Kathleen Dustin’s Critique Guidelines

Kathleen Dustin is a strong believer in the value of critique. She recorded these suggestions in 2012:

The Power of Questions

Objective Group Critique Method (Primarily for Intermediate to Mature Craftspersons) 

Goal: To encourage and enable the artist to figure out how to successfully do what he/she wants to do through their work.

A moderator is required to keep everyone following the rules below. The moderator must not be afraid to interrupt someone in the group and say, “That is not appropriate for this section. You can give your comments in the next section.” Following the rules may seem very contrived, but it really works well and enables the group to dig down into the work.

First part – Questions:

ONLY ask objective, non-judgmental questions, such as:

Can you tell us about your work?

What do you want your work to show about you?

How do you come up with your shapes (colors, textures, etc.)?

Are you satisfied with your work (or a certain part of your work)?

Do NOT make any statements at this time. Ask questions ONLY. In fact, exhaust yourselves asking questions before going on to the second part.

Second part – Comments and More Questions

Make statements by asking the artist’s permission first as in, “May I make a comment?” or “May I make a suggestion?” or “May I make an observation?”

Then offer suggestions using phrases like, “You might consider using….”

Or “You might want to think about….”

DO NOT say, “You should….”, or “I think you should…..”.

DO NOT make subjective judgments like, “I don’t like that color” or “That sucks”, or “That’s really good” or “That’s beautiful.” These are not helpful to the artist.

Using the same phrases as above, you can now start to say things like,
“You mentioned that you want to ……. in your work, but I’m not sure these shapes (colors, textures, images, etc.) express that. How do you think you could you do it more effectively?”

When making comments, avoid getting picky about details that are personal preferences. Put yourself in the artist’s shoes to see the work through their understanding and desires. (It’s OK to talk about craftsmanship, but it is often easy to get too distracted by that while avoiding the intent and personal vision, which are more difficult to discuss.)