Since we are growing quite large I've decided to put out this guide on critiquing to help both sides of the conversation, critics and artists alike.
It is not simply a teacher telling a student what to do. We are all your peers here, we take from you, you take from us. There are questions on both sides. What it takes to improve is a conversation, not orders. Silence on the part of the artist is sad.
This is most important. I see a lot of critics saying what is right or wrong looking in a piece. This is good. But they leave it there. This isn't too helpful for those who have submitted. They know what is wrong, but not how to change it in the future.
The hard part of critiquing is knowing how or why the artist made that mistake or made something different and then telling them that. To go a step further if you can give advice on how to prevent that mistake in the future process wise then you are giving critique gold. Gesturing, guides, references, artistic examples, ways of thinking about ponies, it is all good.
When an artist improves, tell them so. It is always nice to know that you are progressing. It gives the artist motivation to keep going and self respect. This point brings me to my next point.
Critiques can be very hard to take. Open and close with kindness. Not empty platitudes, but things you like about the work or a friendly gesture. This isn't a hard set rule and once someone is used to critique isn't too necessary. Still, be kind not robotic or fomulaic. These are people, just like you.
This is a My Little Pony sub. Not some serious art time learn it now university class. Have fun.
When a work is good. They've submitted before and you've critiqued, but there's only little nitpicks to throw out there. This is a good chance to pretend there's a Push Me tag on that post. Push them in a new direction. Talk about style, composition, concept, shading, movement, emotion, or texture. This is also a great direction to push yourself when bored or feeling stagnant.
When an artist doesn't respond. This is a pain in the butt. For everyone. Artists learn less and critics have a harder time figuring out how to get into the critics head. So what to do? That's simple. Ask them to respond. Many artists are unaware of the fact that they're allowed to not understand something, disagree, ask 'stupid' questions (do, its encouraged) or even respond. Talk! Its okay! Yes, things will happen and emotions will be jostled, but if you don't do anything to never take the risk of being hurt, you never take anything. Learning, love... nothin'.
When the artists ask question after question after question and just don't get it. This is a frustrating moment for artists. They really want to know how to do something but it just doesn't click in their heads. Text is a really crappy way to convey artistic concepts. Unfortunately it is also the easiest way for us to communicate here. Sometimes an artist simply has to ** actually do** an exercise before it makes sense. Actually... this is most of the time. Have the critique open in a (possibly minimized) window and go over it a few times while drawing. It helps. For critics: Give them a simple exercise to do. Whether it be to follow along with a guide or simply to try different kinds of shading. Something to get them moving in the right direction. It is also okay to say 'I don't know, you're going to have to try it out' when replying. Frustrating for the artist, but the truth is better than nothing.
This can be similar to weak reception. All to often artist and critic will have a wonderful critique/reply moment and then when the artist comes back nothing has changed. As a critic this is truly a facehoof moment. You want to help, but you don't want to just say the same thing over again. Obviously they didn't memorize everything you had to say, or just didn't understand it all.
So what to do?
I don't know. I've been trying different things, like asking questions to draw out feedback, but so far this has given me too much grief as it draws out frustration and anger on the part of the artist too often. A desire to know what they want out of the sub and where they want to go can be misconstrued as a personal attack. Pushing them when they don't want to be pushed has too often resulted badly for me as well. I just don't know.
It is up to the artist themselves to define why they are here and that they want to learn. I am not here to force anyone to learn, but if someone is here I am assuming they are prepared to do so. Improvement doesn't come without change and (artistic) change doesn't happen without effort.
A list of things to consider about critique.
Critiques can be huge intimidating walls of text. This guide is here to help show how to take the most from your critiques. It is for everyone as critique is quite complex.
What else to do to other than just read?
This is the most important part of this guide. Think of the mind like a bowl. What you know is water inside the bowl and the knowledge, information and techniques we share here is us pouring more water into the bowl. This works out very well, unless you come to the sub with a bowl already filled on a subject. The sub gives and gives, but the water is just pouring out as you legitimately reason your way around what we are trying to teach. This is a very sad moment.
In all these, you want things a certain way and see our advice as contraty to that. Your bowl is full. We have all this knowledge and teaching to share and its pouring all over the floor. Sadness.
Be ready for change. You will be uncomfortable. It will feel like you've taken five steps back. This is learning without knowing beforehand. Its scary. But its fun. And you make progress.
Learning anatomy nitpicks v. whole new processes. You want to get anatomy right, great, nitpick. It will help you to see. But if you want to fix the composition, making little nitpicks isn't going to help you to learn how to make good ones as much as making a whole new thing. Yes, revision is good, but No sitting on the same piece for a week isn't. This is about balance. Wanting to fix everything is normal. It's human. But you need experience and you need to apply what you've learned from the critique to a new composition. It will help you to create.
A few things to keep an eye out for when reading critiques:
That's all I've got for now. Feel free to leave your own perturbances/difficulties as a critic or artist.