The Gift of a Good Critique


We talk a lot about the importance of critiques in the kid lit community.

Ever had a critique that really stings? I find the ones that sting the most are those that have a good point (but a point I didn’t want to hear).

I’ve always loved drawing faces and two Christmases ago I decided to draw these little mini-caricatures on woodlice ornaments for a school fundraiser. They sold like hotcakes.


They were so popular that I decided to try selling them at an art show last Christmas. Again, they were popular and the more I drew, the better I got. I was pretty pleased with myself.

Then one lady asked if I would do a dozen ornaments for her entire family. But when I sent her a photo of the drawings she said that half of them bore no resemblance whatsoever to her loved ones. She was very polite and apologetic. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions, I sucked up my pride & offered to redo the ornaments. (And secretly swore that I’d never do portrait ornaments again!) The second time I did a pencil underdrawing and took even more time and care. She was happy with the new ornaments and was kind enough to purchase both the original rejected ornaments and the new ones.

I still do mini-portraits on paper & on ornaments but I’m much better at it now thanks to the lady who was brave enough to tell me she was disappointed. That my art did not meet her standards. I am grateful. As much as it stung, it was a gift that pushed me to improve.

This year, a customer said that she was so happy with her ornaments that she was showing them off and her friends could immediately tell who each portrait was.

So if you’ve received a stinging critique of your art or writing, consider how you might use it to propel you forward. And when you are asked for a critique, dig in deep and be polite but brutally honest (but use the sandwich technique because it makes it much more palatable).

7 thoughts on “The Gift of a Good Critique

  1. This was excellent, Marla! Sometimes I have to give myself a couple of days to let a critique sink in. And I love your ornaments!

  2. The critiques that resonate immediately as “right” actually feel good to me. It’s sends me into problem solving mode. The ones that just say “didn’t care for it” without specificity wash right off. But then there are the ones that tell me I missed the bus, because the reader completely misunderstood the story. Those sting :,(
    Always let specific feedback sink in. Obviously, if you had seen the point made, you would have fixed it before, so let it set before you understand what the feedback is saying.

  3. I love the ornaments! What a great idea!

    You’re spot on with your reflections on hard to hear critique. I think it’s hard not to take it personal and to use it to fuel your work to be better. I’m glad you have that perspective to propel you forward! Thank you for sharing.

  4. It takes a strong person to accept critique and grow from it! I can definitely see how it stings even more since the artist puts themself out there.

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