When we observe art, our minds go through a process. This process naturally translates into the steps of art criticism. Following these steps will help us evaluate art effectively.
It is important for us to be able to evaluate art. If we are artists, we must recognize what is good and what is bad, so that we may become more successful at our craft. If we are patrons, we must be able to discern success from failure as well. If we are teachers, we must teach our students the mental process that people naturally go through when they look at and take in a work of art. This way our students are better equipped to create successful artwork on their own, and understand why and how their artworks are digested.
When I teach the steps of art criticism to my students, I have them say this word-“DAIJ”. Yes, I know-“DAIJ” is not a word. I am very ridiculous about it. I say silly sentences like, “Have you guys played any DAIJ ball this summer?” The students may think that I’m crazy, but they remember that word-“DAIJ”. DAIJ stands for the steps of art criticism.
D=Description. The first step in art criticism is description. When we look at a work of art, our minds naturally take notice of the general information that is present. For example, if we take The Mona Lisa, we notice, “Hey, this is a painting of a woman.” When critiquing, start here with a simple description of what is seen in the artwork.
A=Analysis. Analysis refers to how we see the elements and principles of art. In this step, our minds take in the lines, values, and colors of the artwork. We also may take notice of the balance, proportion, rhythm, and unity found within the work. In a critique, students should point out what is happening with these specific elements and principles. Many times, the formal qualities of the artwork are what makes the art successful. Students should understand how these qualities work and what makes them successful in artwork. They should also be able to discern when these formal qualities are unsuccessful as well.
I=Interpretation. Often times, students will automatically skip to this step. We look for meaning in everything, so this is natural. In this step, we explore the meaning of the artwork. What is the artist trying to communicate to us? There are no wrong responses here.
J=Judgment. The last step in art criticism is judgment. Is this work of art successful? It is important if we are teaching students, to guide them in this step. Remind students that the work of art may not be their favorite, but it may still be successful. This way, we teach students to appreciate good art, even if we personally do not like it.
Understanding the steps to art criticism and implementing them in a structured way in critique, will help you create better artwork.