach.
Like the critique sandwich but with specific language.
- What went well?
- What needs work?
- How can I improve?
The real power comes when you use it often.
I try to ask these questions after every painting session.
What did I do well today, what needs some work, what am I going to do next session to act upon that?
This is the ideal situation because it can be a very tight feedback loop with someone that has the skills you want to acquire.
Having a teacher is extremely valuable, so it’s important to trust them until you know enough to move on.
#3 Friends and Colleagues
And at this point we need some tools for how to ask for feedback.
First, we want to be specific on what kind of feedback we need by asking yourself some questions.
- What do I love about the work, what do I hate?
- Where do I want to improve?
- Where did I struggle most when creating it?
This way you can get clarity on how you want to direct them to help you.
This same advice applies to asking for feedback online, with a few other considerations to add on.
As is the nature of the internet you’re going to have much less familiarity with the people you have a conversation with.
But, there are some steps you can take to close the gap between you and them.
For example, If you are taking an online course it’s best to ask your peers in that course for feedback.
This is a great way to have a conversation with other artists dealing with the same materials, skill level, or subject matter. You’re going to get feedback that is more helpful.
For forums, ask for feedback on a forum that is centered around the feedback you need.
For example, If you want technical advice on drawing then put it on a forum tailored for that, like Proko.com.
Here you’re trying to establish a commonality between your work and the people you’re asking.
But what if you’re not part of any forum or online course and you just have to ask random people?
This is the “wild west” of feedback. Aka, Social Media.
Here you’re at the mercy of whoever finds your art interesting enough, to stop scrolling and write something to you.
Most of the time, just getting feedback, IS the feedback. That’s an accomplishment in itself.
My suggestion here is to ask 1 or 2 very short questions that only require easy answers.
If your only route for feedback is social media then also be prepared for trolls and the pain of getting feedback, which is my next point.
Get 3: The Pain of Getting Feedback
Your feelings are going to be fragile at the beginning, regardless of who is giving you feedback.
Have patience here, keep trying because and remember that it’s super important to always see the critical feedback as possible indicators for improvement.
Get 4: How to receive feedback?
First, listen well and read everything!
If someone is taking the time to give feedback, respect that, and give them your full attention. Take the time to read all that they wrote. Take the time to pay attention to what they are saying.
And always be thankful.
If you don’t know what to say then just say thank you.
If you hate what they say or it’s completely off topic just say thank you.
Part of receiving feedback is judging the feedback you get.
Get 5: Judge the Feedback
Feedback can be very subjective.
When the feedback is subjective then it’s up to you to determine if the feedback you received is worth internalizing.
Figuring out whether you should take it or leave it, starts with gaining an understanding of the person giving the feedback.
- Do they just want to put you down?
- Do they know nothing about art?
- Do they know a lot about art?
- Are they partial, such as a family member that doesn’t want to hurt your feelings?
- Are they just talking about themselves?
Through this understanding you can save yourself a lot of time and heartache.
Getting feedback summary
- Get feedback often to improve faster and tighten that loop
- Begin with self critique
- If you have a teacher listen because their feedback can be golden
- Ask friends and colleagues but direct them with questions
- Ask online and also try to direct them with clear questions
- Remember that the negative feedback can help you improve faster
- Listen carefully and read intently
- Say thank you
- Gain understand and know that you have the agency to judge the feedback