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William Ritschel painting

A Guide To Critiquing Art: The Visual Music & Poetry™ Methodology

Why is critiquing art important for a painter?

Art criticism has a long history. Critiquing art is the best way to develop as a painter. Once you understand how to critique art and the key factors that master artists apply in their work, you will be able to create great artworks of your own. But critiquing art is a very confusing and often controversial topic. This article is an attempt to develop a much more objective and simple approach to critiquing art.

critiquing art: sorolla's masterpiece

How to critique art

Step one to critiquing art is to understand how a painting gives your viewer pleasure or enhances their lives. For the purposes of this discussion I am assuming that these are the criteria by which you can judge the quality of a painting. A master painting will do one or both of these things.  There are other potential more personal criteria, for example self expression, but that is not my purpose.

Only when you are clear about these goals can you evaluate a painting for its quality. And only when you can evaluate a painting for its quality can you understand what makes a great work of art, know which artists you can learn the most from, and ultimately improve your own work.

Goals of a painting (or any artwork)

The two key elements that give people pleasure are actually quite simple. These are the goals of your painting.

A painting does two things.

  1. It communicates at a human emotional level: This is what I call its ‘Visual Poetry’, and
  2. It gives us pleasure by creating order out of the chaos of nature: and making it interesting to look at. This is what I call its ‘Visual Music’.

Check out the video for more explanation of these ideas.

The basic model for critiquing art

a model for critiquing art
  • Illusion: how well the artist represents something to express the concept of the painting.
  • Concept: what the painting is about – its emotional and intellectual content.
  • Far Music: the abstract design of the colors and shapes in the painting when viewed from a distance.
  • Near Music: the abstract design of the painting when viewed close up.

To Learn More

critiquing art - skill building blocks
How the Visual Music & Poetry Model relate to Key Skill Building Blocks

The Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program is based around teaching you in a systematic way each of the components of this model. By mastering each relatively simple component, you will see your work steadily improve, month by month. This is a much more logical way to approach the task of learning how to paint compared to trying to learn everything at once by copying a master or instructor painting. Copying other people’s painting without a deep understanding of how and why they work teaches you very little.

If you want to learn more about critiquing art you can get instant access to Barry’s 6 book eLibrary on Concept and Visual Music & Poetry here:  Concept: Why You Need Both Visual Music and Visual Poetry To Make Your Work Stand Out

If you want to actually assimilate these ideas into your own painting and build your skills one-by-one, join our Apprentice Program.