Art Criticism

Old School Hipster: Counter-Culture Art Critic

So what is it exactly that I do, what and why is my bougie and pretentious old school hipster assessment of the artwork of others? What could possibly be more narcissistic, other than being the bougie and pretentious gallery owner that hypes the “latest”, to the bougie and pretentious buyers? And don’t those peddlers sometimes look for clowns like me to validate their “product”? So where in the hell do I get my nerve from? 

From the artists themselves actually! If they tell me I am an idiot, I suck, and I have absolutely no idea what in the hell I am talking about, then I am indeed in trouble. So doesn’t that leave me open to be shot down if the artist doesn’t like what I have to say? No, because if you are there FOR the artist, there is no way the artist is going to fight you. If you are there FOR YOURSELF, then ya, you can expect to be told to shove your opinion “in the out hole”, and sideways in the process. The soulless critic that touts crap to be “peddled” to the upper class Caucasian elitists is there for himself. The fools like me that few listen to, are actually wanted to be heard from by the artists, for reasons other than monetary.

So what is it exactly that needs to be done, what are the artists looking for? It must be something if they are premium members, and setting the deviation to be formally critiqued.

The bottom line is the truth; don’t just give them 5 stars, and bunch of praise, because that is a waste of the artist’s time. If you want to gush, then that is what the comments are for, suck up and brown nose in the comments.

Guidelines for choosing what to critique:

  • Do you like anything about it? NEVER critique something that you DO NOT LIKE! If it sucks, then move on; don’t waste your time with something you don’t even have a liking for.
  • Could the artist had done something differently that could have made you like it even more? If not, then pass it by, there is no such thing as 5 star perfection, and in those rare instances it is, you will be looking for something to disrupt the skewed view you obviously have of it.
  • Would you own or display this piece in your own home, either as-is, or after the artist heeded your suggestions?

What to do when critiquing:

  • Always tell the truth, even if you think it will offend. If you are making a hamburger, and it tastes like dog poop, don’t you want those eating it to say something? Don’t you want those eating it to tell you what in the hell you are doing wrong? Of course you do! So does the artist, the artist wants to know what you think, what YOU FEEL.
  • NEVER tell them what is WRONG, who the hell are you to decide what is right or wrong? Tell them what you think would have made you like it more. You like it now, but you would like it even more if they had…. And had…. And maybe….
  • If you keep yourself at the level of “subordinate” to the artist, the artist will place themselves at the level of subordinate to you. Humility begets humility. Arrogance begets arrogance. You go in there like pissy pete, and decide that this hack better heed your grandiose wisdom, the you’re going to get shot down in a heartbeat, and more than likely find yourself embarrassed.
  • Be DETAILED! Don’t just tell them what you like, go into exact details, point things out. If you just say “I Like…”, then you appear to have simply “looked at” the piece, and not absorbed and digested the piece. If you can’t go into detail about your opinion, then keep your one-liners to yourself.

The critique follows 4 levels of ranking (stars):

  • Vision: What do you see when you look at it? What do you think the artist sees when they look at? What do you think the artist saw in their mind prior to creation of the piece? Is what you see clear or hard to describe? Is what the artist saw clear or hard to describe? Is it good or bad that you can or cannot see what the artist saw, or can or cannot understand what you see? Do you see only one thing? Do you see many things? Is that good or bad? Tell the artist what you do or don’t see. Can you smell anything in your mind; can you hear sounds in your mind, can you feel heat, feel cold?
  • Originality: Is this the first time you have ever seen something like this, or have you seen this a zillion times? Is it good or bad that you have or haven’t seen it a little or a lot? If this is not an original idea, is it in any way unique, where all the other dime-a-dozen ideas were the same? Did the artist find something within the idea that others did not? Anybody can make a hamburger with enough practice, but making it different and better than others is much, much harder.
  • Technique: Were they good at what they did? Were things where they belonged? Were they put together in the proper order? Were their things that could have been done better with different mechanics, or different environment, or different timing, or different materials, or different usage of the materials? Be detailed, give them your perspective on theirs because technique is something learned, and thus the easiest to improve upon, not like the last ranking…
  • Impact: It is here that all the learning in the world cannot make an artist better; it is here that the artist is naked and vulnerable. It is here that their idea of control over the piece depends entirely on the viewer. How does this piece make you feel? Can you “get into it”? Does it make you think? Tell the artist the emotions it evokes, tell the artist what happens when you engage the piece, does it engage you, or do you engage it? Did you stare at this a while? Did you look at it several times, and see something different every time? That is how you know if it engages, if it causes you to be a part of it, if it causes you to keep looking, to keep searching, to keep thinking, to keep feeling.

No matter what, praise the artist, give the artist credit where credit is due, even if there were things you would like to have seen done differently, always be sure to give them both good and bad, never just one and not the other. Balance is the key, light and dark, hot and cold, high and low.

** On watermarks… I personally find them to be a symbol of Hubris & Avarice on the part of the hack that uses them; I give respect ONLY to the “Artist” that “Signs” their work, in the historically accepted way. Now that is just me, you yourself need to come to terms with how they affect you. Does the watermark block the view? Does it hurt the impact? Does it cloud the vision? Does it hide the technique? The ARTIST will always want to know. The HACK will only care about their work being stolen, and someone else “taking credit” or “turning a buck” they could have turned.

(** And yes, folks WILL HATE on me for saying what I just said, but oh well. The artists that I know, I know their work. If someone clips it, and I find it elsewhere, I can tell the difference, how? That is where the “IMPACT” comes into play. ONLY the artist can do what the artist does to me, and if that name does not match up, I will know. In the public monitored “art world” where money matters, the critic is the most dangerous enemy to the plagiarist, they cannot get away with it when folks that know that artist stumble into it.)