Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Thoughtful Critique, by Mike Ciccotello

Be open to thoughtful criticism. It's important to listen and consider what a suggestion may bring. It is entirely possible that your illustration will become better. Try to understand where that person is coming from and why they are suggesting changes. You may learn something new.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Don't Let Go - Click to view larger image

At the same time, remember, a critique shouldn't be overly harsh. You didn't fail a test. We are all learning. A thoughtful critique should make you want to try harder, not give up. When you are involved in a critical discussion, ask questions. If someone says they don't like it, ask why. Don't accept a simple, "I don't know ... It just doesn't feel right." This creates a problem for the person being critiqued. Not only will it make them think their work is subpar, it won't give them a way to improve it. If you are ever in that situation, don't challenge the person, but try to guide the answer and pin-point where the problem lies. Is it the composition? Anatomy? Color? Emotion? Through a proactive discussion you may be able to figure out what the person meant.


Injured - Click to view larger image


Currently, I'm working on emotion. Specifically, I'm concentrating on the emotion in my characters' eyes. This is a process. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. All of the work I put into this process is good, it teaches, it gives experience. Recently, I signed with Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. She has been pushing me to explore my characters and challenging me to improve my work in many ways. I have found this incredibly productive and I'm learning from it. Rachel gives thoughtful critiques and presents them in a way for me to see her point of view. I am open to her suggestions and truly want to make the work better.

There will always be something to work on, something new to learn. By keeping an open mind, you will grow and improve.


 Teatime with Grampa - Click to view larger image


Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 
Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 


  1. Love the before and after critique images. Good tips on how to give a constructive critique. So important as Bad critiques can be so demoralizing and make you just want to toss the piece out. Looking forward to seeing your work get even better and better.

    1. Thanks, Diana. I think it's important on both ends. If everyone going into the critique is wanting the best outcome, you can get a really productive conversation going. I had a critique on Friday that REALLY opened my eyes to what was going on in my illustration. Now it's up to me to take it to the next level. It's not easy, but it's worth the effort.

  2. I tell you, I just adore your artwork, Mike---but you already know that ;) Looking at the before vs. after felt much like those challenges trying to see how many differences you notice between pictures. It's amazing how seemingly small, subtle things make such a difference. When someone knows what they're talking about and are picking up on things that you didn't when you were first rendering images, it's always important to consider what is being said and why, and if the suggestions are valid, I believe we have a very easy time seeing it. Excellent post, Mike :D