Art of Criticism
 The Art of Criticism by Zack
This is a post that I've been meaning to write for a while. It wasn't inspired by anyone in particular, but simply an attitude toward criticism I find fairly prevalent on 2draw. And I know I'm not a shining example of responding well to crits. Hopefully, writing this post will give me even more reason to hold my responses to a higher standard.
Art is highly personalized work. We all make strong emotional (and some would say spiritual) investments in our work. This is a good thing! But it can lead to charged conflicts when people try to point out problems they see in each other's work. Sometimes people will go out of their way to hurt others with their criticism, but even then you can turn it around and choose to learn from them even if they're rude.
 Here are some guidelines to follow when responding to criticism:
- Don't make excuses. It's fine to explain that you didn't put as much effort into a particular picture for whatever reason, or intentionally ignored a mistake, but do your best not to make excuses. They end up sounding unappreciative of the effort that your critics put into analyzing your picture.
- Avoid sounding defensive. If someone points out a problem with your picture and you think they're right, just go ahead and agree with them. Don't try to redirect attention to the better points of the picture. Try to not say "yeah, but...". If you disagree with someone, though, say so respectfully.
- Give critics the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes when you look at a picture, all you can think of are the parts of it you don't like. Sometimes comments won't have anything positive to say about a picture. This doesn't mean the person dislikes you or your work in general, or even necessarily that picture! Be careful about how you read critical comments. It's for the best to assume the person is trying to be helpful, even if it seems like they aren't.
- Ignore trolls. If someone is obviously trying to be a jackass, just ignore them. Don't let them make a jackass out of you too.
- Agree or disagree, thank them. Even if you disagree with what someone said, or if you aren't planning to work on that picture further, what a critic said might influence your work in the future. You can never know for sure. Thank them for investing their time, effort, and thought in reviewing your picture.
 I have a few guidelines for writing criticism, as well:
- Try to be friendly. As they say (they being Mary Poppins), a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Try to think of something about the piece that you like so your negative criticisms don't sound as harsh. If you can't think of anything in particular (and don't make something up just to sound nice), end with an encouraging statement.
- Disagreeing with other critics is OK. Just follow the same policy as responding to criticism; be respectful.
- Offer advice if you feel qualified to give it. Sometimes artists could use more guidance than just being pointed out what's wrong with their work -- they need to be pointed in the direction of fixing it. But if they're better at lineart than you are, it'd probably be best not to suggest how they can improve it! ;)
Not every artist will benefit from criticism as much as the other. Some people can do pretty well at seeing deficiencies in their own work, but everyone has had that moment where you just stare at your picture and know something's wrong, but can't figure out what. And don't get mad at people for just pointing out what's wrong without suggesting how to improve it. Sometimes all you need to know is what's not working. If that's not the case, respectfully ask for help. Not every problem needs advice on how to fix it, and besides, explaining how to fix a problem is a lot more work than just pointing it out, so this is really a key moment to be respectful to your critics. If critics think you're smarting off in response to their thoughts they won't bother helping you.
The key point here is respect. Even if someone is being disrespectful to you, or you think they are, that is not an excuse to be rude in return. Take it as an opportunity to show your classiness. If we stop responding to rudeness with rudeness, it takes the fun out of being rude, and we'll have a much more enjoyable community. The level of rudeness and sarcasm here at 2draw has driven away a number of good members over the years, and I'd like to see that change.
Lastly I'd like to say again that this is not directed at anyone in particular. Trust me, I've seen tons of people abusing the criticism process over the last several months. Take care, everyone. :)