How to Critique Art

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How to Critique Art

For those who haven't had to critique art, reading or discussing a critique can seem like a completely foreign language. Talking about the lines, the space, and the focus points can be a bit much for a novice. But learning how to critique art doesn't have to be hard, nor does it have to be something you have a great deal of experience in before crafting a good one. By following these tips, you'll find that your art critiques are better and more thorough than ever before!

Start With What You See

art gallery museum

To begin with, you should take a good, long look at the piece of art that you will be critiquing. While studying it, take the time to actually write down what you think is the most important at this point. Describe what is happening in the piece, if you can. However, you should try to avoid using terms that describe the way that the art actually looks, such as “beautiful”. Remember, you're focusing on the artwork itself, not the artist!

Line, Color, and Light

art gallery man

When critiquing, you're going to need to focus on the five major components of the artwork. This is what really seems to set the tone for the entire piece. Line in this instance can be either the actual lines in the piece or implied lines. Take note of how they look:  Curved lines normally invoke calmness, sketchy lines invoke energy or movement. The colors used can speak a great deal about the piece, as well, changing the feel of a piece. Lastly, look at the light used. Is it a cool tone, or is it a brighter one?

Discuss Use of Principles of Composition

art looking on wall

This is one of the major points of any art critique. You'll want to bring up balance, contrast, movement, and proportion. Balance is how the elements mentioned above work together to create a “balanced” look, or is it “imbalanced”? When writing about contrast, look for contrasting colors, textures, lighting, even shapes. Movement can be a bit tricky, but try to determine how the piece gives the feel of movement, or if it doesn't. Last is proportion. Is the proportion what you would expect?

Look for Points of Focus

woman in museum art

Points of focus are normally the easiest thing to identify in a piece of art. It's the thing that your eye is immediately drawn to. A good example of this would be a centrally-placed and well-lit flower in a vase. Identify this, and be sure to take note of it. Discuss why your eye is drawn to it in the first place. And don't forget:  Art can have more than one point of focus, so document them all!

Identify Themes

art sculpture museum gallery

Identifying themes is a fairly easy part of the art critique, if you know what to look for. There are three main types that you'll find:  Color scheme, symbolism, and repeating images. Color schemes can be used to denote a certain mood. Symbolism uses figures from places such as mythology, religion, and history to denote a specific meaning to the piece. Lastly, repeating images can denote a great deal about the feel of the piece.

Art critiques are, themselves, a work of art. It's a matter of interpretation, and can be confusing for that very reason. These tips will, hopefully, make critiquing easier, more enjoyable, and more accurate.

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