The Fine Art of Constructive Criticism

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By MJ

You know how it is with art- you can tell at a glance whether you like it or you don’t. But if you’re a true art appreciator or an aspiring artist, it’s not enough to like something or hate it- you also have to know why you feel that way, and how to communicate it clearly.

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But why is constructive criticism so important?

For starters, it’s a way of showing respect to the artists who created the work you’re viewing. These folks put in a ton of love, thought, and hours into their creations, so hearing it instantly dismissed with a “Meh” or a “Nope” can feel like a huge slap in the face, and even be a disincentive for making more art in the future. TeeFury doesn’t like to see artist’s feelings hurt. :(

Another great reason to learn constructive criticism is because of what it can do for you personally. When you’re able to accurately and kindly state what your opinions are, it can help you find things you like more easily and help you to be a respected part of the community. Even non-artists can be a valuable part of the art creation process when their opinions are shared at the right time and with the right insight.

Ready to get started? First, let’s take a look at the difference between constructive and non-constructive criticism.

Non-constructive criticism looks like this:

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This type of comment tells you that the poster doesn’t like the design, but misses the most important information: Why

Constructive criticism might look like this:

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In these examples, the poster tells the artist exactly what they like and don’t like about the design. By being specific, the artist learns how the design can be improved in the eyes of that poster (if they choose to make changes).

Here are some key points to bear in mind when delivering constructive criticism:

Timing is key.

Is the shirt already available for sale? Consider privately contacting the artist instead of posting your criticism publicly. This way future versions of the art might be improved, but you avoid hurting the artist’s sales. A good time to contribute constructive criticism is before the design is sold. But the best time of all to give criticism is when it’s specifically asked for- you’ll often see artists requesting feedback of designs in progress in the TeeFury forums or on their Facebook fan pages.

Be kind.

Sometimes it’s easier to hear criticism when you’re also hearing a compliment. So just as you’d tell someone if you spot a flaw, let them know when you really like what you see.

Say it once and move on.

Sometimes it can be tempting to give the same criticism multiple times- maybe you’ve seen the design on more than one site, or maybe you feel that the artist draws the same element in a way you dislike in multiple designs. But the reality is that everyone’s opinion is different- the artist might disagree with your assessment. Repeatedly giving the same comment without considering that can make your comments read as trolling.

What’s your best tip for giving constructive criticism?

  • MissMerlot

    This is fantastic! I almost never read the comments because I sometimes feel so bad for the artist when I read them. I also know some very talented artists who take non constructive criticism to heart and are then too afraid to share what most would consider to be great works of art. I always like to start with a compliment before I give any criticism….to first point out the positive. This is a wonderful blog for everyone..not just TeeFury. Internet etiquette. Thank MJ.

  • Brenda Szwarc

    Please consider adding more Supernatural tees. They are one of very few tees that appeal to several members of my family. While we all have different favorites, we rack love a great show but even more so, we Love that none are so mass produced that we see others wearing the same one often even though our ages are FAR apart.