How To Critique Your Child’s Artwork

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With all the budget cuts and art-hating affecting schools so drastically, kids get an average of 2 1/2 minutes of art education per week, with 2 of those minutes spent cleaning up.

Adults need to step up and fill in a lot of these gaps where our children are being cheated. To help you ensure that the special child in your life learns some of the basic rules of art-making, I have prepared a little guide. (Homeschooling parents: feel free to use this as part of your curriculum.)

1. Always lead in with praise. When your kid brings home a finished project for your perusal, they’ll expect you to hang it on the refrigerator, so throw them a bone. Hang it for the afternoon, then you can start correcting it when they go to bed.


Humor: Critiquing your child's artwork •

2. It’s important to be thorough, but not overly harsh when correcting each mistake. They need to know they’ve done something wrong, but still feel free enough to use their imagination to correct the mistake.

3. Kids need to learn that line quality is king. If their drawings are all shaky and not well-placed, their drawing will fail, and no one will take them seriously. I like to use this catchy acronym when teaching this concept to my kids: MS. DLOYWF or, make strong deliberate lines or you will fail.

4. Color choices. They need to be shrewd and really bring their drawings to life through their color schemes. Nothing says amateur faster than misuse of complementary colors- or worse- overuse of tertiary colors! KWIM?

5. Composition is king. Time and time again, these kids don’t pay attention to how their subject matter fills and interacts with the space, and they simply must put more forethought into these decisions. It makes me sick when I see- yet again- a drawing of a cute little puppy- crammed onto the left side of the paper. The white space will swallow your subject up, people! Not cool.

6. Making the drawing isn’t enough. Kids should realize that they will have to not only explain the reasoning and intentions behind their drawings, they’ll also need to defend those choices to critics. Urge them to really delve into their subconscious to discover the driving forces behind their art-making.

I hope this has helped even a little bit with helping to hone your children’s art skills. Sometimes it’s tough to be the one to point out their shortcomings, but after all, you are your children’s first, and most important teacher.



  1. 11/29/2011 / 5:31 am

    You're like the Tiger Mom of the art world! Hey, that kind of honesty would have prepared us well for those harsh freshman year critiques at RISD!

    • 11/29/2011 / 5:27 pm

      I still get nervous thinking about some of those crits. I never got slammed by one, but I witnessed a few doozies.

  2. 11/29/2011 / 5:50 am

    That was undoubtedly the most helpful guide to critiquing a child's artwork I've ever read. It might be the only one I've ever read but that shouldn't discount it's comprehensiveness and clarity. MS. DLOYWF. Hell yeah.

    • 11/29/2011 / 5:26 pm

      It will come in handy- don't forget the acronym.

  3. 11/29/2011 / 6:51 am

    I like to hover over my boys and yell, "NEGATIVE SPACE! LEAVE SOME NEGATIVE SPACE!" when they threaten to fill the whole paper with scribbling.

    • 11/29/2011 / 5:25 pm

      You are a fine mom and a patient teacher- I like your approach.

  4. 11/29/2011 / 12:07 pm

    You are so funny! I like to tell my daughter who actually is dying to go to RISD in 7 years — look with your eyes not with your brain. Your brain will trick you. Really see what is there. Most lines are not straight or curves. They have wiggles. See the line. Find the line. And don't forget to draw the negative space.

    • 11/29/2011 / 5:22 pm

      She already has her college destination planned out!? I love her. Yes, it's actually hard to learn how to draw what you see…. but fun!

  5. 11/29/2011 / 6:11 pm

    Aw snap. My SIL is homeschooling my peanut nephews (yikes!) and I'm gonna send this to her. With your info for private sessions. Awesomeness. This whole thing. And you. Poke on the nose!

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