Critique Your Own Work

It is absolutely essential that you learn to critique your own work….honestly. Often people recoil at the word “critique”, so perhaps rebranding the process as “analysis” will make the process more palatable.


Stop working.  Step away.  If possible leave it for an hour or two (or overnight).  You want to be able to look at it with fresh eyes.  (If you want to keep working, start/work on something else)

1.  What is my intent?  Is it successful?

2.  Is it interesting?

3.  Is there a feeling of unity?

4.  What is the unifying factor?

5.  What is my favorite part of the painting?

6.  Is it done?  Do I like it?  A lot?

If the answers to #6 are yes, then you’re done.  If there is a no in there, then you need to go on to determine what to do about it. 

7.  Is there any area of the painting that bothers me? Why?

8.  Is the format (size & shape of the page/canvas) appropriate for the subject matter?

9.  Are there technical issues? (drawing, perspective, use of medium, surface)

10.  Is there a focal point?  What makes it the focal point?

11. Does the design lead the eye to the center of interest (focal point)?

12. Is there a range of values? (lights & darks) (a painting will be more dramatic & exciting if you use more darks against lights, with one spot that is the brightest area in the composition)

13. Is there a strong, single light source?

14. Am I attempting to recreate a past painting experience?

15. Is the color appropriate for the subject? Is the color clean?

16. Is the color interesting? If not, is it too monochromatic?  Did I use both warm and cool colors?

17. Are there too many unrelated colors?

18. Are there interesting shapes? Identify the positive and negative shapes.

19. Look at the edges of the shapes: are the edges clearly defined by contrast in color, value, or line quality?   Are any of the edges mysterious?

20. Are there any surprises in the painting?

21. Is there more to it than what is evident at first glance?

22. Have I ever seen a painting like this?  If so, how is this one different?

24.  What changes do I want to make? (write these down)

If you are finding it difficult to look at the piece objectively (separating the elements from the imagery), you might try one of these tricks:

Turn the piece 90 degrees.  Then again.  Then again.

Look at the piece in a mirror.

Look at it from much further away. (or use a reducing lens)

Look at it in very low light. (helpful in determining values)

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion; you must set yourself on fire.”Reggie Leach or Fred Shero

%d bloggers like this: