Wappingers Central Schools

    Fine Arts Department


    Critiquing Process Guide



    Secondary Schools

    Complied By

    Robert Wood









    New York State Education Department


    The New York State Art Teachers Association


    Wappingers Central Schools

    Robert F. Jutton, Coordinator































    Long Range State Goal:  To involve teachers in professional development activities on developing quality learning situations with valid and reliable assessments at the elementary, intermediate, commencement, and sequence levels in dance, music, theater, and visual arts.


    Timeline: Ready a Commencement Level assessment ready for administration statewide in May – June 2002, and three additional assessments (Commencement Major Sequence Level, Intermediate Level, and Elementary Level) to be either completed or under development by June of 2004.  The anticipated completion for all four assessments is June of 2007.


    The following information was complied from a variety of State obtained sources including N.Y.S.A.T.A., the New York City Regents for the Arts,  and a variety of nationally developed assessments.





































    By utilizing the information in this packet, students will:


    1. demonstrate a knowledge of the State designed format of the critiquing process.
    2. demonstrate an ability to use the critiquing process  in evaluating a work .
    3.    demonstrate an ability to apply the critiquing process to personal and peer work, ultimately developing extensions in areas of interest or concentration.

















    The Critique Process……………………………………………………………………………….5


    Packet:  “How To Critique a Work of Art”………………………………………………………..7


    Sample Critique Worksheet………………………………………………………………………..14


    Critique Rubric for Foundation Courses…………………………………………………………...15


    Rubric Development………………………………………………………………………………..16


    Sample Art Critique Rubrics……………………………………………………………………….18


    Suggestions for Success……………………………………………………………………………20


















    Summary:  The Art Critique Process


    When you become engaged in the area of art criticism it is like playing the role of the detective You in quire and assume that the artist has a secret message hidden within the work of art.  Your role will be to solve the mystery and undercover the hidden message.


    Your investigation should utilize five specific tasks:

                What do I see? (description)

                How is the work organized? (analysis)

                What is happening? Or What is the Artist trying to say (interpretation)

                What do I think of the work? (judgment)

                Where do I go from here? (reflection)


         Begin by collecting facts and clues.  Be factual.  Don’t invent ideas or make guesses.  Now you can begin to make connections between the work and your ides or beliefs related to the artwork.  Finally, express your personal ideas, likes and or dislikes.



         One of the first acts in art criticism is to create a list of the things you see within the artwork.  Look and observe the “whole” work of art.  Be objective.  Record only the facts.  Include the size, medium, style, etc.



         As you complete the process of “description”, begin to pay attention to the elements and principles of art.  This process is assisted with a formalist approach to gathering information. Consider line, texture, shape, color, as well as rhythm, movement, balance, proportion, variety, emphasis, and unity.



         When you review the information you have gathered through description and analysis, you can now begin the process of interpretation and ask yourself, “What is happening?” and What is the artist trying to convey?”  You convey the summary of the collection of facts you gathered.  Utilize the clues you found.  Interpretation should be founded on observation and your reflection upon the facts.



         This is the exciting process where you present your ideas and opinions. This is about what you like, dislike, or propose an alternative vision about the work.  Remember to be honest, expressing your ideas that are supported by information that you have gathered.

         When you become engaged in the process of judging art, you might want to relate your ideas to historical periods, art styles, specific artists and their artwork, or theories such as imitationalism, formalism, or emotionalism. Many art critics believe any theory to judge art is a form of imitationalism.  Others believe it is vitally important to utilize the principles and elements of art (texture, color, line, etc.)  to make connections, calling this process formalism. Others believe the artwork should speak to the viewer through his / her emotions.  This theory believes the work communicates a mood or emotionalism.



         Reflection is a very important component of the Art Critique. This is an area where you critically record your approach to work, discovery, statement of belief, original ideas, how you made connections to the entire process, and how you approach the investigation of works of art.  Suggest extensions and future work.  Reflection is open ended.



























    How To Criticize a Work of Art


         Doing art criticism is like playing detective.  You must assume that the artist has a secret message hidden inside the work. Your job is to solve the mystery and find the message.


         You will learn the special five step system that will help you find the hidden messages in art. The five steps, which MUST be taken in order, are description, analysis, interpretation, judgment, and reflection.


           “What do I see?” (description)

           “How is the work organized?”  (analysis)

    “What is happening?” and “What is the artist   trying to say?” (interpretation)

           “What do I think of the work?”  (judgment)

           “Where do I go from here?”  (reflection)


         First you will collect facts and clues.  Then you will make guesses.  You will decide what you think the artist is trying to say.  Next,  you will express your personal likes and dislikes.  Finally, you will decide what further action to take?   More research?   An inspired project?








         To begin art criticism, make a list of all the things you see in the work.  This step is meant to slow the pace.  Slowing down helps you notice things you might otherwise miss.

         During this step, you must be objective.  In other words, give only the facts.  For instance, if you describe a portrait or mask, you must say what you actually observe. Do not make guesses about what you see. Save the guessing for later. If you see figures and you cannot tell whether they are female or male, simply list them as people.

         Every description should include the size of the work and the medium used.  You will usually find dimensions, medium, etc. given with references for each work.   The first dimension number listed is always the height and the second is always the width.  If there is a third dimension, it is the depth.  Listing these sizes will help you visualize the actual work of art. Describe what you see.










         During analysis, you are still collecting facts.  Now, however, you will pay attention to the elements and principles of art.  You will study how the artist has used each element and principle.

         For example, notice the shape of the figure and facial expression in the portrait or the mask. Observe the use of color, texture, line, shapes, and forms created using lines formed by clothing, carvings, the surface texture of hair, skin, fabric, metals, and so on.

    List each way the elements and principles were used to convey rhythm, movement, balance, proportion, variety, emphasis, and unity. You may want to seek supporting information about how artists use the elements and principles of art in their work.














         During this step, you have two questions to answer.  “What is happening?” and “What is the artist trying to say?”  You will interpret (explain or tell the meaning of)the work. It is here you can make guesses.

         Interpretation is the most difficult art criticism step for some people.  But it can also be the most creative and the most rewarding.

         You must use your intelligence, imagination, and courage.  You must not be afraid to make an interpretation that is different from someone else’s. 





         How you interpret a work of art will depend on what you have done and seen in your lifetime. However, your interpretation should be based upon facts and clues you collected during the first two steps. Your interpretation can express you feelings, but you feelings must be backed up by observation.








         In step four you will judge whether or not the work succeeds or fails.  This is the time to express your opinions.  No one can tell you what you like or dislike.  Remember to consider the cultural meaning behind each work of art.  However, you must make up you own mind.





         To make a good judgment, you need to be honest with yourself.  You need to reflect upon the information you gathered in steps one, two, and three. You need to know why you feel the way you do.  For example, look at the portraits and masks.  How do you feel about them?  Revisit the elements and principles of art, but remember many ancient cultures did not consider the elements and principles of art.  How do you think the way you feel might affect your reaction to your work.  Express your opinion completely and clearly.






    Theories of Judging Art


         People who study or judge art sometimes use certain theories that say how a work should be considered.   Critics regularly use three of these theories:   imitationalism, formalism, and emotionalism.

         Some people  think art should imitate what we see in the real world. Using this theory to judge art is called imitationalism.

         Others feel the most important part of a work is the use of the principles and elements of art. According to this theory, called formalism, the work is successful if the textures, colors, lines, and so on, are organized properly.

         Still others believe art must speak to the viewer through her or his emotions.  This theory says the most important part of the work is the mood the artist communicates.  This theory is called emotionalism.














         This is where you reflect upon the entire process on How to Criticize a Work of Art. Revisit your investigation of portraits and masks and the four steps of description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment.   Look at the collection of facts and clues.  During description, was it easy to be objective? What did you discover? During analysis, were you still collecting facts?  How did you use the elements and principles of art?  Were they helpful?  Was supporting cultural information enlightening and helpful? During interpretation, did you answer the questions “ What is happening?” and “What is the artist trying to say?”  As a collaborative group wer you able to reach consensus?  How did you express you feelings?  During judgment, did you express your opinions? Were you honest with yourself about your beliefs and feelings?  Which Theories of Judging Art did you pursue?   Was  the theory helpful?  Did you maintain a portfolio of your work, and does, the portfolio document your research, work overtime, and your reflections about art criticism?   What extensions will you recommend or pursue?   Enjoy your reflective writing!






    Art  Critique                         Name___________________________

    How to Criticize a Work of Art


    Record what you observe about a work of art.  Be specific.


    I selected the work by___________________________________________________

































    knowledge of

    the art criticism

    process through




    Brief or no use of critical process.  Judgment, if any is without justification or relationship to inventory, elements, or principles.  Unable or chooses not to  pursue additional research.

    Demonstrates knowledge of the art criticism process by addressing each of the  five steps along required parameters, and concluding with a suggestion for future extension.

    Demonstrates understanding of the critical process through thorough application of each step, concluding with personal opinion and  synthesis of work into a original extension.

    Demonstrates the independent use of the critical process to comprehend, revise, and or produce creative bodies

    of work.

    Uses visual arts



    to describe, interpret

    and analyze

    art work

    (product outcome)

    Briefly describes work using little or no art terminology. Fails to demonstrate understanding of organization of elements.  Fails to justify meaning of work.

    Demonstrates ability to describe work objectively, recognizes work in terms of elements and principles with a related attempt to meaning of work.

    Demonstrates the ability to objectively inventory what is seen, to analyze construction referring to elements and principles, and  states a clear  meaning of the work.

    Demonstrates the detailed comprehension of  objective inventory.  Demonstrates ability to independently describe construction of work through inter-relationship of elements and principles, and supports this with historical reference.  Relates personal thought and experience in reaching a  clear, concluding meaning to work.


    Brings a personal


    with justification


    Personal opinion is lacking or unsubstantiated (no relationship to critical process)

    Demonstrates ability to reach a conclusion and judgment through the structure or the critical process.

    Demonstrates an ability, through the critical process to reach  an interpretation of the work, clearly supporting judgment with reference to art terminology, elements, principles and historical reference.

    Demonstrates the ability to personally evaluate a work  using personal, (original), imaginative (abstract/conceptual), and historical references to support conclusion or judgment. Uses work as catalyst for introspection and analysis of self or own work.


    knowledge to

    future applications, i.e. critical writing, artwork,




    Failure to clearly demonstrate reflection of the critical process  Application, if any, is repetitive, lacking synthesis.

    Demonstrates knowledge of critical process  by applying reflection into a project extension

    Demonstrates understanding  of critical process by reorganizing or developing extensions of the criticized work.

    Demonstrates comprehension of work through independently motivated  or invented applications




    Rubric Development


    Rubrics can demystify;  Rubrics can clearly define what we are asking the students to do.


    Rubrics can document the criteria , but don’t over process


    When developing the rubric, organize with a distinct variation within the criteria.   Start by describing the distinguished level of criteria achievement; the “Wow!”


    Design your lessons backwards, starting with the assessment task and ending with the instructional activity.


    What specific knowledge and/or skills do I want to teach and assess?

    What would be an exemplary performance look like?

    What kind of evidence must I have from each student to assess for desired outcome?

    What king of task(s) will provide it?


    What would be an interesting experience?






    Valid Tasks (vs. Activities)


    Apply this test to your proposed tasks:


    Could the task be done well, but the targeted outcome still not be achieved?


    Will the products / performances be complex enough to reflect all the required criteria?


    Then the proposed task is either invalid or insufficient!






































































    Suggestions For Success


    Although students will be required to demonstrate how to use The Critique Process accurately and successfully, the steps can be clarified and utilized in a variety of classroom applications, from the formal to informal.   Informal uses of the process in oral, written, historical, project, process, peer, self, and teacher-student settings can reinforce and condition students to recognize steps and properly apply critiquing methods.