Art criticism is not a mystery. Sometimes we wonder what criteria have been used by professional art critics, because our opinions may not agree at all with theirs. Most professional art critics follow the four principles of art criticism listed below. A few critics will let their personal choices influence them to a greater extent than being led only by these analytical principles. Opinions are always based on a belief system, so, naturally, the opinions of one who knows Christ will likely be opposed to one who is totally "in the world" and submerged in the world system. Artworks fall into two main categories: successful and unsuccessful. Some artworks demonstrate a successful use of art elements and principles, but the subject matter is either received or rejected. Sometimes the subject matter of an artwork will cause a viewer to completely reject the artwork without any consideration of the use of the art elements and principles. Other artworks are accepted based upon content alone (usually because of sentiment), ignoring whether or not there is the successful use of art elements and principles. Some artworks are neutral in that there is no overt message other than its existence for the sake of using art elements and principles successfully.
There are four basic evaluation principles applied to artwork. All of these are subjective (even the first one, because of what and how you choose to describe). The four principles are:
1. DESCRIPTION: Describe the subject matter. If there is no subject, describe the shapes and colors. Describe the line quality, spaces, color relationships, etc.
2. ANALYSIS/DESCRIPTION: How are the design elements used and organized? What is the strongest part? How is value used? Is there a range of values? Is it mostly monochromatic? How has line been used to create movement? Would you take away or add anything to this artwork? Why or why not?
3. INTERPRETATION: What do you think is the main idea of the artwork? What mood or emotion is portrayed? How does this artwork relate to your experience? Why do you think this artwork exists?
4. EVALUATION: Is the artwork good or not? Support your opinion with your conclusions from steps 1-3.
Students can be taught how to critique artwork fairly and at the same time do it in a constructive rather than a destructive or judgmental manner. For younger students, simply identifying whether or not the lesson objectives were met and how is enough. Vocal judgment of value is strongly discouraged. Junior high and high school students must think more analytically, and learn to self-critique objectively. Rubrics are given in K-8 and high school curricula to assist the students and the instructor in this process.
STUDY THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLE OF FORMAL ART CRITICISM OF THIS IMAGE: