Critique Week: The First of Many

This week, for the first time in far too long, I went out with some friends.  We walked around town and sat and chatted at a coffee shop for a few hours.  It was simple, but the exact recharge that I needed.  I’m so grateful for my friends for helping me get out more.

A wild thing happened while we were out though.  You see, I had never been to this café before. I live about 30 miles away from it. We had sat down, and lo and behold, guess what I see on the wall.

That’s a print of my art!! I drew this in high school!!  How crazy is that!  I must’ve signed off on it years ago when it was displayed at a show, but I totally don’t remember it.  Funny how life turns out sometimes.

My art style has since developed quite a bit since then, though I’ll be honest and say that it hasn’t shown in my paintings, as my art has been geared towards commercial work for so long.  In high school, I had clear talent and skill, but my work felt stiff.  This charcoal piece shows a great knowledge of my medium, but it doesn’t show originality.  When I’m not painting pet portraits, I like painting things that are a bit more whimsical, even though my portfolio right now does not exactly display that.

What helps an artist develop their work, other than practice and determination?  The helpful guiding eye of surrounding artists.  Critique [when referring to art] is the review and discussion of artwork with the intention of helping the artist understand their work. As the critique-r, one must ask themselves: What is working?  What is successful?  What are areas that need improvement?  

Critique is NOT criticism.  Critique is meant to be helpful and constructive, whereas criticism is generally not helpful.  Criticism only points out problems, but critique looks for answers to these problems.

Now, that’s not to say that critique is meant to flatter the artist.  Critique is meant to provide honest feedback in a healthy and positive manner.

Critiquing your own artwork can be difficult, as artists often overlook their own mistakes.  After staring at the same drawing for so long (sometimes hours or even days) the flaws seem to fade away.  That’s why it’s helpful to have other artists you can trust to help you develop your work.  For you, the reader, I am here to help.

I had a large amount of artists this week bring their art to me for critique, and to you I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was only able to write about the first three artists who sent work to me, but I will be saving all of it for future posts.  Critique Week will be the last Friday of each month. I am so excited to show off everyone’s work. 


This first drawing comes from Josie White.  She wrote: “I drew a favorite character of mine from a webtoon called Hooky. I’m not good at art but I think everyone can do it and enjoy it. So I drew this lady and I continue to draw because I hope that someday I can get better.”

First off, I’d like to say that what you said is beautifully put.  Art is for everyone, no matter what skill level.  You don’t have to be brilliantly gifted in order to be an artist.

Now there’s two ways to critique: you can either start with what’s successful, or you can start with what isn’t working as well.  Typically, I like to bring up the positive aspects first, as it doesn’t immediately fill someone’s thoughts with negativity.  If you’re greeted with the flaws first, it’s hard to focus on what you did right.

So Josie, I’d like to start by saying this is a beautiful drawing.  I love your choice in coloring: you kept it monochrome except for the eyes, making them the focal point, and you’ve got a range of gray in the drawing as well.  A range of gray can be very hard with a primarily marker drawing, but you’ve managed to create some color in the cheeks, a smooth crown, and mid-range of tone in the hair without any strange smudging.  Great job!

A couple things stick out to me: You’ve figured out this awesome technique for creating highlights and lowlights in the hair, in which you layer the lines in more heavily in dark areas and draw very few lines in light areas.  I’d like to see you slow this process down just a tiny bit to get these strands looking slick: your lines get a bit messy towards the ends from rushing. If you are not doing so already, you may find more success starting your preliminary sketch out in pencil and then going over that with the marker.  This way, you can figure out the form of the drawing easily and then erase any excess information. The next time you draw hair, take a pencil and track the way the hair falls on a head naturally.  It doesn’t fall exactly straight, and I can see this in the outside lines of the hair.  However, the inside lines are almost all straight.  Curving these strands could create more definition.

I personally am not familiar with Hooky, but I did a quick google search to get an idea of the art style. I can’t lie, it’s pretty adorable:

The reason I looked this up was because I wanted to look at where the ears lie on the head.  In your drawing, the ears are in line with the eyes. Again, starting out with a preliminary pencil drawing could help remedy this.  This way you can get the basic shapes down where they need to fall before going in with the rest of the drawing.  I recommend drawing the entire head shape and adding the hair afterwards.

The last thing I’d like to focus on is the eyes.  Eyes are something most artists struggle with, especially when they’re still learning. The biggest tip I have for you is to slow down, and draw the eyes step by step, constantly comparing the two together. Don’t try to perfect one eye and then start the other, you want them to be finished at around the same time.

So to conclude this critique, I’d like to review: slow down, start with a preliminary sketch.  You’re doing great so far, Josie.  This is a beautiful drawing and I can’t wait to see what you make next.


This next piece is a digital painting by Annika Downey.  You can view her portfolio at interact with her via Twitter @chimichannika.

Annika, I am a HUGE fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and looking at this piece fills my heart with warm nostalgia.  Your figures look great; the proportions of the body are accurate, and they sit in the scene nicely.  You nailed the color palette: it’s warm and inviting.  I can tell that a lot of time and love went into this piece of work and building up your skill.

Going back to my post two weeks ago about color, I have one small tip that could blow your mind and really take your color work to the next level.  Right now it appears that you’re making shadows by adding black.  This sometimes creates a muddy tone.  For the sake of having a focal area, take a look at Aang’s sleeves.  If you took the orange from this and used the color opposite it on the color wheel to make your shadows, you could have a really interesting color dynamic.


The other thing that I’d really like to see in terms of technique is more texture.  Varying up some of the line widths and creating harsher edges in the fabric and hair could make a world of difference.  Using interesting color combinations to create fabric folds and hair highlights would make this piece POP!  

The last thing that I would like to suggest is to look at a reference of real life people in this position, if you are not already doing so.  You’ve chosen a super dynamic position for your subjects, and it can be hard to capture motion.  Studying the curves of the human form could be a great asset to you: you’ve already got an incredible sense of proportion.  The trick is making the figures lifelike in their form.  How would Katara’s arm fall naturally?

Great job overall, I’m extremely impressed with this piece, and I cannot wait to see more from you!


This next piece is another digital painting, this time done by Alexsa of LexicalNuisance.  You can find her on twitter and instagram @lexicalnuisance. She also runs her own blog, which can be found here:

So Alexsa, I LOVE Animal Crossing, and you’ve captured the cuteness it entails beautifully.  This is truly the most adorable thing I’ve seen all week. Your outlines on Isabelle are super clean, and the pattern on her dress is believable: it forms to the dress, stretching out so the squares are larger towards the middle as if they are coming towards us. You have so many interesting textures in one piece, and I’m particularly interested in your floor: the perception you’ve created is super cool.

Everyone is probably going to get sick of hearing it, but I’d like to point out the same thing that I did in Annika’s work.  You’re shading with black in the curtain.  You could really play with some fun color in this piece.  Swapping that black out for something wild like purple could play off the green of her dress nicely.

Speaking of the curtain, stylistically it does not match the rest of the work.  I would like to see Isabelle blend into her surrounding a bit more, trying to make the styles match.  Isabelle is very graphic in her rendering: her figure isn’t shaded, she has black outlines.  The microphone matches her beautifully.  The floor beneath Isabelle carries out the linework, save for a small shadow underneath Isabelle.  Even the pawprint wallpaper in the background has some cohesion to it, as it feels as though it’s blurred into the background but the visible brushstrokes in the curtain don’t make it feel realistic in the rest of the space.    Blending this a tiny bit more and adding a stroke to the outside of it (it doesn’t have to be black!) could tie the entire piece together.

Overall, you did a wonderful job. Her smiling face makes me wanna smile, too.

Thank you to all of the artists you sent in their work!  This is the first of many critiques on this blog, so I can’t wait to see what else will be sent in!  If you have any art that you would like to send in for critique (anonymously or not)  I would love to see it!  Send it over to and it might just get featured in the blog.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!


2 thoughts on “Critique Week: The First of Many

    1. Absolutely! Always happy to help. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept any sort of comments on your work. After all, you created it. It’s your baby. But as you said, after stepping back, sometimes you realize it’s the best thing for both you and your work


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