The "Post-Crit Elixer"

How to move forward after a critique.
By Catherine Howe, instructor

As one who has given and received countless critiques in the (too many to mention) years since I was in grad school myself, I would like to share with you some tips for making the most of your Thesis Project critiques.

  • The most important thing I can tell you is keep is talking! Do not clam-up or shut-down/shop-for-the-holidays just yet... Talk with your fellow students. Share ideas while the experience is fresh.
  • Write down the main ideas and comments that came from your critique and any questions you have about them.

So, what do I do with those ideas now?
Separate the ideas into the "macro" and the "micro"- in other words, identify the main points versus the trivial. This can be done with others if it is more fun.

1) Look through them and make a list of any structural or BIG issue comments that resonate with you but which will need to be addressed before moving on.

2) These macro issues will require some extended thought in the form of dreaming, scheming, what-if? explorations, and conversations with yourself. You may need to pull down some existing idols or get a New Year's makeover.

3) Re-visioning. Give yourself time but keep making things while you do it. The works you do while you're re-visioning can be "unimportant," and never need to see the light of day. Ask yourself questions and let the answers stew. Draw diagrams, write poems, look at paintings somewhere, read books, muse.

The "Micro" comments will be easier, if you agree something needs to change, change it.
You may have to go back to “the drawing board” in order to try something out. There’s no way to make something for the first time that isn’t, at some level, a risk. Sounds obvious, but it is hard to put new ideas/material in the middle of a work you have been laboring over. There is, however, no other way. You have to experiment, see what works, be willing to get it wrong.

4) Once you think you have something that might work, don't second guess yourself, try it!

5) Keep in constant dialogue with yourself. Do not change what does not, to your way of seeing, need changing. Do not assume that other people’s suggestions will always be the right ones to address a problem. Identify the problem underlying the suggestion and see what the "critter" inside has to say about solutions.

Catherine Howe, (detail of a work from the series, "Klytie", 2007), oil/canvas 52 x 48 in.


  1. Hi Catherine,
    I like the idea of separating comments into "macro/micro", it helps give perspective on how to receive and process the feedback. I think everything you mention still rings true to those of us who aren't in school anymore, great post! Keep them coming.

    Clara Lieu

  2. Hi Catherine--
    great advice.
    I think the sorting part is especially important and I would add that its a good idea to be open minded towards all (OK--most) input but also to realize one cannot and should not act on everything. With so many voices, things can get overwhelming.
    I think I am just rephrasing whatchoo say here...
    love, Judith

  3. It is not the critic who counts,
    not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,
    or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;
    whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood;
    who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again;
    who knows the great enthusiasms,
    the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course;
    who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
    and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly;
    so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
    who know neither victory or defeat."

    Theodore Roosevelt