Write a Critique Letter
PCAP artists greatly appreciate and benefit from critical feedback from viewers of the exhibition. The Prison Creative Arts Project solicits critique letters for our artist community from practicing artists, art teachers, art students, and others with a strong background in the visual arts. If you would like to provide a critique letter to an artist in the Annual Exhibition, please follow the instructions below. If you have any questions about the critique letter process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidelines for Critique Letter Submission:
- Find a piece by an artist you would like to write to. We ask that you prioritize critiquing an artist who has not yet been critiqued on their pieces (many artists have more than one piece in the show). You can see which pieces have already received a critique letter on this spreadsheet.
- Once you’ve selected a piece, fill out your name, contact information, and instructor name (if applicable) in the same spreadsheet.
- Write your critique. Guidelines for content and a sample letter are below. If possible, please type your critique to maximize legibility. In the past, people have observed the work, written a rough draft, and then typed it.
- Copy the artwork log number, artwork title, and artist name in its entirety on the header of your letter. Use this as the file name of your letter. E.g. 655-20 _Country-Western Ants_Rodeo Cholo
- Please sign the letter only with your first name. We are not permitted to send your letter to the artist if it includes your last name.
- Email the letter(s) as attachment to 25th_Cr.email@example.com. If your letter is handwritten, please email a clear image of the letter or mail the letter to PCAP office (1801 East Quad, 701 East University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109).
Writing the Critique:
When you are writing the letters, keep in mind that this might be the only feedback the artists are getting. Give positive and constructive feedback. Try to address both the technique and the content of the piece. Please prioritize being as specific as possible and not overusing generic phrases such as “Your work is great.” Think of having your work critiqued. What kind of feedback do you want?
Be aware that any suggestions that come from someone from outside prisons carry a lot of weight. Don’t tell the artist what to do or what direction to take, but make suggestions that they may want to follow. If for example, the drawing is all in a very light value, you could say “I wonder if you intentionally wanted to create a light effect, or if you were afraid to use darks in the drawing. If you want to create drama with light and dark, don’t be afraid to try that. You could experiment with seeing how the effect is different when you have a wide or a narrow range of lights and darks.”
Your letter could address:
- How does this piece make you feel?
- What stands out the most when you first see the work?
- What strengths and/or the areas for improvement do you see in the piece?
- What are some themes that you see in the artwork?
- What are some other themes, techniques the artist might try?
- You may also talk about technical aspects such as style, composition, line quality, color, contrast, use of materials, content.
- A special note on content: for many artists this is the first time they are putting a piece into the world that is personal and meaningful. It is also one of the only ways to communicate from prison. So your critique could be very meaningful and valuable to them.