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  • Listening to: Bach: Keyboard Partita #4 In D
  • Reading: Writing Three of Swords Vol. IV, Chap. 12
This is a post from my art blog, Whatsoever Is Lovely. Feel free to follow! I post WIPs and things like that. :)

I was going to save my next blog post for when I actually did something new, but there's something that's been eating at me for a while, and I'd like to give my two cents on it.

Constructive criticism. Probably THE most wrongly used word in the entirety of internet artdom. Concrit is a good thing, a wonderful thing. One of the many boons to attending an art school is honing the ability to take, and give, helpful concrit. Without it, an artist doesn't grow as quickly as they would otherwise. Coloring, for example, has always been an area that I struggled in artistically. If I hadn't been told at separate times that I needed to work on it (often in very blunt terms), I would never have improved much. And it's still a learning process.

But there is also the opposite of concrit–destructive criticism. The best way to define the two is that concrit builds up, while destructive crit tears down. Destructive crit is immature, extremely subjective, and absolutely ubiquitous on the internet. And the worst part is that people giving destructive criticism are almost always 100% convinced that the world revolves around their opinions and taste.

I think some examples will work well here. First, some constructive criticism. Just the other day I finished a picture for Mardi Gras…. I was pretty happy with it for the most part, especially considering my usual insecurity with coloring. My good friend Joe Hogan :iconjoehoganart:, fellow SVA graduate and freelance artist specializing in Star Wars, gave it the thumbs up and also messaged me privately with some thoughts.

"The foreground characters get lost a little too much in the background…So I was thinking, maybe some secondary lighting would really make them pop. I know it works really well when I'm having trouble separating stuff with depth." He also included a copy of my image on which he'd created a secondary lighting layer, and explained the process to me.

I was very grateful for the help, and lost no time in applying Joe's helpful advice to my piece.

So let's see what Joe did right here.
1. He explained what he thought was wrong, and why.
2. As an artist, he could advise on how to fix it. You don't always have to know art to critique, but it helps if you could make useful suggestions.
3. He sent his edit to me privately.

Now, as I said before, Joe and I were classmates in Senior Portfolio Cartooning. We've been through hell and back together…spreading our comic pages out on a table, having to deal with rude and embarrassing comments from our instructor and other students, having our comics read aloud in a fake put-on redneck accent, etc. We're used to destructive crit, too. But nowhere does destructive crit most live up to its name than on the internet–specifically, DeviantART.

I debated whether I would name names of accounts where I've seen this happen, and decided I wouldn't. But I am thinking of one artist in particular–an amateur who draws in her spare time for fun. We'll call her Allison.

Allison is not actually very good. She's a better artist than she is a storyteller, yet her fanart comics have a huge following. They revolve around her original character who is involved in a love affair with a popular movie character. I mostly read her comics for the laughs. I recognize she needs a lot of practice. However, the worst thing about her is that she is a slave to destructive criticism. And the more she allows her work to be abused, the more it happens.

Here are some examples of the kind of comments she gets:

"Anyway, just generally; boy is this boring…super uninteresting to look at."

"First of all, you REALLY need to divorce yourself from this notion of "the one" and only one "true" love. It's cute in fairy tales and children's stories, but it's not reality."

"Everything about him looks rushed and off. Like she didn't spend much time on it at all."

"Sorry to say this, but [this character] sounds almost exactly like Edward Cullen. This is yet another example of poor characterization."

The critiques read not as suggestions, but as commands. And instead of answering them with a crisp, "Thanks for your suggestions, I'll think about them", Allison re-edits and re-uploads each picture and story to meet often contradictory demands. Nothing she does is "good enough" for her commenters…the excerpts above are from huge 2,000-word comments filled with scathing insults and rude remarks about Allison's personal life.

Now these types of commenters are everywhere…they're called trolls. And the reason they tend to congregate in such numbers on Allison's page is primarily because she feeds them–a mistake I might address in another post. The sheer arrogance of this type of commenter leads them to get emotionally invested and even angry if the artist's response doesn't meet their standards. See this post here…an angry tirade by someone whose critiques clearly aren't always met with the response they desire (note: this link contains a lot of adult language, with the intent to shock, which really takes away from any good points they have).

It just seems to me that the same social courtesies that govern real life should apply to the internet as well. I may have known only a handful of people in art-school who would behave even close to that during a class critique. And when they did, you can be sure they got dirty looks from nearly everyone, often including the instructor.

A fave artist of mine, :iconsephiramy:, posted her thoughts on destructive crit, and I think there's a lot of wisdom in what she said.

Good, honest criticism is a gift! If something looks or reads wrong to one person, chances are it will look or read as wrong to someone else, too. I would say that a majority of the time, a critique will be issued on account of a technical error, something that really should be fixed or attended to, if not on the current piece, at least in the future on additional pieces.


I do also think, ONCE in a while, you will receive critique based on content or aesthetic choices, and this is where it gets tricky. There is no conceivable way under the sun that everyone ever will like your work. For every person who thinks your work is great, there might be one or two (or eight) that just don't like it. At all.

Anyway, to try and stay relevant to the point here, yes, I think it's important to be able to take critique well and to be willing to improve based on outside feedback. I also think it's important to be able to differentiate between when you are getting technical advice, and when you are getting advice based on tastes. Both are useful, but only technical advice tends to be accurate to you, the artist, 100% of the time. THE KEY (and what I think the OP is getting at) is to tame your ego and know that you aren't perfect, and while you can always get better, you'll never please everyone.

That's true. Many people come down with plain nastiness on an artist, full of subjective opinions and complaints, and then claim to be giving constructive criticism. No, you're not. You're being a jerk.

Quit being a jerk.

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All work from Deadvein Alley, MAT, Three of Swords, Only Skin Deep and other Greek mythology retellings, and other are © Melissa Zayas 2011. This includes all story/text, characters/designs, concepts, and other indicia. Please ask permission before using an image/excerpt. No copying please!

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RockmanGurl Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2015  Student General Artist
To me, giving tips and suggestions are the way to go, not just saying something outright sucks and riddling it with sarcasm. I once was so afraid to give some tips to somebody because I was so scared I'd come off as 'mean' when I said I thought they could improve something. 
ladyz0e Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2012  Professional Artist
The sad part, to me, is the insulting people on DA usually hide behind the word "constructive criticism" as a kind of shield to blatantly attack an artist's work. "Your work sucks...hey! Constructive criticism!" It devalues actual, useful constructive criticism. So that when a user does try to be helpful to an artist, their comment is roped in as "negative" with all the other bully comments.

I blame 4chan's artboard, /ic/. They're extremely harsh, and anything thats remotely against what they considered "good art" is shunned. They spread a culture of negativity, under the guise of being "helpful". A person can be helpful without being harsh!
MelZayas Featured By Owner May 1, 2012  Professional General Artist
That's what made me write happens on DA all the time. I mean, the Internet's the Internet, jerks are always going to find an excuse to be jerks. But just admit you're being a troll if all you have to say is negative stuff...don't claim to be some kind of helpful wise advice-giver. :P
May516 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Student General Artist
Wow. This gives me a whole new perspective on how to take constructive criticism and also how to give it. I actually think that one place that has worse trolls than deviant art is youtube (which I am very active on). Because sometimes one phrase can hurt so much more than a long critique. I actually even found a person who dedicates her life to posting hate comments on peoples videos because she hates a certain character. It really gets obnoxious after a while. But this has kinda helped me differentiate from the trolls and the people who are genuinely trying to help. So thank you this is a really wonderful journal entry ^^

Annnnnd I kinda just went on a rant up there. sorry x3
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Professional General Artist
Don't be sorry! Thanks for the comment and the watch! I've often said that whenever you feel the temptation to go out of your way to hate on something, go love on something you like instead. Why waste the energy? Trolls seem to get more pleasure from hating stuff than from loving it. :)
CrimzonLogic Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Student General Artist
I can learn a thing or two from this. I usually don't comment at all when I see something that deserves a good critique, mostly because I'm afraid I will say it in a way that will hurt or offend the artist.
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012  Professional General Artist
I do the same thing sometimes...I'd rather say nothing than hurt their feelings. But I know if I had something wrong in one of my pieces, I'd much rather someone point it out to me! :)
forcecrush Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
It a very good journal entry :). Luckily, I haven't met these trolls on dA yet (and hope I won't), but they usually find me elsewhere... It's very annoying when you work hours on something, and they tell you it's sh*t. Just like that, without anything usefull...
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thank you! Yes, exactly...I too have been lucky enough not to meet them, but I know they're out there. Crits should be kind!
Banthasmaker Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Student General Artist
Very instructive! Glad there are some people here on DA who encourage the other to take care of their peers.
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it!
Deviss-SOA Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Very well done. In the time I've been with DA, while I've seen some destructive critiques, none, so far, have been as bad as what you've mentioned. Not to say those people aren't out there, we all know they are.

The biggest thing, from my point of view is how one takes/responds to those destructive critiques or comments. Simple fact: you're not going to please EVERYONE. All that should matter is that you are proud of your own work, that you did everything right/to the best of your abilities, and that you learn from those critiques and comments.

I guess I should include that Joe Hogan directed me to this and, since he mentioned it also, Happy (early) Birthday!
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much for reading! I've been fortunate enough to never encounter any really rude people online, but seeing it happen is pretty bad. It's can't please all the people all the time. Having confidence in your own work also helps you to distinguish real criticism from matters of taste.

Thank for the early birthday wish! :) Joe is the best!
LadyElfie2000 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I have an opinion on this journal, but I'm tired, and my thoughts are running around everywhere and I can't catch them and put them in order for display. Lol! I'll read this again tomorrow and see if I can't figure out what it is I want to say then. Lol!
MelZayas Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thanks for reading...looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it! :floating:
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