How to critique art, a guide for your best work!

Do you need to critique of your own work?  How to critique art is a short guide on how create a better painting.

Why do you need to be able to judge for yourself whether your work makes the cut?

Wouldn’t you like to know what gallery owners, competition judges, art critics, and some discerning art lovers do when they view your art?

Sure you do!

An art critique will allow you to be able to take a step back, and look at your painting as if you were one of the above or a customer interested in purchasing your art.

It is difficult.  But this article on how to critique art helps make what seems impossible, possible!

Follow this list of things and art critique your own work.  It will help you immensely in your next endeavor at the canvas!

Learn and Master Painting

How to critique art, first things to look at:

Center of Focus:

And effective center of focus will make the difference in whether your painting is a picture or a work of art.  It gives you viewer a sense of direction, flow within the piece.  Its sets and establishes the priority in what’s most important in the work.  All the other elements are of interest, but take a back seat to the focal point.  Have you got one in your painting?


Is there a feeling, a sense of mood within the work.  Ask yourself, does it convey happiness, joy, sadness, anger, concern, etc.  Or is it just a picture of a grape?  If your piece can conjure up a strong emotion when viewed, it will be way on its way to being a successful piece.


This can be tough when planning a work.  But ask yourself, what can I do differently, out of the normal way of seeing things, out of the ordinary in showing something better within the piece.

Design – Composition:

I have several pages discussing this on the web site but honestly, there are volumes of works in print and online devoted to this one subject.   Why is it important?  Get it wrong, and no matter how beautiful you paint that rose, it will not capture some ones else heart.  Click here to see how composition in flower painting is explored. It opens in a new window so you don't lose your place here.

Here are some basic questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are Interesting shapes used?
  2. A variety of sizes within these shapes?
  3. Is there a design scheme? Dominant shapes, emphasis within the shapes?
  4. Are there geometric forms utilized?  Do they complement each other or create tension across the canvas?
  5. Does it attract attention to itself, or provide a back bone for the subject?
  6. Is there balance?
  7. Are there elements, sub elements, and repetition of elements?
  8. Is there Diversity within unity?

Here are some things to think about also:

Tonal Value:

  • Do you have a complete tonal value range, from lightest lights to darkest dark? 
    Is the piece restricted in tonal range?  At the high end, creating a lighter mood?  At the darker end creating a darker, sad or sinister mood?


  • Has color been used to convey mood, depth, harmony within the work?  Was it used to help center the focal point?  Are color fundamental used, complementary, analogous or themes employed?

Perspective and other elements:

  • Is it utilized?  Is it correct?  Is depth shown through correct use of perspective?  Is depth shown through correct use of hard and soft edges?  Are elements pulled forward by the use of these hard and soft edges?


  • Has Style, Pattern, Color, or Technique been used to establish unity?


  • Are technical skills in the handling of the material well evident?

How to critique art, getting a little more personal.  Judging your own painting.

OK, You’ve looked at your painting and decided the first group of questions in Part I of this series have you pretty much ready to frame and ship your work to the gallery.  Lets take one more look though with the bad things that may not readily stand out, but will hurt your chances at that first prize or sale of your masterpiece.

Go through this list, even better, ask a fellow artist to work through the list with you.  One that you trust, but doesn't mind giving you the truth!

  • Inaccurate drawing?  Is there something in your painting that doesn’t make sense.  Can’t fit the logic of normalcy?  Tilted horizon on the still life shelf?  (7 petals on the Lily kind of thing)?

This painting below sat in the gallery for a bit before the thing that was bugging me hit me while reviewing photographs of the work.  Can you tell me what is wrong with the painting?  I'll give you the answer below in the follow up photograph.  The painting was reworked in order to fix this error.  The issue became apparent when reviewing the reference photo and seeing the multiple blooms had intertwining petals.  No one noticed it, but in the future, a real Lily lover would have picked right up on this boo-boo.

  • Lack of originality/imagination?  Is the subject trite, dull?  No punch to it?
  • Element Discrepancy?  Have you painted the snow leopard in a jungle environment?
  • Style and Quality Discrepancy?  Have you started a realistic work, and resorted to abstract or impressionistic elements that seems out of place.  Great looking mountains, but the Elk need lots of work?
  • Mood, feeling or message conveyed?  Is it a dead painting?  Or is there life within it!
  • Plagiarism?  Have you copied another’s work, photograph, and presented as your own?
  • Poor Presentation?  Paint bulges, brush hairs, scratches, bad framing, fingerprints, poor varnish coating, etc.
  • Keep good records!  I know you keep an art journal. 


Use it as your own oil painting guide!  This is a great way to keep track of your overall progress as a painter. 

Once you’ve gone through all these questions, take a picture of your work and paste it into your album.  Anything that stands out in the negative arena, make note of it within the journal. 

Anything that stands out in your mind that you know you did right, enter it in your journal.  

In this way, you will be able to see the progress of your work as the years go by.  You will be reminded of mistakes and how to avoid them in future work. 

No one needs to see your personal critiques.  It’s like a dairy.  Just for you!

(Did you find the error?  Yea, the 7-petal hint should have given it away, but most readers skim read, and you may have passed over the clue)

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