When critique becomes criticism

If you’re new to the blog, or if you haven’t been paying attention; I am in art school.

Art school
Art school

The Art Institutes of Pittsburgh-Online to be more precise, animation school to split hairs. I have learned a lot in the last few months that I have been attending. There have been ups and downs, but I haven’t had a reason to complain.

And I’m not complaining now. I still don’t have a reason to complain. I’m learning to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was six years old and Fantasia graced my television screen.

That's right. Back when this was a thing.
That’s right. Back when this was a thing.

I’m in two classes I’ve been waiting to take since I started the school: Character Design for Animation and Cinematic Storytelling. I get to learn how to create characters, and tell a story. It’s a double whammy of awesome.

Because reasons
Because reasons

The best thing about art school is the critiques. Not just from the instructor, but from the class at large. I was told, when I first called about the school, that the all-inclusive feedback was one of the best parts of going to the online school, and I was told right. The feedback has been an invaluable part of my own growth as an artist. It’s also helped me to understand how to critique others.

This is not one of those ways
This is not one of those ways

It’s amazing at the different levels of talent that come into art school. I have seen people with artistic skill who stopped drawing and want to get back into it, and I have seen people who are leagues better than me come through my classes. I’ve been asked “is there ever anyone who CAN’T draw in your classes?”

Yes. There are.

But it isn’t my place to tell them that they can’t draw. I cling very tenuously to a dream that I’ve had since I was little, and to be in the position to hear “you suck” would crush any semblance of self-esteem and extinguish that dream forever.

Kinda like Alien destroyed this poor guy's dream
This is Alien destroying you and  your dream.

I was told that I should “get away from the Disney style”. A simple enough comment that had the effect of a nuclear bomb. Am I being dramatic? Probably, but, here’s the thing; a comment like that doesn’t mean much when there’s nothing to back it up. And there wasn’t. There was just the ‘you need to get away from the Disney style’ line. The key difference between a comment from Joe blow and the comment I received, was that it was from an instructor.

A critique amounts to the same thing as constructive criticism. Which is a nice way of saying “if you can’t say something nice, keep your goddamned mouth shut”.

You hear that, Thumper?
You hear that, Thumper?

A critique takes into account the entirety of the work, comments on it, then takes in and comments on what could be improved, and ends with something along the lines of ‘keep going, you’re doing great!’


Blatant criticism is a way of being an asshole. Telling someone their work is terrible, or they draw like so and so, or they’re just really not that good at all, is being an asshole. There is no excuse for it. Assholes use criticism to cover up being an asshole.

Because assholes.
Because assholes.


When one comes out and says “hey, asshole, try being original for once!” it’s devastating. When one comes out and says “hey, this [insert thing here] reminds me of [insert thing here] and it’s good, but here’s how I think it can be improved” it’s still pretty devastating, but there’s padding there. There’s room for the artist/writer to incorporate the suggestion and improve themselves.

This is both applicable to the writing and the art world, where critiquing is the most important part of self/novel/artistic growth.

I am of the firm belief that there is no such thing as “I can’t draw”. Anyone can learn how to draw, and with practice, anyone can be good at drawing. Given encouragement and constructive criticisms, people can find their own style and flourish.

When people are assholes and go throwing their opinions around with nothing to back them up, that’s when dreams get broken.

Don’t break dreams.

Don’t be an asshole.





5 thoughts on “When critique becomes criticism

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger says:

    In order for such a comment to have any value it must be followed with “and here’s why and where I think you need to go”. Then you have something to work with. With that information you can evaluate the comment and decide if it has merit or not. Without it it’s just negative hot air.

    1. rjkeith says:

      If my instructor had come back to me and told me that the Disney style would limit my career, and it would be better if I branched out a little, I would have been more receptive and less devastated. As it was, it was “try to get away from the Disney style in this class”. No reason, just “don’t do it”.

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