Critiques can be the wind beneath your wings that help you grow in incredible ways; or they can be the source of many tears, and hurt feelings. In this episode we will cover why you need critiques and critique groups, where to get them, how to prepare for a critique and what to avoid.
[00:00:49] What have you been working on?
We used to do this but got out of the habit and wanted to bring it back!
What projects are each of us working on?
Lee: Currently working on writing two books, and is trying to create a dummy book for both books, and trying to sell a two book deal, or at least have two options for publishers to choose from.
Will: Working with four other teachers to create classes for SVS, working on character designs for a board games and a sequel to Bonaparte Falls Apart.
Jake: Working on a figure drawing class for SVS that will be pulling the best from all of the figure drawing books to make the best class possible, on a sequel to “The Little Snow Plow”, Jake and an author he worked with earlier wanted to do a sequel together and their agents were able to create a deal (stay tuned, we’re not able to announce it yet!). and sent the files for Skyheart to the printer in China. Wahoo!
[00:06:10] Why art might not be right for your job?
We wanted to briefly touch on this subject because of a letter that we received from an artist named, Mike, in response to Episode 03: Ship Happens. Mike brought up the fact that maybe for a lot of artists out there, art is better as a hobby than a career. Mike went through all the steps and got his first art job… and he hated it. After he finished a couple of art jobs he was wondering why he didn’t want to apply for any other art jobs and didn’t know why he had such little drive and motivation. He realized that for him, and he imagines a lot of other artists making art their job isn’t the best option for them. He is does a weekly webcomic, does art for a board game company, and engages with his audience and is super happy with his art. He thought it would be nice to share with the followers of this podcast that to kill yourself to flounder in the shallow end of the professional artist career isn’t always going to pay off and doesn’t equate to success or happiness. Mike realized that he needed to have his own personal goals and stick to them. Also, that he wouldn’t be happy working on other people’s stuff. He realized that his dream was to have a stable income outside of the art industry and then have the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do with his art.
Mike brings up some good points, and essentially hit on the plight on an illustrator; that is, we spend a lot of time working for other people and helping them accomplish their dreams, while sometimes letting our own dreams stagnate.
Super successful illustrators do one or both of these things well:
Stop advertising for, stop looking for, or stop accepting work from clients that take them in the wrong direction.
Or they start doing their own projects, or a combination of the two.
To help see the perspective you can compare this to becoming a professional tennis player.
With each level of progression there are nuances and changes that need to be made, and it sometimes becomes less about the fun, sometimes you just have to practice because you need to improve.
You need to find art jobs that match who you are. Think about your skill level and what makes you happy.
That’s a side note that we wanted to hit, now time to jump into today’s episode!
[00:15:15] What are the benefits to a critique?
You need to see things from the perspective of another and that’s what critiques help us do.
Critiques are for students and professionals, alike. We all need feedback and critique. That’s how we grow. Jake was working on Skyheart and decided to redo the cover and when he posted it online he got a lot of feedback telling him that the original was better.
[00:17:17] Why you might not get an honest critique?
Sometimes we don’t get honest critiques because we don’t create the right atmosphere for the critiquer to feel comfortable giving us feedback. If they think that you want validation and not a real critique then often they’ll just tell you what you want to hear.
[00:18:29] How to find a good critique?
There are many people you can reach out to for good critiques such as previous teachers, professional artists, critique groups, small social media groups or pods, and artists at art conventional or art shows.
Art students have their previous teachers as a resource but this relationship needs to be set up when they were in school. Have you created a positive relationship for them to want to critique you later? Be a good student and be involved, it will pay dividends.
Like it or not, we live in a transactional society. It helps if there is an exchange of time i.e. buying a print, helping to update their website, handle their social media posts, etc. Time is precious, see if there is something you can do for them.
Maybe you only have a critique group of your peers: be the person that gives critiques and set the foundation of a give and take relationship with your peers. On the SVS forum it is great to ask for a critique but people will be a lot more willing to give you a critique if you are also spending time to give others critiques.
You can also ask artists at conventions and art shows for feedback. Be courteous, and respectful of their time. It always helps to buy a print or something to compensate them for their time.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
[00:28:22] Are you personally ready for a good critique?
How can you prepare for a good critique? You can approach critiques with a vision and a direction. Think about what your purpose for the piece is, and that will help your critiquer point you in the right direction. Provide a frame a references.
[00:30:31] Know what you need
Understand what you are asking for. Maybe you just want to be validated or maybe you really need to level up the piece you are working on. Know what you need and ask for it.
[00:31:15] Mel Milton's critique method
Mel Milton has a critique method where he only praises people when they ask for a critique, unless they really push him to give a critique and really ask for it. If they really want a critique then the flowery praise won’t be enough and they’ll push for more feedback. Showing that you really want feedback allows the critiquer to take you seriously and tell you what they really think.
[00:32:30] You never know how people will react to your critique
People sometimes cry, get angry or defensive and this is a sign that they are not ready for a critique.
[00:34:08] What not to do during a critique
Talking too much: cutting off their comments or not letting the critiquer actually critique.
Being distracted and unplugged from the critiques
[00:36:00] What to do before and during a critique
Know what you want the piece to accomplish- set a vision for where you want your piece to go
Be specific- you can ask them, “what did I nail?”, “what did I get wrong?”, etc.
Have more than one option open for critique- this helps provide a point of reference for critique and is extremely helpful
Set limitations: "What are three things I could do to improve this?" This really helps the critiquer feel open to give you three things you can improve.
Open the door for a total critique by saying “I’m willing to start this piece over”
In contrast to the “repellant” above, these things really create a positive atmosphere for receiving a critique.
[00:41:46] Break your critique into components
Lee liked to use a rubric to help provide specific critique to his students. Maybe they nailed it with the rendering and perspective but the concept was weak, or maybe they had a great concept but the values could use some work, etc.
Some fundamental things Jake looks at when giving a critique:
Understand your objective.
[00:46:11] How to prepare for a hard critique
When Jake worked at Blue Sky, his entire job was critiques. You would constantly draw and receive critiques. Sometimes character designs would have to go through 50 iterations before they ever settled on a final.
Come into the critique being malleable and bendable. It will free you from feeling too attached to your work.
Recognize that if you are making this a career there will be good drawings and bad drawings. Sometimes we are too invested in the time that we spent creating a single piece. Realize that one peace is a drop in the bucket of your lifetime of work. They say everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them and so if you do a bad one, you’re like, “Sweet, I got one of those out of the way.” Then you can move onto another drawing.
Don’t spend so much time worrying about the one brick rather than the entire wall. Go into it knowing that this isn’t the last thing you are going to create.
Don't rely on feedback from one single person, but if multiple people tell you the same thing, pay attention. You can start to understand the trends of your critique.
[00:53:23] How to participate in or find a critique group
Try to find in your area 3-5 people with the same goals as you do. As a group you will help each other achieve your goals. They could be in person or online and be composed of different creatives. Within your critique group find people who are at your level or higher, (preferably, you’re the least skilled in the group). Be accountable to this group.
Warning: if the group gets too big they become more of a cheerleading group and people will feel less impelled or comfortable to give honest critique.
Professionals need critique groups to level up and receive the feedback necessary to make work on that higher level. Try to find a local group with people who have similar goals.
[01:00:08] 5 Things to Avoid Doing In a Critique Group
Don’t show with work, but dish out critique
Take without giving
Being late: it shows selfishness
Not be overly negative
[01:03:47] Quick note about posting online
Your posts online can also be a source of critique. Based on what people commenting and also what is getting a lack of comments.
If your art doesn't get any responses that is a form of a critique. It means that you can keep at it and make something remarkable (worthy of remark).
[01:04:55] Giving a critique
Knowing your biases in your artistic tastes. For example, Lee doesn’t really love symmetrical work or anime, so he has to take that into account when he is giving a critique.
These things influence your critique and how objective it will be.
Also, reach out to certain people for different types of critique. Any critique from anyone is helpful, and a fellow artist can give you a good general critique. However, if you want a critique on your watercolor techniques then you should talk to someone else who does watercolors and they will be able to give you a more specific critique. You can get more general and more specific critiques, and both are valuable.
[01:08:17] Trust you gut.
Sometimes, you will get critiques that don’t sit right, and ultimately you need to trust your gut. Don’t change your whole style based on someone’s critique if it doesn’t feel right. However, if you want work from someone and they are asking you to change something then you probably should if you want work from that person.
Knowing what you want out of the critique will influence what you take away from it, and also the number of people giving you similar critiques.
Get critiques and be wise, what can we say more?
Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44
Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt
Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. Instagram: @leewhiteillo
If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.
If you want to join in on this discussion log onto forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.
Is that not enough for you? Okay, if you want, we even have a transcription below:
Hello everybody and welcome to 3 Point Perspective, the podcasts about illustration, how to do it, how to make a living at it and how to make an impact in the world with your art. I'm Jake Parker.
I'm Lee white.
I am Will Terry and all three of us are professional illustrators. We've been working for about the last 25 years, and we've worked with just about every major publisher and publication in the business. We've also together published around 50 books, and we've all taught illustration at universities.
Yep. Each week we're going to tackle a different subject relating to illustration from each of our three perspectives. Sometimes we're going to agree, sometimes we're going to argue but hopefully, you're going to learn something new.
All right. How are you guys doing?
It's been a while, hasn't it?
Been a while.
Just talked yesterday. I wanted to point out something that we dropped off doing this the last few podcast, and that was what have you guys been working on. So can we just do a quick update on what's on your guy's plate. I'm curious to know what you guys are doing. Lee said you were working on a book today, so let's do that and then we'll go into the rest of the episode. Is that cool?
Yeah, let's do it.
Okay. Lee, what are you doing?
I am working on a book like you just said. I'm writing two of them at the same time, and my agent just went to Bologna which is a huge children's book convention. Every year happens in the spring, so if you guys want a tax-deductible trip to Italy, anyone can book a trip and go to this book fair in Bologna.
I've been wanting to go to that for years. I just-
It always sneaks up on me, I always forget about it until too late.
I think I'm going to do it next year but anyway, my agent took one of my manuscripts there. I had some sketches and some paintings and stuff, so I got a lot of interest from this one story that I'm doing. I'm now dummying up that one to a complete dummy with some revisions, and then working on another one. I'm going to try to sell a two-book deal because as we've said before on the podcast, there's nothing worse than somebody having just one idea. So even if they don't buy both of them, I want to have at least two on tap just in case.
Cool. What about you Will?
I am working with two or three, well three different, four different teachers at SVS to create classes. Some of them are really close, some of them are far off but very exciting. I'm working on a character design job for a board game company, and working on the children's book sequel to Bonaparte.
A lot of stuff.
I am currently working on a new figure design class for SVS. I have like 10, I ordered all ... I have my archive of life drawing books or Anatomy books, but then I ordered all the best ones that Amazon has highest ratings on. I've been going through these books looking at why is this book so good, what's bad about this book and crafting an outline and curriculum for the class that I think uses the best stuff from all these different books. So that's been a lot of fun and then the next thing, I'm doing a sequel to Snowplow, the little Snowplow. I'm working on Snowplow two and I just got a book deal for another sequel, I don't ... Did I mention that earlier on this podcast? I can't ... It's been a while.
Another sequel for what?
A sequel for another children's book that I'd originally done years ago. So those are the-
I can't, it's not announced yet.
It's big secret.
I can't say.
The first one is already made.
The first one came out several years ago, and the author contacted me. He's like, "Would you be up for a sequel?"
I know which one it is.
I was like, "Yeah, that'd be cool and so we both told I guess our agents and they went and worked something out, and now there's a book deal in the works so it should be fun.
What I love about that us that you guys didn't wait around for the publisher to say, "Hey, what about a second book?" You guys took the initiative and something we talked about a lot on this show is like hey I got this image or this story, who might want it and what can we do?
I forgot to mention, I guess I'm just so ready to move on to these next projects. Yesterday I sent all the last files for SkyHeart to the printer, so that book is out of my hands. It's in China, they're piecing it together doing whatever they do over there, and I should have books back here in a few months.
How many copies did you order?
About 3,000 yeah. We'll see, I still have to do a pre-order. I guess by the time people listen to this, the pre-order will have launched. So if more people want it than that, then I'll order extra.
Well just so you guys know listening at home, thinking of doing your own Kickstarter, a book, a hardcover book weighs a little over a pound typically. Obviously it changes depending on the actual dimensions, but around a pound so that's the reason I was asking Jake because that was a big shocker when I did my book is all of a sudden I did 2,000. Now €2,000 worth of books are coming my way, and that was the first time I just [inaudible 00:05:45] and were like, "Oh my gosh, where am I going to store all of these things?"
What did I do? Luckily we had a room in our basement that was empty and we just stacked, this was for my first Kickstarter book, The Antler Boy. We just stacked these books and made a giant couch out of them, and I mean a giant couch. A 30 foot long couch out of the books. All right, one more thing before we get into Will's topic. I got a letter this morning from someone who had something to say about back in episode three: Ship Happens. They had a really thoughtful commentary on that, that I wanted to share and I got permission from him to share this. His name is Mike, and I don't think he left any social media on this so here's Mike's letter.
There's something I kept thinking would come up in the Ship Happens episode, and maybe it's not a concept that resonates with you guys because you're all professionals, and have "made it" and are loving the work. I think for a lot of artists out there, myself included, I went through all the steps of making it. Had an art job and hated it. I went through a long period after my first couple of art jobs ended, not wanting to apply, not knowing why my drive was so low. It turns out that for me, and I imagine a lot of other artists that making our art our job might not be the best step for us. I'm getting far more productivity enjoyment out of creating now that art is officially my hobby.
I do a weekly Webcomic, I do art for a board game company. I engage with my following of fans, my little following of fans and I have not been this happy with my art since college. So for a lot of your followers, it may be a good message to hear that killing yourself to flounder in the shallow end of the professional artist career isn't A, always going to pay off and B, making it doesn't equate to success or happiness. The Ship Happens episode seemed to really resonate with me because it highlighted that I needed to find my own personal goals and stick to them. I had to admit to myself, I'd never be happy working on other people's stuff and that was a dead end for a professional artist.
Following my dream would have meant a career I hated, and might not have realized until I was years and years into it. Turns out my dream was more like having a stable income outside of the art industry that let me do whatever I wanted artistically in my spare time. I don't know if that makes sense to you but it works for me. I'd love to hear what you think or something like that ever becomes one of your topics. Love your work, love your projects. Thanks so much for being approachable, blah, blah, blah. Mike. So what do you guys think of that?
Can I jump into that?
I think he's talking about basically the plight of an illustrator. The balance, right. I mean we work for other people and we work on their dreams, meanwhile we let our dreams stagnate sometimes. I think these super successful illustrators do one of two things or both, which is they stop advertising or stop looking for, or stop agreeing to work for the clients that are taking them in the wrong direction, and start accepting jobs which are in line with their visions. So the books that I take on now are pretty much all dream jobs. They're stories I wish I had written and I get to illustrate. The other side of it is they end up doing their own personal projects, and they could be a combination of the two. So I think over time ... I took so many jobs that I hated early on, and I describe it as working on an art job that you hate is actually worse than doing the worst manual labor job I could think of.
Right. You'd rather paint.
Yeah because it takes emotional labor, you cannot escape from it. When you're digging a ditch, you can think about you can be anywhere but when you're forced to work on art that you hate, you are there. You're present the whole time.
Well, there's another I mean that's totally true. I always use this analogy in school too to add to what Will said, it's my tennis analogy. I love using analogies for some reason when I teach, because it just makes it easier to see the perspective of it all. Just being, a lot of people think, "If I was just a pro I'd be happy, and if I was just making a living at this, it would be so much better." So I use this tennis analogy for the mentality of what it takes to be a pro at something. If you ... I enjoy playing tennis just as much as anybody does I guess recreationally, and when you play recreational tennis, it's pretty fun. You go out and you swat some balls and whatever, then you start to get a little bit better at it. Maybe I'll play some little neighborhood, little weekly round-robin tournament or something, and so yeah the level goes up a little bit.
Starts to become a little more serious, you start working on shots, still pretty fun though but you've changed it from that initial easy whatever kind of attitude, now you got a little bit of criteria that you're trying to do, and a little bit more seriousness. Then you start winning that, he's like, "Okay, I'm going to play maybe some regional tournaments and maybe get a coach." At that point, things shift quite a bit and now practice comes into play. All of a sudden what is always fun, is not the focus anymore. Now you have to go, "I got to work on this shot. I don't like doing this shot, but I got to work on it because I'm losing points to it." Then it's just more serious and then the next step is okay I'm going to be a pro tennis player, and now it's for real.
You got to start measuring your serve speed and all the stuff, and the fun is I don't want to say it's not fun, but it takes a different kind of person to go through all those steps and say, "I'm willing to do all this sacrifice for being a pro," and it comes with a lot of ups and downs in terms of your enjoyment, your relationship to that job. I feel like illustration is the exact same way, and I heard a writer talk about that with her relationship with writing before during this lecture. She said, "My relationship is just like a relationship with a husband or a family member. Sometimes we're good, sometimes I love my writing but sometimes I hate my writing. I don't want to even look at it, I don't want to talk to it. I don't want to even think about it." Other time ... It means it's bendable thing, so it just becomes different when you become a pro. So anyway-
Yeah. I think you have to find that job that matches your inclinations, your drive, and your ability level too. So it might be that like Mike says, you don't want to wallow in the shallow end of the professional world, and who knows what for whatever reason could cause that. It could be your ability level, it could be a drive or it could just be time constraints or maybe you don't want to move to a different place, and there's just not the jobs where you live. I have a friend who was trying to make the art career work, and what he ended up doing was teaching art to junior high students and loves it.
Absolutely loves it because it allows, it gives him so much creativity in the projects that he wants to do with the kids in his own projects, gives him time to do his own projects because he has summers off. So that was a great compromise for him that maybe he doesn't have to be working for a high-profile studio. Maybe it's something that he didn't initially think would be an option, but now is this thing that he loves to do. So yeah, that was like its own topic.
Yeah, let's go ahead and get it to the real topic.
This is jampacked episode for everyone. All right Will, this is your day today. You're driving, so I'm handing the keys to you and take us wherever we're going to go.
Hopefully we don't wreck. So we get a lot of questions at SVS about, can I pay for a critique on my portfolio, or will you give me feedback on this, or are you going to offer a critique class? I wanted to address that first because a lot of our students listen to our podcast, and we don't often get a chance to talk to them in one place. We are trying to build SVS right now in the curriculum, and so we have taken a backseat on just doing critique classes. It's been frustrating for some of our students because they want it, they're just dying to get a good critique to just know how they're doing. We all do, right? I mean we all want to know where we fit in and so in general, I want to give in this podcast ideas, alternatives, on where to get a critique.
How to get a good critique, and how you can prepare yourself to get a critique. What not to do, what to do. All of that, we're going to unpack that whole thing, because I don't think that you need to wait. I think there's some proactive things that students can do, or beginning artists can do to ensure that they're getting good feedback so they can move forward. So let's dive in. The first thing I wanted to talk about is why do you want or need a critique? Why do you guys, what would you guys say? Why should a student get a critique in their art? Maybe some people don't want one.
It's impossible to know where you stand without getting a critique, you have to see it from other people's point of view, and that goes all the way up into the pro level. I've showed my studio, I shared a studio with David Hone for years. I'd show him something and he'd spot something I did not even see, and it's as obvious as the nose on your face when somebody else sees it especially somebody who knows what they're doing.
Exactly. Yeah, I'm the same way. In fact, recently I self critiqued. I was doing the cover for SkyHeart and something just wasn't sitting right about it for me. I didn't like the character designs because I had evolved as an artist since, the style had evolved since I did the cover. I drew the cover first before I drew the comic, so I got to redraw this cover with the right character design. So I did it, I inked it, I colored it. I showed it to Will, and Will's like, "Yeah man, that's good. Ship it." I'm like, "Sweet." I posted online and you would not believe the feedback I got.
Most of the time I post something, people are like, "Yeah, this is good." I posted the old cover next to the new cover, and so many people were saying, "The old cover's so much better, the old cover's so much better." I showed it to my kids and they were brutal. They're like, "This one's garble, this one's a masterpiece." Pointing to the old one, and so then I realized okay A, don't ask Will Terry for critique.
It was funny when you came in. When I came in the next day and you're like, what did you say? You liked.
What did I say?
You said something like, "So did you give me an honest critique on the cover?"
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
That was busted and the reason that I didn't, and this is going to come up in ... We're going to address this is I was hedging for you, because you went ahead and did a completely finished piece. I could tell you're like, "I know how I feel when I do spend all that time, I want to use that time." You didn't really, I'm going to blame you when really I should just take the blame. I should just take it right? You didn't give me the permission I was looking forward to just hammer you on that cover.
Right. So I should have said, "I needed honest critique. Will, I need you to tell me is this good or not." Instead of just what do you think? Yeah, that's a good point.
Okay. So moving along, that was awkward wouldn't happen because I was busted. I did have to come clean and say, "I really liked the old one better and here's why," but at that point we ... We were in a safe space to be able to go there. Before we get going on preparing the critiquer to give you a good critique, I want to talk about places where people can actually get a good critique of their work. I think a lot of times students are afraid to ask their current teachers, or past teachers for a critique. They're out of college, they're out of art school, or they're out of high school. They've lost touch and I think in general, most of us are I don't know, somewhat introverted to where it's hard for us to reach out to someone.
I would say you probably already have, a lot of people probably have access to people who could actually give good feedback but maybe they're not as convenient to get a hold of, so I would start there. I have given quite a few professional critiques to strangers, who happen to catch me at the right time, or ask in the right way and I'm able to work that into my schedule via email or something. So if you can ask professional artists, a lot of times you're going to get ignored if you don't know them, but that's a good resource.
Can I add something to that, Will?
Yeah, go ahead.
One thing about that one asking prior instructors for feedback is your relationship with them during your class, when you're actually in the class is going to set up that relationship for them to want to critique you later.
That's good point.
Sometimes students, I haven't seen them for two or three years and they send me an image, and I couldn't be happier to look at the work. I'm excited to see what they're doing now compared to when they were in school, and I'm excited to be able to still help them out. Likewise, sometimes I get to hear from students couple years later. In class they were combative, they were late, they didn't turn in work. Then they ask me to critique something and I typically don't even respond to the email, I just can't.
Yeah, that makes sense. So basically be a good person.
Be involved, because it goes way farther than the class you're actually just sitting in right now. We just had just to speak to that point, we just had a student, I had a student who this is about five years ago. She was an awesome student, did a bunch of independent studies with her. We invited her to do a class here at the school that we run SVS, she did the painting class and just showed her process, and then she just won the Adobe internship. So it's just cool to watch this, I recommend her all day long because she was so good during my time with her. So I don't know, it just lasts. The relationships last a long time, longer than just one class.
I have a lot of former students that I would consider friends now. We hang out on a professional level now.
Like it or not, I just want to add too. Like it or not, we live in a transactional society and that means if you're asking for something like a critique to a current, or former teacher, especially a professional who doesn't even know you, it helps if you are giving them something in return. So for me, a lot of times people come up to me at comic book conventions. I'm at the table and they'll hand me their portfolio and say, "Would you mind taking a look at it?" I'm more than happy to give a critique but if that gets in the way of a sale, I'm there to make money. I'm taking time out of my weekend, away from my family, I've invested a lot of money and time into this show. If the portfolio reviewing is getting in the way of my reason for being there, the portfolio review isn't going to go as well.
Isn't going to be as thorough as if the person says, "Can I buy a print and can I have a little bit of your time to look at this portfolio?" So that always helps and I think also if it's a teacher, or some mentor, is there something I can do for you? Can I come in and update your website for you? Can I handle your social media posts for a month? Can I do something that saves you time so that you can use that time to give me a good review, a good critique? So I think if you come into it with that, you're going to get a better critique and you're going to understand a little bit more about the nature of what it's like working professionally, and trying to take out time to give back to others and being able to facilitate that for people.
So what if they buy five prints? Do they get like a full portfolio?
They get Jake for a weekend.
Yep. I come to their house, I make them breakfast. I sit down, we chat.
Okay. Some other suggestions would be art buyers at conventions, and the conventions I'm talking about like the SCBWI conventions which are in the children's book world, Society of children's book writers and illustrators.
Pause. Before you get into that, there's one more other thing I want to mention. Say you don't have access to a professional, say current teachers or former teachers isn't an option so you just have your peers, or a critique group or something like that. It helps so much to be the person that's always willing to give critiques, so that when the time comes that you ask for a critique, people are more and likely to share that with you. It's frustrating to see someone come up to maybe it's like an art form, like the SVS art forms. It's their first post, they're there with their portfolio or with an image and they're just like, "Please critique this, show me how I can make this better." People out of kindness will give critiques, but have that person showed up and for two weeks gave critiques to other people and then asked for a critique, I'm sure that critique would be much more thorough. Would be much more personal and probably get a lot better feedback than just having a give me, give me attitude.
Yeah. You never want to invite the revenge critique, right?
I haven't heard it called that, but that is hilarious.
All right, I'm sorry. I just wanted to get that in before you moved on to the next thing.
There's a lot of different professional conventions, I don't want to go into all of them but in the area that you are going to be working in, there will inevitably be a convention that you can go to, and there will be art buyers there who one of their jobs there is to review portfolios. Either to ... They're head hanging basically, and so they want to look at good portfolios. I don't want to spend a lot of time there. Another one would be like Jake mentioned, pro artist art conventions such as comic conventions or art shows. When you say it's an unwritten rule that artists know that up and coming artists are going to approach them with their portfolios, or sketch books and-
Yeah, I think that's a little bit part of it. It definitely was more a part of conventions before they became so popularized. So a lot of times you'd go to a comic book convention because you wanted to meet a comic book creator. That's still an element of them, but for a lot of people going to conventions these days it's to meet an actor, is to meet whether it's a voice actor or the cast of Star Trek, The Next Generation or something like that. I've seen artists [inaudible 00:26:23] dwindle as a lot of these shows they're happening now but yeah, it's still an element.
It's something that I think you're completely in the right frame of mind if you're going to a convention to meet an artist creator, to get some of their input on your portfolio. Like I said, just make sure that you are aware of the things happening at their booth, and the time of others and their time, and see if there's a way you can compensate or give back for that.
Can we go back to the revenge crit idea for a second? Sorry to derail but it just brought up this fun, I haven't thought about it since I left school. There was this one crit I was in, it was right when we were senior level and getting ready to leave. I remember we're getting our portfolios ready for real work, and this girl put up this image and we're talking about it, and everybody's critiquing it and stuff. It's fine but I just noticed and this is where you should shut up sometimes when you're critiquing someone else's work, but I just noticed that she had done this painting and in between these characters and whatever was happening in this scene, the negative space of the painting she had accidentally drawn a perfectly rendered dog.
So it's just I mean there's no dog that's supposed to be there, it was just the shape of like one leg coming down, and another arm coming up but it was so perfect. I just couldn't believe it, and a curb in the background was making the paw Anatomy and stuff. So I pointed out this dog and for the rest of the critique, nobody could talk about anything but this accidental dog that was in the negative space of this painting. Man she was fuming.
So when it was her turn to critique you?
Man she unloaded, it was pretty awesome.
That's a good one. So a few other ideas I want to touch on are the critique group. If you've never heard of one of those, we're going to talk about that just a little bit later in this podcast on how to form a critique group, but that's a thing and it's a thing that people regularly form either if there are authors, or if they're illustrators or both. Then the last one that I have on my list here is social media groups, is I've seen quite a few Facebook groups that people will form that are a private group. You wouldn't want to just have an open critique of your work unless you have the toughest leather skin possible put out on the general Facebook, but in private groups you can get critiques.
The next thing I want to talk about is how to get a good critique of your work, and are you personally ready for a good critique? So by that I mean, let me ask you guys, what would a person who's ready for a critique act like? What would be signs? Obviously Jake wasn't ready the other day.
Well, I think they would ... I think you got to be ready to put out what you want to get out of the critique. I think it's one of the problems that a lot of students do when they submit their work, they just shove an image in front of your face and be like, "Here's an image, what do you think?" The problem with that is the critiquer doesn't know what to do with the image, they don't know what the concept is or where you're trying to go with it. So it's really, really hard to critique when we are just left with nothing. So coming to the table with saying, "Hey, I'm trying to make this layout, I'm trying to make it really scary. It's part of this story." One or two sentences about where you're going with that piece, and does this accomplish that.
Just changing how you go into it. A lot of people are just basically going into crit hoping that the instructor says, "This is a perfect image and there's nothing that needs to be added to it." But I like having a frame of reference for how to critique it, like what they're looking for.
Yeah, you need to ... You first need to know exactly what you're needing. I remember I'd finish something, and I knew it was good. I didn't need a critique, all I wanted was validation. I just wanted someone to say, "I recognize these, you spent a lot of time on this. It looks good, you did a good job." I knew that that's what I wanted, I could ask in a way that I could get that and that way was, "Hey friend ..." I was talking to a friend of mine. "I spent a lot of time on this, I just need you to acknowledge that I created this."
It's funny that you bring that up because our good friend Mel Milton, who I think a lot of people listening to this would know who he is, but you should look him up. We'll put him in the show notes, Mel Milton. He was teaching at our local university at UVU, this last semester. He told me that whenever he gets people coming up to him saying, "Will you critique this?" He just gives them a glowing, he just gives them nothing but praise because he's had so many times where he's given an honest critique, and then the person is just broken down bawling. So he actually uses the good critique as a measure, so if the person goes, "Okay, yes you're saying good things about it but ..." and then invites him by saying but what's wrong with it? What what could I do to make it better?
Then he's like, "You actually want a critique?" He's actually had people before that are like, "You don't ever give me a critique, how come?" He goes and he'll tell them, "Because you've never really asked." They're like, "Sure, I do. I ask." Then like, "Not really." You have to invite me and make me feel safe, because haven't you guys have you guys ever given a critique and had someone just start crying in front of you.
Yeah. Every class.
That's awkward or I've had people get mad. I had somebody on Facebook one time who messaged me privately and said, and I just took them at their word. They just said, "I really want an honest critique of this blah, blah, blah, blah." I gave him an honest critique and my way of critiquing, on a scale of harsh and easy I'm definitely more on the easy side, and I gave him the level of four critique. The response I got back was, "Wow, who do you think you are?" Kind of a thing and just from then on, this person wrote me off and was mad. I think we're all as a person being asked to give a critique, and this is all of you listening because it doesn't matter what level you're at. We all give critiques and we all need critiques. One of the things and I think you guys are alluding to is that the person asking for the critique needs to prepare the critiquer, is that a word?
You need to make the person you're asking feel comfortable that they're not entering into something they didn't bargain for that day. Like when they woke up in the morning they were like, "I hope I get into a fight with somebody today." They want to avoid that so I have a few things what not to do, and a few things that you can do. One, behaviors not to do. Person asks for a critique and then they won't shut up, almost as if they're blocking any possible negative comments that could come. If you guys ever experienced that one.
Yeah. It's like hey can you look at this piece and you're like, "Sure." "Just let me know what you think. So as I was working on it, this is the thing that I was doing and then I did this but then I messed up. So I went back in and made," and you just can't get a word in.
Yeah. So you're going, "Oh." At that point I'm thinking, "Okay, you wanted to be acknowledged for the hard work that you did, and so I'm not going to give you a critique." Another one would be person asked for a critique, and then gets completely upset. We talked about that. Another one is the person is distracted during the comments. So you're giving nuggets of gold as the critiquer, and they're off in some other world. It's like okay-
They're on the phone.
Yeah, they're blocking the negative comments or the feedback by being unplugged, arguing with the feedback that you're getting. You could be getting bad feedback, we've all gotten critiques that are bad. My advice for that is get multiple critiques on the same piece. If you don't hear the same thing, the same sorts of comments more than once, it could be that the comments are wrong that you're getting. So those are behaviors that I would say are repellent for getting a good critique. What would be, Lee what would be some things that you would say a person wanting critique should do to prepare the critiquer?
Yeah. One of the main things, know what you want out of the piece. So know what you want to hit during the critique, it can't just be what do you think of this image. So being specific on things you want to work on in the piece, or things that you're wondering about in the piece but my favorite is going back to the story that Jake was talking about with his covers. If you have more than one option, life is going to be so much easier for you because even the people who are uncomfortable about giving a true critique, once there's two options an option A and a B, then all of a sudden they feel very free and say, "No, I like B because A doesn't really feel this way to me, or B feels perfect to me or whatever."
It's hard to just show one thing to somebody and have them either A, know what to do with it but once you have something to compare it to, man the whole world opens up because they can say, "Wow, look what you did here. If you just do more of that." The critique just becomes so much more productive, so have more than one option to crit, and then know what you want to get out of the critique. If you do those two things, they'll be very, very productive I think.
Yeah. I would also say be specific. What did I nail in this piece, and what did I get wrong? Looking at this, what can improve?
Another thing you could say maybe you're like don't leave it as this monumental task. Say what are three things I could do to make this piece better? Instantly I hear I have to give this person three things, they want three things. They're not going to cry when I tell them three things.
Right. There's a bar, there's an exchange that you've set up for that. I love that.
Right, that's good.
You know what I used to do with the people that argue with me by the way during critiques?
It always works so well. I don't want to be mean and keep arguing with somebody, because like you said maybe I'm wrong and that's what I say. When somebody starts arguing with me, I've got definite reasons about why I'm saying the things that I'm saying but maybe I've been wrong before for sure. So I said, "Let's test it." I make them give me three key words for what the piece is supposed to be about, and then we go out, I would go out in the hall. This is what I'm teaching at the university and I would just find the first four or five people that come up and I'd say, "Give me three words on how this makes you feel."
If they didn't match the key words, the cinnamon are the key words typically the student would be like, "Okay, I see what you're saying. It didn't communicate effectively." Just do this random, unbiased. First the person doesn't know we were just arguing in class about what to do about it, and almost 95% always worked in my favor that way. Sometimes I was wrong though and they would say, "Yeah, it works perfect." I'll be like, "Yeah, I'm just not seeing it but ..."
I do a version of that that goes something like this, I asked the rest of the class, we would come up with basically the key words. What are you trying to say, the student would tell me and I would ask the class if we showed this to random people in the hallway, do you think they would come up with what this student just said? Everyone's shaking their head no. It's a reality check because I think you go through these phases as an artist. At first you're just tickled that you can make a piece of art, and then you're tickled that you can make a piece of art look like what you had in your mind. Those two first stages, all you really want is praise and it takes someone I think for me at least deciding that they want to do this professionally, to where they start coming to the reality of I may not, I may fail in this endeavor if I don't get good.
They have to get tired of their current level of production to the point where they surrender and just go, "Hit me, I can take it." Another question that I love that I've heard people say before is they've said, "I'm willing to start this piece over if you think that's what it needs." That I'm free to tell you exactly what I think now, and that's where you're going to learn so much quicker. A lot of pieces can't be reworked, they're designed in such a way poorly to where it's like a plane that's in a dive that it's not going to be able to get out of. It has to crash and you have to build a new plane and start over again.
Do you guys know what rubrics are?
Okay, so any professional teacher probably knows what a rubric is but for those of you guys listening, a rubric is a way of analyzing something and under multiple criteria. So that's the way, did you guys grade with rubrics in college?
Sort of, yeah.
So you'd have basically a call, it's not just like you get one grade. You turn in an illustration, it's just an A or it's a B. It would be your process would get a grade, and then your inking would get a grade, and your rendering would get a grade, and your story gets a grade. So it comes out there might be five to seven, five to 10 categories within a piece and you could see exactly what you did right, what you did wrong and that's a good way to do it too. If you come in and ask about each of those things specifically, because then it isolates where the plight it's not all just like this is a terrible piece. You can say the inking is great on this and the perspective is great, but the concept's not really working so well. So you find exactly where that category is that's not working as well.
Right and that's what anytime I critique, I go through four different things. It's all from fundamental stuff to the more superficial things, and I always start with well let's look at your gesture, or your under sketch. Maybe it's the composition or something like that, then let's look at your design work. Maybe gesture is great but the design is stale, and then I just move down those things to how are the volumes? How is it structured? Does it feel dimensional, if that's what they're going for? Then finally, how is it actually rendered? It could be that everything's good up to the rendering, and it's like if this was just rendered differently, it would be an amazing piece.
So it's going through those checklists for me and looking at those things, and deciding what ... It's like if they're willing to start it over, yes that's awesome because then you can go back to the beginning and say, "Here's how you do it." Sometimes it's just like what's the minimum thing you can do to change it for the better, and it might just be like well this eye is wonky, just fix that eye.
Yeah. I think that if you're going to be wanting a critique, you're also going to be needing to give a good critique. So thinking about for me anyway, the purpose of the art since we're not dealing ... We're not talking about gallery work here, we're not talking about personal work, we're talking about for most for the practical sense of this podcast, we're talking about commercial art. We're talking about illustration and so there's always going to be a purpose for that illustration. It's going to be to convey a story or an idea, a concept, and that is my number one question is does this say basically what you were saying Lee. Does it say what you're trying to say, and to me that's more important than the aesthetics. Even though to me the aesthetics comes really close second but I don't want to get into the color, and the rendering if the concept is not going to work. Even if the color and the rendering were fixed.
Right, and I guess there's a flip side to what we're saying here and that is from the students perspective, how do you recognize a bad critique when you're actually getting a critique that's not worth it. What I would say there, and that's happened a lot in my schooling both undergrad and graduate school. A specific example that my friend, won't mention names here but one of my friends was in his grad program and turn in an illustration, and it was a high key image. It was high key meaning that the values are at the high end of the scale, it's not a full contrast image and it was for a reason. Like that just hit what he was trying to say in the story by making the image high key.
So he puts it up there and then the critique is, "Well you need to add more values." He's like, "Well I made it high key because at this point in the story ..." They're like, "Well, you don't have all your values here." It's just ridiculous where they start talking about these little things that don't matter, and they're not asking you the questions like, "What do you want me to think and how are you conveying these things?" It's amazing you can just, if they just have a certain go to like you have to use full value, it's got to be fully rendered, they don't ask you any questions that's how you know your critiquer is less than stellar, and maybe it's time to ask someone else.
Yeah. I think if you come into it and say, "This is my intention with this piece, this is what I was trying to accomplish. Let me know if this is doing it or not." Then you can tell if the person is just being subjective or if they're being objective like okay, subjectively I don't like purple and yellow together. I think that I'd prefer blue and orange right, but that is like a subjective thing. It doesn't matter if the colors are working, it doesn't matter but if they say, "This purple with this particular yellow flattens out your piece, and I think you said you're going for more contrast." Then you're getting something more objective and something you can actually respond to.
Right, it's good stuff. Okay, so what can you do to receive critique? How can you prepare yourself for that?
Yeah, how can you internalize what's been said to you?
Right because you're going to get hit in the gut. I mean you're like, "Hit me." That's basically what you're saying, "Hit me hard, I can take it." So for me-
I think, go ahead.
No, go ahead.
I was just going to say if you go in, this is how I started working in watercolor years ago, and it changed everything for how your critiques of my work and all this is that I go in when I'm going to do a finished watercolor. Hopefully a great painting but oftentimes not. I go in thinking, "This is just a study," and that way it calms me down. It loosens me up and if I happen to hit it, awesome I'm done and if I don't hit it, then I say, "That was just a study." There's that bendable mindset changed everything for everything I do, even almost to the finish I've turned it in I say here's almost like a clay version, and we can still sculpt it.
If you go in with that bendable attitude that this thing can morph and it can change, and I don't mind working and doing stuff over, then all of a sudden it's not that punch in the gut. It's just changing, you expect it to change anyway and you're welcome, you're open to it the whole time. It makes a huge difference in doing finished art by the way. If you have that problem where you go to do your finished art, sketch is good, color study is good and then you tighten up and you're doing the finish, this will solve that probLem because everything is just a work in progress until you're moving onto the next piece, and it just frees you up quite a bit.
Hey Jake, when you were working at Blue Sky, how often did you guys get critiques on the stuff that you were doing?
Oh my gosh, that was the entire job. The whole thing was receive an assignment, do a pass at it, get critiqued. Do a pass at it, get critiqued. Sometimes 50 times, I've seen a character design go through 50 iterations before finally being approved and so that's all it was. It's like I think what you need to do is recognize, you know the old saying everybody has 1,000 bad drawings in them, or 10,000 bad drawings or 500 bad paintings, I don't know exactly what it is. You want to get through those as fast as you can, so if someone says, "This one isn't that good." You're like, "Sweet, I got one of those out of the way, I can do the next one." I think the reason that I didn't feel slighted at all by people saying they didn't like cover number two, versus cover number one was because all in all I probably spent 16 hours on it.
16 hours is nothing, you could do another 16 hours and do something a little bit better the next two days, or the next three days. 16 hours is nothing when you're having this point of view, when you have the perspective that you're going to be doing this for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I've been working now for 19 years, almost 20 years in October as a professional. I've done thousands and thousands and thousands of finished polished drawings, and so if one isn't working, it just gets thrown into the bad drawing pile and I know there will be another drawing the next day. So it's like just, I think you just go into knowing this isn't the end of the world, this isn't the last drawing you're ever going to create.
So it's a volume. You basically have developed scabs, you develop and then muscles and ...
It's like worrying about the one brick as opposed to the entire wall that you're building.
Yeah, so I think if you ... One way to prepare yourself for the critique is to really ask yourself what you want. Do you want, are you happy with your current level of art? Do you want to stay there? This is what I want to ask some of my students sometimes is you're upset that you're being told the truth, and that everybody is telling you the same thing yet your really upset. So if you unpack it even further, you're upset at the fact that you have to change to become better, and I think sometimes how you frame it in your mind can actually really help if you can just surrender the process and say, "I'm here to get better and all of this work that I'm doing this year in a year or two, I'm not even going to care about anymore, because I'm going to be so much better."
Yeah, and don't get feedback from just one person. Look at the overall sentiment of what people are saying, like Jake said. There's going to be a lot of people that are respond in a certain way and if, maybe Will said it but the majority of people start saying something, you got to listen to it.
Yeah. Those really good and insightful, I said it.
Okay, that means Will definitely said it. Well yeah, this dude at school who was a 3D modeler and I don't teach 3D modeling obviously, but he was in my senior portfolio class and I had to look at his work. He did this piece that he worked on the entire senior year, and he never deviated from this one piece. If you guys are familiar with 3D work, it had like 10 billion polygons in it but he wanted to be a game designer. That means it's just overly complex for being a game designer, this character coming up out of this portal, it was his only thing and his whole thing. So my feedback was this thing looks too complicated, I'm not sure if ... I'm not an expert in modeling so please go talk to somebody else but it looks like you just got one thing and that's it.
If somebody, if a client doesn't respond to this one thing, then you're not going to get a job but he was so focused like Jake said, on the one brick instead of the wall. He just wanted to keep polishing that one piece, so he goes to the modeling teacher. Modeling teacher says the same thing, this is great but you can't use it in a movie or even in a game. Even in a movie, you can't use how many, how complicated this thing was. So there was like four teachers are having lunch one day and we started talking, we always talk about students work and stuff. This was an example, we all said the same exact thing to him and he never changed it. He graduates and I didn't see him for about a year and a half and he came back, and he was in tears. He hadn't got a single interview, he hadn't gotten anywhere from when he was in school.
He hadn't done anything and he's finally saying, "I'm ready to listen to what you guys are saying," because he just couldn't hear it. He was so micro focusing instead of getting this general thing like man, there's like five teachers telling me the same thing. That's probably a pretty valid thing.
When the student arrives, the teacher will appear right?
I created that quote.
That's a crit.
Can we finish up with talking about critique groups real quick?
Yeah, I would love that.
Okay. So for those who have never even heard of a critique group, or who've never been a part of one, let's just talk about our experiences a little bit, and how they form and how to be a good member of a critique group, and maybe a few do's and don'ts. I'll go first. I've been in two different critique groups and they were both for writing. I was in one for illustrating but I was already working professionally and I didn't really feel like I needed the illustration one as much. Basically my suggestion would be to try to find in your area, I personally believe that it's better to meet in person if you can. You want to find three to five people who basically have the same goals that you do to become a published author, to become a published author illustrator, to become a published illustrator. Something as simple as that and that becomes your mission statement.
It's like one for all, all for one. You're going to help each other achieve this goal. Most critique groups that I've seen, they meet though sometimes they'll rotate and meet at different people's houses, and you plan on about an hour and you bring your work-in-progress. You basically share it with the group and the group gives you feedback. So that's basically in a nutshell the idea of a critique group. Have both of you guys been in critique groups before?
Yeah, I've done it before. I've been in a handful of critique groups, I'm currently I would say in a handful of critique groups though we don't call ourselves that. It's just I have different groups of friends that I can share stuff with, and they share stuff with me and it's a great experience because you do get that feedback. Though the hard part is finding that right chemistry because you want people to be honest, and you want people who you should feel like you're the least skilled person in the group. If they can't work that way, everybody has to be at the same level so it takes a little work and maybe you have to swap people in and out of your group or something, but I don't know how you do that without hurting feelings. Like you can't come anymore, your critiques are horrible.
We voted you out.
In person I've done online and they both work pretty well. One critique group didn't last very long because we just got busy, but one of them was we weren't all artists. We were all creative people but doing different things, so one guy was making T-shirts, I was making illustrated books. One guy was making a board game, and I just ... We organized that because we wanted to see if maybe mixing this group together could influence our own work in ways we weren't expecting. So you might want to try something like that.
How about you Lee?
I say the limit the number if you can, unless you're just posting images online. I'm part of a couple of Facebook groups where people just post images every now and again, and it's been so casual. It doesn't feel like a true critiquer group to me, and it almost feels like a cheerleading group a little bit more than a crit group.
That's what they evolve into sometimes if there's not, if they get too big.
Yep, that's right.
Then it becomes unsafe to stick your neck out and say what you really think.
Exactly is that I would say limit it to, if you can three to four people would be tops. The reason I say that is because to do real critiques takes time, and if you're sitting there for four hours or something, you're not going to continue a critique group where you have that big of a bite out of your week or timeframe. So a couple of people, I think three is a perfect number for a critique group and then stay accountable to it. We had when I was in school, a weekly meeting that we would go to this cafe and it was I think probably five of us total in the group, but three of us met every time. It was such a great experience and we knew that Wednesday at 7:00, we're meeting at that cafe and you better have something to show, because you look lazy if you don't.
That accountability really worked out well, and I'm actually teaching it with one of those people that was in the group. Jaime Zollars was one of the people that I was with then, and she's a great pro in her own right now and we still have that relationship to be able to critique. So it's been a critique group now that's lasted 15 years for me.
I would say most I would venture to guess, because we've talked about this at conferences before that almost I would say probably greater than 80% of the published authors and illustrators are part of critique groups. So you could almost say it's a requirement for getting published. If you're not in one, it's like you're not part of the fire. You're off trying to light a flame on your own, and it's tough.
You know that just made me think of something. It's early in my career a group of us, young 20-something artists got together to make a comic book anthology, and what that required was us ... None of us were professional yet, as far as comics were concerned we were all either working in animation studio, or whatever it was. So we would all post our comics and give each other critique, because we wanted this anthology to be good. What I realize now is that it was never called a critique group but what it was, was this thing we're talking about where we gave each other time. We gave each other artists critiques, because we knew that the anthology was only as good as it's worse comic.
So if we tried to elevate everybody in the book, then the book would be better and it was just super mutually beneficial. So maybe your critique group starts out something like that where it's like a group project, I don't know, you're going to have to be creative to figure out what works for you but maybe it's something like that where you all benefit from it. Then you could split it out and go off and do your personal things.
Was that called Zoo's book?
Yeah, it was the flight anthology.
Nice. So what are some bad behaviors? Obviously you've probably been in a group of people that do things that are irritants, what would be things not to do?
The people who speak up the most and then don't deliver on their own work drove me crazy.
So they don't show up with work?
They got something to say about everything. You have to earn the right to speak in my opinion.
I would just say taking too much without giving, and not showing respect to everyone. That could be a bad thing, it may be that one person in your critique group is a little bit of a star, maybe a little bit ahead of everybody and not giving the lesser people as much attention, or love, or appreciation is that person. So that might be something.
The lesser people?
Another one would be the person who's chronically late, there's nothing more annoying right? You want to start, it's not like you want to wait for these people but there ... Someone told me one time that being chronically late is the ultimate form of selfishness.
I think that was my wife, she said that about me. Though she actually one day she's like, "Okay Jake, I've made a decision and this is to just overall help our friendship and our marriage, and that is when I'm going somewhere, I'm just going to leave whether you're ready or not, and you can figure out your way to get there." I was like, "Wait, really?" The first few times she's like, "Bye, see you." I was like, "Just five more minutes, five more minutes," and she was gone. I got the hint and now I'm much more punctual.
You're chronically on time now?
What's the backstory?
If you can somehow hit yourself to a person who makes you better-
Do it, do that thing.
It's just the best thing. I would be such a mess if it wasn't for her.
Also, don't be ... Back to critique group, don't be overly negative. What was that Saturday Night Live Kids where with the woman that's like always, Debbie Downer. Wasn't it Debbie Downer?
Something like that.
Something like that anyway, so yeah I've been in a critique group where someone is just always brings ... Everything they see is negative, they don't see any of the good in any of the work.
Especially in their own work too, like don't be negative about your own stuff too. Have some pride and confidence in your work.
Isn't that why you use the Oreo technique for critiquing? You guys use that where it's you come in-
Is that the layer of love?
Top layer of love, middle layer of crit, bottom layer of love. So you finish with something good, you start with something good, give them something meaningful in the middle.
Also described as people skills.
I called it the Sandwich skill.
Oreos are better than sandwiches.
Right. My last piece of advice is when you're fighting with your spouse, or your boyfriend, or girlfriend, that is the absolute best time to get a critique from them.
Because they're going to be brutally honest.
Do not get in critique. I have something to say about your art, let me have at your soul right now.
you should just stop. Hey one other thing though, and this is I guess a forum of a critique group or whatnot, but if you're posting your art online and you're not getting any feedback from people, first off posting your art online is a great way to get feedback. People will be honest, so I would do that. In the event that you're not getting any feedback from people, that in itself is a critique. It means that your artwork isn't worthy of a comment. So do what you need to do to get people to comment on your work, do what you need to do with your art in order to make it remarkable. Someone to make a remark on it, and I would look to that if you're having trouble finding a critique group, making a critique group. I have access to professionals, you don't have access to a teacher or anything like that. Still post it online, post in forums, post on social media, and you can definitely gauge how you're doing by the public's response.
Can I add something to how to be a good critiquer?
That is understand, try to find just like you have to self evaluate with your own work that you're doing and you're creating, you have to self evaluate your ability as someone who's giving a critique. What that means is knowing your biases, knowing your tendencies. I have a natural bias against symmetrical work, I know that. If somebody shows me a layout, I already know that if it's symmetrical, they better get me on board in some way because I'm already against it. I don't know why.
What do you think of Wes Anderson?
Somehow he pulls it off, I don't know what it is about the look that he does but there's something quirky about the way that he does. I actually paused a whole movie just going through it going, "Why do I like this," but when other people ... I think it because it's so intentional when he does it, and so well-designed that it's not a mistake. I mean it's like I said, very intentional. Same thing with the Shining and the twins in the hallway scenes, I love them. I think they're done so well but just as a general rule, like I said you got to sell me on it and those two really sold me on that symmetrical. So I'm on board 100%.
I don't love anime and I've developed the ability through conscious hard work to be able to critique it, and not just instant gut reaction. I like it but it would be a great thing if somebody was trying to get a critique from me and they're showing me a truly anime inspired character for me to say, "I'm not the best person here, maybe somebody else would be better."
That's a really good point.
Maybe before you ask for critique, what are your likes and dislikes biases and stuff like that. Actually you should probably do a little bit of homework on the person you're asking for critique from. Like you wouldn't ask someone who doesn't paint what they think of your painting, you wouldn't ask a person who works solely in pen and ink what they think of your watercolor.
It doesn't mean that they can't do that, I love realistic painting. I don't do realistic painting anymore but I love it, and if somebody comes to me with a realist painting, I'd love giving those critiques. So don't-
I guess it depends on the kind of critique you're wanting. So if you're wanting how do I make this watercolor really pop? How do I make these colors look less muddy? Ask a watercolor artist but in the same breath, it's always nice to get someone who maybe isn't an artist but just an honest person to give you their gut reaction to your piece. So you'll get a lot of good critiques that way as well, and they might not be able to nail it, specifically say here's what's wrong. They'll just be like, "You know what? It is not working for me."
You guys should email my seven-year-old son and ask for critique, because he'll tell you exactly what he thinks with no training. It's what I tell him. When he tells me he doesn't like painting I'm like, "You don't know perspective."
You argue with a critiquer, that's funny. One last, last thing that I wanted to say.
How many more last things are we getting here?
Yeah, we're getting a lot.
[crosstalk 01:08:15]. I think we touched on it a little bit already, but I just want to say if you do feel like you're ... If you're really unsure about the direction but you respect the person, just because the person's high up that you're getting critique from doesn't necessarily mean they understand your complete vision. I was told by a former rep who I really respected that I should change my whole color palette, because they were and he actually gave me colors that were popular that year. This was before, I mean I definitely have an opinion. I'm laughing now because I have a definite opinion on following trends, at the time I was only like five or six years into my career, and I strongly considered it.
I started asking other people like, "The rep is saying I should change my whole palette, and the colors are giving me are really neutralized and it just doesn't feel like me. What do you think?" I wasn't really getting good advice from other people and I was really at a quandary for quite a while. Finally, after sleeping on a few days I think I finally just said to ... I talked to my wife about it and I just said, "I need to stay true to my vision," and I'm so glad that I did. It would've been such bad advice for me to chase, instead of trying to follow my intuitions.
How's that different from the student at leaves school with the model, and four different teachers told him you got to change the model, and he just stuck to his vision.
At the end his day, we're talking about art. There are no right and wrong answers, right?
We're finally going to disagree on something.
Here's the thing, if I'm going to disagree with that if you're getting okay, I guess here's what it is. If you wanted to get work that you're from that agent, a rep, and they're saying, "Listen, I can sell your work if it's these colors." Then that's a critique you want to listen to because you want to get work, but if your vision is you know what? I'm building a career, I'm not trying to make a paycheck this year. I'm not trying to ... I'm building an overall career and a body of work, then you can take or leave it. So I think definitely knowing what you're wanting out of the critique will depend on whether you take that critique or not, whether respond to it or not.
Also, is it a course of people saying the same thing? Again, that's just one person and one person doesn't matter, but if it was everybody saying that you'd probably pay attention.
Right which is like with again going back to my SkyHeart cover, two people are like, "I love it Jake, it's so good." 10 people are like, "You know what? I like the first one better Jake." It got to the point where at first I was like, "These people don't know what they're talking about. The new one's better." Then by the end of it I was like the people who liked the new one I was like, "These people don't know what they're talking about, I can't trust these people."
I have a sneaky suspicion that this is all one PR stunt for you, new Coke.
Explain new Coke.
For those who don't-
Some of us-
Yeah. So back in the 80s I believe-
Some of us weren't alive in the 80s.
Way back when they had-
Not on this podcast but-
We started having cars, the Coca-Cola came out with new coke. They were going to change the formula and everybody freaked out. So the speculation now is that it was all a PR stunt just to drive more.
To keep that, yeah. Then that's when they made coke classic and they just kept the same thing they were doing.
Exactly, and that's when they to endear the company to its customers of base. It was, we will give you what you want when the new Coke was never really going to happen anyway. That's the speculation.
My whole thing was make a new cover to get a conversation happening about my book.
Make a new crappy cover.
I wish I would have thought of that, I'm going to do that from now on.
I got to say, I don't know about you guys but the hardest critique for me to hear about my own work is that something I did a long time ago was better. Like this exact scenario you're talking about, because every time you do a new piece you want people to say, "Oh my gosh, you're getting so good. You're so much better." You want people to love the new piece, right?
Who likes taking a whole day or two, or a week of their time and just chucking it in the trash can?
Yeah, no one. No one. All right, let's wrap this up. Do you have one last thing Will?
Last, last thing is go, wrap it up Jake.
Okay, good. All right everybody, thank you for joining us. 3 Point Perspective is made possible by svslearn.com where becoming a great illustrator starts. Your hosts have been me, I'm Jake Parker and Will Terry, and Lee White. You can follow my work at mrjakeparker.com, you can follow Will Terry at willterry.com, right? Someone deleted this on my notes, so I'm just shooting from the hip here and leewhiteillustration.com is where you could find Lee White. If you liked this episode please share it around, subscribe to it on iTunes if you haven't subscribed to it yet, and leave a review. We love reading the reviews because they actually help us know how to make the podcast better. So when we see what you guys are responding to, we know what we need to do more of. When we see what people aren't responding to, maybe we understand what we shouldn't do as well.
You can critique us.
Yes, give us a critique in the podcast. So yeah, we'd love to hear what you think. If you're wanting to join in on this particular discussion, log on to the svslearn.com forum where we've posted this episode in its own thread. Chime in over there and let us know your thoughts. As always, we'll have all of this in the show notes with links to the things we talked about. A lot of people are saying how much they loved the show notes, and that's just as much of or just they liked the show notes just as much as they like the podcast as well. So check out the show notes, those are either in the podcast app or svslearn.com podcast link on there and that's it. Thank you guys, we'll see you next time.
Nailed it, nailed it again.