How To Give and Receive Boxart Critiques
Good morning everyone. Most of us love to receive good critiques on our work, be it a scathing review or some simple “this is sick” type of comment. We also like to give critiques to those boxarts that yearn for our response.
Considering the steady influx of new blood into VGBA, much is missed in the artform of, well, boxart critiquing. With so many of our veterans having left the site, there is a huge disconnect between our long-time members and that new blood I mentioned. My hope here is to perhaps help establish a higher standard for critiques while fostering a bridge between new and old members in our appreciation for video game, movie and music cover art.
I have put together a general list of etiquette and tips with regards to boxart critiquing. I will discuss how to go about the act of critiquing boxart on VGBA. I will also discuss how to receive critiques and how to respond when you feel you may have received an unjustified critique. These are in no particular order, and are just general guidelines, not rules.
In order to give proper credit, I did get the idea and borrow some passages from another very well composed art critique guide. Link.
Remember, without critiques, we artists get no feedback on our work. Giving out favorites are a form of feedback but is more flattery than critique. And do not forget to critique new members' work, as they need the most feedback so that they can better learn to use the tools of the trade. Giving a new artist negative feedback is better than no feedback at all (yes, you CAN provide a negative going critique without being rude about it).
Moving on to the good stuff...
1. Start out with a compliment. This will allow the person whose art you are critiquing to relax and accept your help. If you can, add in some banter. A conversational (or friendly) attitude will help you to be better received. It is all too easy to post short phrases that are too fluffy or too harsh. It is better to begin your critique by accentuating any positive influences you see in the boxart.
2. Do not create a critique consisting entirely of what is wrong with a box. A critique is an analysis of the varying parts of what makes art. Some things will be wrong, some things will be right, but you must remember at all times that a critique is subjective, and the people you're talking to are human beings. It is not a forum for bashing people you don't like.
3. Understand that some people will choose not to accept your help or, heaven forbid, accept someone else's help. If you leave a critique and they respond with "Thank you, I will consider it", don't check back five weeks later expecting all your changes to be implemented, much less attack people for not implementing your suggestions. This doesn't mean they do not respect your opinion, or that they feel you were wrong, but people sometimes disagree on matters of art.
4. If you absolutely detest any given art form or game genre, don't critique it. Leave your biases and dislikes out of your critique, and just analyze the work for what it is. Likewise, don't critique the subject matter; critique how the artist brings out the subject matter. If you're sick of Pokemon, don't critique the artist on creating a Pokemon boxart, critique them on how well they made the boxart. Critiquing is not a forum for challenging the validity of someone's choice of game genre. There is nothing wrong with not saying anything.
5. Do not use 'bad' qualifiers ("This sucks", "That's bad") without offering to help the artist. That's not to say you have to step on eggshells. You may, at your choice, be brutally blunt, but you should be offering tips on how to improve.
6. In counter-point, don't make fluff critiques. It's very easy to pad someone's ego with a delightful little comment (not critique), but don't throw in some analytical jargon to make it appear more sincere than it is. Honesty, while wounding at times, is the best way to help the person you're critiquing, and why critique if not to help? This doesn't mean that you shouldn't wantonly praise people if you want to. Just be honest about it.
7. If you can't find anything negative about the piece, it's perfectly alright to leave a critique that just analyzes the positive. Remember, a critique is an analysis of the elements of a piece of art, and if you find that in analyzing a piece of art you can't find anything wrong with it, don't feel bad about just leaving a critique on the good elements. Maybe the artist was feeling a bit iffy on leaving in a portion of the art, and your positive analysis of that portion persuades him to leave it alone?
8. You're not critiquing the artist, you're critiquing the art. Don't fill the critique with comments about the artist (including but not limited to age, religion, political stances, etc.) and don't compare boxes by the same artist unless it is to illustrate some technique that you felt was better exercised elsewhere.
9. Proofread your critiques. The purpose of a critique is to be helpful, and most artists will not read an illegible block of text, which does little to help them in the long run if they never read your analysis. Phrase your suggestions as, well, suggestions. "Perhaps if you..." and "Maybe you should try..." go over a lot better than "You need to" and "Go and do this." Do NOT use internet lingo such as “LOL,” “U,” or any other shortened verbiage. Spell out your words so that your comments are clear; otherwise, your comments will be considered worthless or at the least, too trivial to be read.
10. Leave jealousy at the door. This may seem like common sense, but all too often a person will tear apart a piece of art analytically merely because of some peripheral emotion, whether it be jealousy or anger.
11. Keep the fun factor alive. There's no need to give a professional and superbly analytical critique to someone that is most obviously creating boxart for fun. That's not to say you can't help them improve, but you may not need to go to such great lengths to assist them as you might someone who makes a living from art. If you know the artist is looking for more involved or critical feedback, then by all means, deliver just that if you wish.
12. Remember the platitude, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." To critique is to help, and no help comes from a brutal attack on a boxart. On top of that, most people will ignore the advice of someone who appears to be attacking them, so even if there are valid suggestions within, it falls on deaf ears most the time. Leaving someone bruised and abused does little to make them want to create more art, and if they don't want to create more art, anything they may learn from you is moot.
1. The absolutely best way to garner good and usable feedback on your work is to post your work-in-progress in a WIP thread. Many VGBA members frequent this forum looking to help other artists improve their skills. Take advantage of this forum, as you will see that many members become eager to see your boxart when it is finally posted to the VGBA gallery. The more you use this forum, the more likely you will receive very good feedback and critiques on your boxarts.
2. Receiving critiques can be a harrowing experience, particularly for a new boxartist. Many times, an artist will never receive comments on their work, which leaves them wondering if their work is good, bad or indifferent. If you receive no comments, it is acceptable to post a response under your box asking for a critique. Don’t beg or whine, simply ask if anyone will be kind enough to critique the boxart. However, as it is against forum rules to bump your box (some members may see this as a bump, even if you are being sincere), this move should come as a last resort. Also, see number 3 for the preferred method of asking for criticism.
3. Understand that some people will expect you to accept their help. It is perfectly acceptable to leave a "Thank you, I will consider it" in response to their suggestions. If the suggestion or advice is sound enough to you, by all means, follow up on it. Just know that you are not required to do so, but by working through the suggestion will at least give others the impression that you want to grow as an artist and are open to criticism. This is important, as you will lose support from the community if you constantly turn away ideas.
4. If a critic becomes belligerent or otherwise intolerable, you should report the post to a moderator (Ladykiller or Drakxxx). Do NOT drag out the argument, as it could lead to both you and the other member being banned if it gets out of hand. If you do choose to respond, politely try to get the other person to certify their comments; if they cannot or will not do so, your best bet is to ignore that person.
5. Remember, good feedback or critiques aren’t all summed up in “Great job” or “Awesome!” commentary. No, good in this regard means relevant and helpful. A member negatively critiques your work but provides helpful information on how to better position a character or suggestion on how to better implement a color scheme are examples of good critiquing. Take the time to recognize these critiques and don’t just blow them off as being “bad” for the reason that the critic may have said the boxart is not that great. Remember; since it is all digital art, you can only improve your work. Upward mobility is the phrase of the day!
Last edited by Crotale; 08-19-2010 at 08:25 AM.