lessons and more

Critique your artwork


Creating our works of art, an artist can find themselves looking but not seeing. By this I mean that we see something is wrong with our painting, but cannot see where the errors of our ways lie. In this case it's always great to be your own critique, and do some basics checking.

 Start out by taking a 15 minute break or even better take a break of a day or twoso you can view the work with a "fresh eye".  Just getting away can give you an all important fresh impression. What is your first response when approaching your painting? How do you respond emotionally...if you do at all? In the case of your own work, this is harder to judge, as you may have labored over apiece for some time and begin to lose objectivity or feel like you'regetting "too close" to the work.

Next, take some time to simply observe what you've created. Don't make any judgments yet, just LOOK. You will want to physically stand back, take your time, and just view the shapes, sizes,colors, patterns, texture, subject; thereby becoming more familiar with the image before you.

Using the Critique Checklist (a useful listing of what to look for while evaluating) and go through each item as you observe your own work. You'll want to examine how the painting/drawing is constructed, the techniques used, your creativity level, and the "message" it is conveying.(It may be helpful to put your findings and thoughts in writing as you go along.)

 Look for the strong and weak areas, and note any unique or special qualities of the piece. As you check through the checklist that follows; ask yourself these questions:

  Where are the strongest passages...what did I do well and be repeated in my next work of art? Check for any area where you may have tried to "cover" -- an error, weakness orinability to solve a visual problem? (Once you've recognize this, work to master the skill so you don't repeat the same weak treatment). Think about what you can do to make corrections and/or improvements -- take a class, read a book on the subject, or find a training video?Are there overworked or underworked areas? Is the painting/drawing finished?You may determine that you may or may not be able to make corrections to the weak areas you've discovered. It may require that you stop on this piece, and improve with your next creation.Then to catch any lingering problems you'll want to take another look. Viewing it from a different vantage point and reevaluate.

We all have a natural tendency to favor our left or right eye thereby causing distortion in our art work. By using the following 2 methods of evaluation we can help overcome this problem. 1.Standwith your back to the work and view through a mirror (as you would whenchecking the back of your hair in a bathroom mirror.) 2. Physically turn the picture upside down. If you are working from a photo, turn it upside down as well, then move your eyes back and forth between your work and the photo to immediately spot errors for corrections. These two methods enable you to  view everything as shapes and forms rather than your point of interest and subject that you started with. You can readily identify items that are out of alignment, color problems, etc.


 Here's the actual critique process checklist that I use. This list, will be helpful as you begin to critique your own art work, or that of another artist's. You will find that not all the  items in the list will apply to every picture. Feel free to print the list and for your personal use customizing if necessary depending on the type of work you are evaluating.

 Having this list on my studio wall as a reminder has been extremely helpful to me while I am working on my artwork.


 -Is this painting/drawing a landscape, figurative, portrait or still-life? (or other?)

-What is the style, i.e. photorealistic, realistic, impressionistic, etc.?

  -What is the subject of the painting/drawing?

 -Is the image oriented appropriately, i.e. if the subject is wide is the art surface horizontal; if the subject is tall is the surface vertical?

 -What media was used to create the drawing or painting? Pencil, charcoal, pen& ink, marker, colored pencil, pastel, acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache, a combination of materials, etc.

 -What type of surface material was used? Paper, toned paper, museum board, canvas board, canvas, masonite, etc.

-Does it lend to the overall feel of the artwork? How does the surface impact the resulting artwork? Did it become a part of the picture through it's texture or color?


(This is a major area of creating art to become familiar with).

 -What is the composition?

 -Do the elements lead you into or out of the picture?

 -Do they create a circular flow into the center, do they form a triangle or other shape, i.e., what is the pattern of movement in and through the picture?

 -Is the composition in "formal" or "informal" balance?

 -What is the "focal point"? Is there more than one focal point? If more than one focal point do they compete with each other?

-Is there a visible foreground, middle ground and background?

 -Is the perspective correct throughout the composition?

(Accurateperspective is critical and foundational to a painting/drawing'sunderlying structure -- particularly realistic images. And if anabstract image, skill in perspective is essential to successfully deviating from reality.)

Does the design of the composition give a sense of visual tension, restfulness, energy, etc.? Can you discern why?


 If critiquing a drawing:

 -Describe what style of drawing. Is it a vignette, full drawing; very detailed, little detail, loose and sketchy, etc.

 -What is the overall visual texture and what kind of lines are used, i.e. soft, rough, smooth, energetic, subtle, bold, etc?

 -Does it appear to be cleanly done, i.e. free from smudges and smearing, confident strokes, etc? (Tip: wear an old sock over your hand so as not to smudge by accident)

 -Is the modeling of shapes and all 3 dimensional forms rendered correctly,i.e. highlight, middle tones, reflected light, etc.?

 n fusing charcoal, pencil and the like, is there a good range of values? That is, are the whitest whites and the darkest darks present along with the range of grays in-between? If the drawing in a "high-key", is there a good range of medium gray to white? If the drawing is in a "low-key", is a complete range of medium gray through black present?

 If critiquing a drawing OR a painting:

 -Are the shapes and forms correctly depicted?

 -Are all objects rendered solidly so they do not appear to float in the air.Check that  everything in the picture firmly in place and grounded visually?

 -Are the proportions and measurements between objects correct?

 -Are there any ambiguities...i.e. does everything make sense with nothing questionable as to it's position, what the objects are, etc.?

 Are symmetrical objects truly symmetrical, i.e. are they the balanced equally on both sides or do they need adjusting?

 -If the drawing is a realistic one, do all forms appear to be 3D and convincing, or are they flat and why? If the drawing is not realistic,are the 2D forms shaped as they should be?

 -Overall, is the structure of the drawing well crafted or is it weak in areas? What recommendations can you make for improvement?


 -Where is the source of light coming from, i.e. sun, artificial light, etc.?

 -What direction is the light: from above, below, left, right, etc., and is this appropriate for the subject and mood you're trying to convey?

 -How strong is the light: is it soft and subtle, bold and dramatic, etc.?

 -How does the light affect the subject and mood of the painting?

 What color does the light appear to be and how does this affect the color of the subject and it's surroundings?

 -Did you correctly render the light in all areas of the work, i.e.direction, how it touches or moves around objects, etc.? Are there ambiguities and how might these be clarified?

 -Are there hard as well as soft edges to define objects? Are lost edges present which contribute to a sense of depth and space in the picture?

COLOR (Applies to a painting or colored drawing)

-What is the general value of the picture, i.e. high-key, low-key, or full-range of values?

-What is the "temperature", i.e. cool, warm, neutral, etc.?

-Are the colors at the appropriate intensity for the subject; to strong or too weak?

-Does the overall value and temperature seem appropriate for the subject? Use green and/or red film to determine if this is done correctly.

-Are the colors "muddy" or clear?

-How does the light effect the colors?

-Are the colors bright or dull?

-Were colors mixed directly on the surface or first mixed on a palette then applied? (Both ways are fine, remember, we're purely observing at this time.)

-Was color or line used to define edges around objects?

-Are the forms rendered correctly, i.e. is the structure of the 3d forms,i.e. highlights, local color, reflected light, etc., present and in their proper position?

-Check to see that any reflected lights are not lighter than they should be, i.e. not lighter than that which is being reflected.

-If there are any reflections and shadows on water or glass are these rendered correctly? Again red/green film is helpful to determine this.


 -Comparethe treatment of this subject to similar subjects in other artist'swork. Does it capture the subject in a creative, new, or unique way, ordoes it lack life, energy or appear "flat"?

 -While you were working on this piece did it seem labored or did you execute it with ease and confidence?

 -Did you have to concentrate hard while working on some things but with ease on others? Identify examples of each.

 -When you planned and executed your painting/drawing did you copy from something you saw, treat something you saw in a new way, or work totally "from your head." (Note: There is no inherentvirtue to creating from your imagination than from something that exists in real life. What matters is what you do with the subject...did you give it an new twist, or experiment in some way, etc.?)

 -Did you find yourself experimenting at all -- if yes, what did you discover? What were some of the successes, things that were the less successful?

 -Did you think about how you'd treat the subject or execution differently next time?


 -How did you respond when you first saw this painting/drawing?

 How do you respond to it after having gone through this checklist?...Do you  have a better appreciation for the piece -- see it as stronger, weaker,etc., than when it was  first created?

 -Overall, is the technique, colors used, and treatment appropriate and effective for the subject painted?

 -Are there areas of the picture that came easy to you and other areas very difficult? Identify these.

 -Has this picture improved since your last attempt?

 -What specific things will you do to correct problems identified in this painting/drawing?

 -What specific things were done well and are worth repeating in future work?

 -What specific things have you learned through critiquing this art work, whether it is yours or someone else's?

 - Any other things you see that have not been covered by this list, include them for yourself here:

  And finally be easy on yourself...we have a natural tendency be overly critical of our own work. If you can, ask someone else to go over this checklist from their point of view. Sometimes someone else can see something you've missed, but don't be to hard on this person when they give you an honest critique. Use it, learn from it, and move on!

As I do not know the original owner of this article. Please let me know if you do, or if it is you, so I may give credit to the owner for it, or remove it from my website if the owner so choices.