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  1. #1
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    Talking Giving art advice - How should we do it?

    I'm not sure if this is best suited for the Lounge per se, but this place does get a huge amount of traffic and this question is burning a hole in my head.

    The entire time I've been on CA.org I've wanted one thing: to learn. I do this mostly through lurking and soaking up tips, and when I do post, it's to pass advice on to other members. Looking around, however, I notice everyone at my level gives "their two cents" and then notes how they're a beginner who can't say anything. My query is as follows:

    Should beginners pass advice along to other beginners? It seems like a simple enough question, with a simple enough answer: Yes. But it comes with a complication: It's not likely that any newbie relaying information from the pros to their peers will know the full story of what they've heard. It's entirely possible to misinterpret a short tip if we don't quite grasp why it's useful in the first place. I wouldn't say this is the professional's fault; I'm so eager to learn that I often catch myself skimming posts for advice that sounds the most useful, and later when I try to apply it to a sketch I'm lost because I blew off its context. I'm sure somewhere along the line I've posted "help" and left someone in a similar position. Besides, every post here can't be a page from a textbook, so of course small snips of information will be handed out as needed for a given work, where they're ripe for accidental distortion.

    So, to the professionals, what do you think? Do you have any ideas for how to best do this? I know there are guidelines in place for giving general critique, but not for how novices should learn. Should we focus more on lurking and asking direct questions? Or is the general banter here good enough? I wanna do this right!


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  4. #2
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    Good question and topic.

    I'm no pro but I've been around the crit center for a good while. I've often seen what you've described; newbies giving other newbies advice that doesn't hit to the main problem, or tries to remedy the problem in the 'wrong' way.

    One time someone displayed their character, saying that he had often been given comments about how his art usually looked flat. The next 5+ answers came from newbies and their advice was simply to up the contrast. Darker darks and lighter lights in their mind meant more defined form. They either didn't understand or didn't know how to put into words the concepts of planes and form, and I had to interrupt, tell the OP to discount their crits (which is never a fun or nice thing to do) and do a little paint over showing how he didn't take the form of the character into account.

    So yes, there is a problem with newbies helping newbies sometimes in the crit center. The good thing is that I still see really good crits and paintovers from time to time as well.

    I don't know if there should be new 'rules' or guidelines put in place such as "dont crit if you don't know what's wrong/how to fix it" because that might end up stifling critique.

    To me, the only thing to do is to hope or suggest that more people who know what they're doing head into the crit center more often. The invocation of "crit week" is always a good way to do it. maybe it's time again.
    Last edited by Jason Rainville; March 28th, 2010 at 11:49 AM.

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    I'd suggest that beginners should certainly give crits, but concentrate on the what rather than the how. In other words, say more about what's wrong than how to fix it. There's nothing wrong in saying "this is how I'd fix" but stating solutions as facts could be misleading. Of course, in the end the person getting the crits needs to be the final judge of what to and what not to take note of.

    Also, I find that there's too much advice around, from pros and beginners alike, that focuses on how to obtain the quickest results rather than the best. Use this filter, adjust the colour like this, use that whatever magic tool, instead of actually understanding the basics.

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  8. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nateman742 View Post
    I notice everyone at my level gives "their two cents" and then notes how they're a beginner who can't say anything.
    Im am certainly guilty of doing this constantly. I hope I am not overstepping my bounds as my intentions are only ever good.
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    I would personally rather have a newbies opinion than no opinion at all. I think you can learn something from everyone, and I think it is a valuable skill to be able to take peoples opinions and advice and disregard the stuff you KNOW is wrong, instead of just assuming it is wrong because of their work. After all, most art critics aren't artists!
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    I agree with Baron Impossible about giving more of the "what" and perhaps just a suggestion of the "how".

    Do you know if something is wrong? yes - "Something is not quite right about it"
    Do you know what is wrong? yes - "the anatomy and proportions look wrong"
    Do you know why it is wrong? yes - "her right arm is too long"
    Do you know how to fix it? yes - "shorten her right arm"

    I think i'm still quite often around the "what" and "why" while perhaps giving some suggestions on the "how to fix".

    Personally I quite like to see everyone say whatever they feel like saying and then letting the artist of the work in question make their own analysis of the information.

    Besides, no one likes to be told something is wrong with thier work without some reasoning to back it up.

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  12. #7
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    The best place to learn is in the WIP & Critique section. Not everyone is right and you shouldn't be afraid to disagree with advice, like the artist doesn't have to take the advice given. It's a great way of seeing the faults in your own work when looking at other's. I can see lighting issues clearer in other people's work than my own. I'm not always right, but hope the artist can make their own mind up where they want to be. Dive in and don't be afraid - only wilting lilies will take umbrage.

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  14. #8
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    Great question - thanks for opening it up. It is a very sensitive topic. Yes you can learn from anyone...BUT, often the critique/advice from less experienced artists is contradictory which leads to a sense of confusion for someone looking to learn. What often happens here is less experienced artists will even argue and directly contradict experienced advice which can be very frustrating. This kind of thing diminishes the value of CA as a whole as it drives away people that have valuable information to share.

    I try to think of the various threads, and community as a whole, in terms of a classroom setting or art gathering - where we're all hanging out, sharing our stuff and information, ideas, cool websites, etc. In that context it is like standing around talking about a piece of work - it's great when someone with a lot of skill and experience offers feedback - someone with less experience is certainly free to offer opinions (as Baron pointed out) but it would be absurd for them to disagree or contradict the experienced artist. Questions are fine - even challenges - but not contradictions...and if you are going to contradict someone, you better be able to back it up.

    The best feedback/critique you'll find around here is within the fine arts section - the more advanced artists know both how to best offer, and accept critique (which is natural because they've been through so much of it).

    In the end we are all trying to learn and all face challenges with our own art, we all started at our own particular beginning and we learn a great deal from our fellow students. When we're getting started we often are unaware of what we don't know...that is why the odd irony of the more advanced artists being the most humble whereas the beginner knows all.

    Anyway, just rambling at this point but this is an important topic, thanks again for getting it started.
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  16. #9
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    It's a really weird topic; I say that because the correlation between someone's quality of work and quality of feedback is not always 1:1.

    I'll preface by saying that I'm no pro, so take it with some salt: I've seen pros give what is essentially misleading or troublesome advice. This might be because their knowledge has become more innate and ingrained. Similarly, I've seen newbie artists give excellent advice - perhaps because in the process of learning the theory is still fresh and they constantly practice what they preach. Though both sides of this coin are in the minority, I strongly feel it is there.

    My potential advice here is this: as often as possible, before you crit something, try to do a paint-over and see whether you can apply the advice you're about to give to make it look better. Paint-overs aren't always appreciated and that's bullshit: in my experience it is as powerful a teaching tool as it is a learning tool.

    just my two cents
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    Luckily the problem often seem to remedy itself, because of one of the great internet motivators; Others being wrong, and people's inability to let them be wrong in peace.

    Take all advice with a grain of salt. Try it out, and if it doesn't work, ask questions why it doesn't work. Ask yourself more often than you ask others. If someone explains a concept that sounds weird to you, ask them to elaborate. There are no stupid questions.

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    This might be because their knowledge has become more innate and ingrained.
    I wouldn't see it that negative. I think there's something else: There are a loads of professional artists which are self taught.

    They probably don't know every theory, but worked hard und put temselves theories together. Not a bad thing.

    Such their critique is very personal and thoughtful, but also not right for everybody. If you hit an area where they have a really firm understanding of, you could get the best advice. On the other hand if it isn't an area where they excel it could be plain wrong.

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    I know people who have the eye yet they are ignored. What are we to due the the Learned Man? Keep him on the railroad and Chatin with Sallie when he can. We are all on a mission. And walking with those who know where we are goin is a hellava lot more enjoyable.
    Last edited by namck6183; March 30th, 2010 at 11:25 PM.

  20. #13
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    While people who can't draw are intitled to their opinion, I think for them to offer any advice on procedure is wasted. If you can't do it yourself then you cant do it for someone else. People like that should keep their opinions to their likes and dislikes about a piece which my be beneficial to the creator.

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    From people with out a blind eye. Draw........? Well, pistols?


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    Last edited by Hu Surdadi; March 31st, 2010 at 10:36 AM. Reason: Pun

  22. #15
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    Maybe those who offer advice ought to have a sketchbook or a site so that those being advised can consider the source?

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  24. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill View Post
    Maybe those who offer advice ought to have a sketchbook or a site so that those being advised can consider the source?
    Absolutely! Thank you Bill! That would go a long way toward making things clearer and reducing noise. Having a portfolio or sketchbook link helps by allowing someone to judge whether the advice/feedback they receive is valid. This isn't to say that artists just getting started don't have things to offer, but, when someone says you should just scribble around a bunch of lines, or build your composition out of various photo references or you can learn how to draw and paint on a computer, one needs to be able to see if that working method has value.
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  25. #17
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    Some people might offer consistently more useful advice than others, but oftentimes people who arent even "artists" can bring up relevant insights into ones art. I think so long as a person has eyes and a brain, critiquing is fair game, but whether you use the critique or not requires your own critical analysis. Even someone with a 1 star sketchbook knows when someone with a 5 star sketchbook put an extra pair of abs on someone by accident. Just say whatever advice comes to mind, if they use it or not, then its up to them.
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  27. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtZealot View Post
    Some people might offer consistently more useful advice than others, but oftentimes people who arent even "artists" can bring up relevant insights into ones art. I think so long as a person has eyes and a brain, critiquing is fair game, but whether you use the critique or not requires your own critical analysis. Even someone with a 1 star sketchbook knows when someone with a 5 star sketchbook put an extra pair of abs on someone by accident. Just say whatever advice comes to mind, if they use it or not, then its up to them.

    This is all true...but there are a few issues:
    - The five star sketchbook artist is probably already aware of the problem, so not really helpful
    - When people contradict or argue points, technique or approach yet lack the experience - it just causes confusion and makes the experienced artist with valuable insight less likely to be involved
    - All advice is not equal and when you're trying to learn you lack the critical analysis to discern good from bad so you don't know whether to use it or not - this confusion can seriously derail a person's progress

    Bottom line is if you're offering advice on technique back it up so others can see if the technique/approach you advocate works. Otherwise limit feedback to personal obeservations or reactions.
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  28. #19
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    HHmm...I shall give my 2 cents if you will.

    My comment here will be on the gray area of this topic. What's the difference between a newbie and a professional? I mean, I know amazing artists, not yet professional that consider themselves newbie.

    In my opinion, those not professional can be absolutely outstanding artists that simply recognize that in the grand scheme of it all, they are nowhere near the level off some of their favorite professional artists.

    I for one, consider myself a newbie in this respect despite the fact that I have been drawing for the entirety of my life. I may be a newbie but at the same time, I consider myself knowledgeable enough to give a competent critique on a lot of aspects of the work posted here excluding a few things that I am a TRUE newbie at.

    Of course there will be bad advice given by those that are truly new but at the same time, there are people here that still consider themselves new to the game and stay incredibly humble. Normally I wouldn't feel this to be something particularly important, however I find that the gray area here is huge because there is a very high percentage of artists here who fall under the category mentioned.
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    I think that advice that comes from personal experience is best, but if you pass along advice you heard elsewhere it's all right as long as you're honest about your own lack of experience and you're not stuck on whatever idea you came across. At least that way there is the chance that if you got it wrong that someone will correct you and everyone can learn something from the experience.
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  30. #21
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    Thanks for the responses so far. This is good food for thought. Basically the idea is to watch out for crits that don't tell why to use the advice, rather than just what to do?

    i.e. "increase the contrast" should be less valued than "focus on differentiating the planes and heighten the depth by increasing the contrast." Something as simple as "use this shortcut here," could become acceptable if a poster explains what the shortcut is circumventing and the reason it works.

    And if a newbie is passing on advice, or doesn't know fully why the advice is useful, they should take care to note that, so the person receiving crits can look it up on their own?

  31. #22
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    Newbies who are average don't generate the volume of interest in their work that a more stylised and experienced artist does, so they look to each other to trade off information, and they are usually intelligent enough to assess the worth of the information they obtain this way.

    When I studied Graphics, students would seek my advice when it was obvious I had cracked a problem that they were encountering, and likewise, if I could see a student was making progress in an area I was having difficulty in I could bypass the instructor and solve the problem right there by approaching them. It saved one on one time with the instructors that could be devoted to advanced stuff that only the instructor was qualified to divulge.

    I dont think its any different here, as long as we novices dont condescend to teach the experts, and are aware of each others abilities, I believe interaction and critique is conducive to learning for all of us.

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    I haven't read each comment pertaining to the topic here, but if I understand the question posed by the author correctly we already have a good discussion going on in the tutorials tips and tricks forum about advice, and techniques for the learning of art.
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