How to Criticize a Work of Art
As a former Art Educator; it was of Great Importance to me that my students understand, How to Criticize a Work of Art. This skill was of import, not only in terms of the isolated process, itself but because it would strengthen their own personal ability to self-assess their own work.
Though my focus & instruction was in the arena of Traditional Fine Arts; I am certain that in the digital media, there are many of the same criteria that can be applied so I will share a print-out that I did for my own classes. Of course, you will not do, a fully-detailed Criticism on every piece you view; it is not practical nor expected. This is just a guide for your own efforts, so just use what you need but at least be aware of the process; knowledge is power
How to Criticize a Work of Art
Your criticism should utilize five specific tasks:
1- What do I see? [ Description]
2- How is the work, organized? [Analysis]
3- What is happening? or, What is the artist trying to communicate? [Interpretation]
4-What do I think of the work? [Judgment]- &, "It Sucks" or "I [HEART] It!!!", are NOT Acceptable Responses in terms of A Critical Judgment.:]
5- How & what type of connections can I make in terms of the work? [ Reflection]
1-Observe what is in the work.
2]- Create a list of visual images within the work.
3]- Briefly describe, a through an inventory of the subject matter & include any information that is provided by the Artist[ dimensions, media, title of the work, date, ect].
As you continue the process of "Description"; pay particular attention the visual & sensory qualities of the piece. These, specifically include, The Elements of Art: [ line, texture, shape, & color] & The Principles of Design[ surface, rhythm, movement, size, volume, balance, proportion, variety, emphasis, & unity].
1-Idenify how the work is organized or composed.
2- Center concern on how the Elements of Art & Principles of Design have been utilized & arranged within that work.
Following a review of the information that you have gathered through description & analysis; you begin the process of Interpretation; in asking yourself, "What's happening?" & "What is the Artist attempting to convey in this work?" You use the summary of the collection of facts that you have gathered to support your understanding of the Artist's Intentions[Intent]. Interpretation should be founded on observation & your reflection upon those facts.
1-Utilize the facts that you have perceived in the description & analysis.
2-Express your own ideas in responding to "What's happening?" & "What is the Artist trying to convey?"
3- Include feelings, mood[s], & ideas that are communicated by the work of art.
4- Support your ideas with information.
This is the exciting part of the process where you present your own ideas & opinions. This is about what you feel-works [in the art work], or doesn't work & where you may propose, an alternative vision about the work. It is important to be honest & be able to support your ideas with the information you have gathered. When you become engaged in the process of judgment; you may want to reference your ideas in regard to the piece to historical periods, art styles, specific artists & their artwork, or theories [such as expressionist, abstract expressionist, surrealism, ect]. Some critics believe that any criteria to judge art should proscribe to a form of Imitationalism [ Imitationalism is a theory of aesthetics in which a work of art is considered best when it portrays a person place or thing the most accurately. Or in order to be even considered art, it must look like something (person, place, or thing]. Others believe that the artist's use of the Elements of Art & Principles of design dictate the successfulness of a work of art [Formalism] & others, feel that a work of art should speak to the viewer through his/her emotions [expressionist]. Everyone has his/her own bias but in a critique; it is of great importance to put aside, one's own personal bias & crit the work on it's own weaknesses & strengths. I may be biased towards representational work but, if I am presented with an abstract &/or, non-representational piece to crit; than I must be prepared to meet that work within the context of what it is, not relegate, the piece, to being-inferior to work of my own particular preference.
1-Present your own ideas, opinions, & conclusions.
2-Describe what you feel are the strengths & weaknesses of the piece &/or propose an alternative vision in reference to the piece.
3]- Provide the facts that were relevant to your decisions in regard to the artistic merit of the work.
4]-Express your theories or criteria for judging a work of art, supported by the information that you have gathered.
This is the part where you, literally, "Crit" your own Criticism This is the time to record your own approach to the work, including any discovery, personal bias & concepts referring to "originality". Some creative works may cross traditional definitions & may be a product of cross-disciplines &/or, unusual media [ i.e. "Performance Art"- a combination of music, theater & the visual arts]. There are some artists whose compositions are referenced to film makers, it is, in the reflection that one can reveal these connections. Basically Reflection is the way that you chose to approach the work & those connections you made to it. You might suggest an extension to the current work or future avenue of study that you feel might be of benefit to the artist. Reflection is open-ended.
I stopped fighting my inner demons; we're on the same side now...