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Using Resources in Your Critiques!

Writing solo critiques is great, but referencing the instruction of others is
one easy thing to make your feedback more effective (and less time consuming)!

For us critics (and artists/teachers too) part of the thrill of providing feedback is finding that unique insight we can provide on a piece. Whether it's some gem of color theory that applies to their painting process, or analysis of a stanza as the development of a complex metaphor, we value originality in our critiques. In all honesty, it's the discovery of a relationship between the artwork/critic/artist that holds a great critique together. And that's fantastic. HOWEVER, sometimes it's not always necessary to re-invent the wheel!

While personal interpretation and perception are (arguably) the most important parts of constructive criticism, many of the technical or theory elements are often best represented in words already written! Books, tutorials, philosophies, diagrams, artworks, quotes, deviations - so much knowledge just waiting to be shared! So let's talk a little bit about how/why to use those resources!

① Why Use Resources?

- or You'd Be Crazy Not To!

    Useful + Informative
      The number one reason to use resources? There's a lot of fantastic information out there filled with useful direction and well-informed ideas! Think about it, everything you respect in the art world - all the masterworks and contemporary greats, were created by people that knew how to do it. Chances are that they taught someone else how to do it too (and even if they haven't - they learned it from somewhere)! The world of art education is enormous, and by spreading that around we participate in the foundation of instruction - learning from those who have come before.
    Efficient + Economical
      So you like to orate, you have no issue with being verbose, and everything you write is of expansive grandeur. Awesome. You write so much that your critiques have overarching plot lines. FAN-tastic, but wouldn't you rather be spending your time on the part of your analysis that is individual to you? Writing a good critique takes a lot of time and energy, so help yourself out a little bit by using existing resources!
      Unfortunately, for most of us in the online community - when we write a critique our voice holds very little weight. We are a nobody, providing feedback on someone who might not care too much what we have to say. Using resources is a great way to lend yourself a little extra credibility!
    Maintaining the Compendium
      All that knowledge out there is useless if people don't know about it! Once a tutorial or text is created it becomes static, the only way it survives is by being utilized and passed around. So if you find a great resource, help keep it alive by sharing it!

② What is a Resource?

- or The Difference Between Invention & Reference!

There are all sorts of different resources, across many different educational media! There are the literary set (books, textbooks, and articles), the visual set (tutorials, examples), the theoretical set (philosophy, common fact, personal experience) - and that's just the standard ones! You can think of anything that you reference (even if it's just your own work) as a resource! Here's a break-down of some general categories.

    Common Knowledge These are the easiest ones to use (and the easiest to abuse too)! Common knowledge resources are those that you know off the top of your head - and things you expect many people to know because they are facts common to the field. Sometimes it's easiest to think about these as the "Rules of Art/Medium" (which of course may be broken). Things like "if it doesn't work at 1/10 scale, it won't work full size" (the thumbnail rule) or "strong color composition starts with strong value composition" (the indirect painting rule) or "use imagery and perspective to show what's happening rather than just giving exposition" (the show-don't-tell rule) are great examples of common knowledge resources!
      IMPORTANT : When using common knowledge be sure to elaborate on it a little bit (give more than just the simple aphorism)! Explain why that rule holds - and use some examples to illustrate it!
    Curriculum or Vernacular These are like the classics in the resource world - the ones you hear time and time again. Of course, they are the classics for a reason - they are usually extraordinarily helpful. Often these sorts of resources would more likely be found at your local library than through Google.
      • Books/Textbooks (e.g. The Natural Way to Draw - Kimon Nicolaides)

      • Masterworks (e.g. Caravaggio's chiaroscuro in The Calling of Saint Matthew)

      • Film (e.g. The Films of Ray and Charles Eames)

      • Primary Reference (e.g. Strunk & White's The Elements of Style)

      • Quotes (e.g. "Good design is as little design as possible." - Dieter Rams)
    Contemporary + Accessible These are some of the most useful for the deviantART community - the resources that exist in full online (or something else easy to access)! Just link over to your favorite tutorial, gallery, or guide and you've given the artist full access to a new resource! Personal Experience This last one is specific to you! It's composed of things you've learned that you can reference to - such as your old artwork, or even another comment you've given (or received). Here we blur the line a little bit, your personal experience is your insight - but if you find yourself giving the same advice all the time, rather than repeat yourself, reference yourself! Write a tutorial or guide of your own!

③ How-To Use Resources?

- or It's All About Relevance & Accessibility!

All these resources are fantastic, but if you don't use them properly, they won't be of much help to the artist! If you just post links to a collection of tutorials, that isn't a critique - it's just slightly more than totally useless!

Your job as critic is to take all the knowledge that you have (and want to give), sort it, transcribe it, and most importantly apply it to the artwork! So for every reference you make, be certain that you tell the artist everything they need to know about it and how it applies to their piece! Here's a good starting point for making a resource relevant to an artist.

    • Identify the area that needs work in your own words.

    • Tell them what needs to be done and WHY the resource will be useful for that.

    • Explain HOW to use the resource, or what to look for in it.

    • Give them all the information they need to access it.

That last step is absolutely crucial! It doesn't matter how informative the resource is if they can't get to it! If it's an online resource, give a working and direct link to it (don't say "just google 'color theory', you'll find it"). In deviantART you can copy and paste the URL into a comment, it'll show up as [link] - or alternately you can use a <a href="URL">TITLE</a> HTML tag to embed it. If it's a book, give full title and author information (or go the extra step and link them to the Amazon page for it). If it's another type of resource, make sure that they can find it! (when in doubt, use the MLA/APA/Chicago Citation as a guide).

④ Where to Find Resources?

- or Time to Go A'Hunting!

First off, you are in luck - the modern community dynamic and searching tools available online make it easy to find resources! In fact, you probably run across them all the time without realizing it. Here are some good places to start looking!

    Resource Collections You're not the only one looking for good books and guides, and people have actually created resources for finding resources (this blog is one of them)!
      • Resources & Stock Images Gallery with your CV Elandria
        There is an entire gallery and category dedicated to resources in deviantART! Check it out for all the best resources submitted by users every day! Also be sure to keep track of the Daily Deviations in the resources category (you find some real gems in there)!

      • ArtistsHospital - resource index through Groups
        This is by no means the only group dedicated to resources in deviantART, but it is probably the most comprehensive. From their About Us, "The Artists' Hospital's mission is to make basic art skills freely available to everyone who wants them. We collect tutorials and reference materials to help beginners get started and intermediate artists improve. We offer one-on-one help for dealing with specific art problems and situations. It doesn't matter what your favorite style is or how recently you began drawing; we're here to help you."

    Notice how two of those are from this site? DeviantART is a fantastic place to find resources! A lot of deviants keep their own personal collections, and there are quite a few groups that keep track of them too! Next time you find a tutorial you really like, check out the groups that it's a part of, and the users that +fav'd it. You're likely to find even more resources this way (use social networking to your advantage)! Search Engines Primarily I'm talking Google and Amazon here - two very powerful search engines (depending on what you are looking for) great for finding new resources. The beauty of using search engines is that they automatically sort by relevance and popularity, so it's easy for you to find the resources that other artists are using too! Just a tip, when using Google be sure to search different media, use the standard web search, but also check out news and image results. Also, don't forget about YouTube and Vimeo as places to find great how-to's (sometimes a speed paint is just what you need)! Also take a look at Squidoo when you get a chance. It is an AMAZING tool for finding collections of resources. The Horse's Mouth The best source for resources is ... the source itself! Want to know how an artist does something? Ask them. If you are feeling really daring, ask them to make a tutorial, or show a progression for a piece. Most people are more willing to teach than you'd think (we don't forget too easily that we are all students) - so just ask them about how they learned to do all the things you admire!

It's important to make sure that you only have to find your favorite resources ONCE. Nothing is worse than trying to re-locate that perfect tutorial whose name you only vaguely remember. So start up your own collection! Grab a favorites folder, a text document, or a stack of post-it notes and start keeping track of your resources!

That's all for that! I hope you enjoyed reading it (or made it all the way through at any rate) and maybe even learned a few things! Some of my favorite resources are linked up there, why not post a few of yours? Happy critiquing, everyone.


Add a Comment:
VincentFineArt Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
I guess I never thought to use resources to further my critique for the artist. I will have to remember this in the future. Thanks. :)  
Nolamom3507 Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012
I'm a teacher, so pointing folks in the direction of learning material is a natural. I just hadn't thought of applying it to critiques. Thanks for the article.
ziinyu Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012  Student Interface Designer

I'm glad it gave you some new ideas. :meow: If you don't mind me asking, what do you teach?
Nolamom3507 Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012
Economics, Government, and Sociology to high school seniors. :D
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