How To Give Better Comments
During our visit here at deviantART, upon submitting our deviations, what is expected next? Comments! However, here's a little fun past-time activity: take all the excellent, if not better, deviations comments in your gallery. Now take a look at all the deviation comments you've ever received. You will notice that good comments don't happen as often as they should. Although we all want good comments and to be better commenters ourselves, we have to act upon it instead of just sitting around and hoping to receiving nice comments after submitting something. Give, to receive.
Here I show you the basic concept of commenting, to make yourself a better commenter; and I don't mean being a 'good' commenter since everyone comments in his or her own way. That is why I use the word "better" instead of "good".
Most often you get quick comments which only express the viewers' first impression of the deviation, and avoiding going in-depth with what is actually there and besides the mere flash of colors and/or concept. This provides the artist with nothing except the mere knowledge that at least their art is cool, so skip the "Cool" or "Wow +fav" one-liners. If you are quick to comment simply to increase your comment count, I suggest you stop doing that. It goes no where and has no point because please bear in mind the concept of quality over quantity.
The whole point of commenting is to express both your positive and negative thoughts on whatever piece; the positive will act as compliments on the artist, while the negative will help them realize their mistakes. When we point out mistakes, we often do not know how to say it constructively, and in the end we tend to skip the negative all together, which is a big no-no. Speaking of which, if you have received the ultimate critique, do not fret; it is not directed to you as a person. Do not take them as personal attacks, and feel all mad and confused. This should be a helpful learning tool. If it is constructive, the person is safe. If they are just being mean, well, then you may file a report upon the event.
Comment Skeleton Structure
Here lies the basic concept of being a better commenter, even if you already know how to comment, applying this skeleton structure in your commentary posts will help you help others.
This is the best part in the skeleton structure; it provides the artist your view on his or her piece by freely expressing what you see. Here you express your feelings towards the art itself, for example, how it moves you. Putting your feelings into words rather than just saying 'cool' always gets the recognition of the artist [whose artwork you are commenting on], and even by others who have been reading through previous comments [in order to get some ideas]. Also, prior to commenting, I suggest you look at the art in full view. It would be much easier for you when coming up with your own interpretation. And of course it would be more fair on the artist.
Interpretation offers the artist a little understanding of yourself, of who you are, because art is a mutual share of connection; between you and the art. While the artist may not be out of the picture, he or she may step aside and observe how others observe their art. Before replying to comments and including your own interpretation, it is definitely worthwhile to read and understand that comment/critique very carefully. Art should be about interpretation when it is being viewed by someone else other than the artist himself/herself.
Try to imagine yourself seeing the same piece in an art museum. You step closer (full view), analyzing it, examine and appreciate the details your mind will begin to make up an individualistic interpretation. It is not about being right or wrong because everyone sees differently. Perhaps you'll see something different if you look at it again 5 minutes after. To hear your voice and to see how you connect with their art, is indeed a pleasure for every artist.
When critiquing a piece of work you might say to yourself, "I don't have an Art Degree, I should keep my mouth shut". That's not true. When art is being shown to the public, it is up for all sorts of comments and thoughts, so why not tell them what you see, including the negative? It is ok to point out the errors even if you do not know the artistic term for it; it still provides a realization to the artist. Before stating what seems wrong [to you], do read the deviation description for something the artist may have already covered, such as critiques on their own work and/or style, so as not repeat what has been said.
Critique is not something you can learn from an art school only; it's the errors you see and your ability to tell the artist just what you see in a constructive manner, with sincere suggestion for improvement. Many times you see low quality art, you would want to start critiquing since there are more things to point out for improvement compared to work of higher quality. Even in the masterpieces you can still find something to suggest for improvement, and as long as you are polite, this would not be an offence to the artist, so do not be afraid. The only way you may be hurting them is by candy coating with words like "Oh you can do it better next time". That is not critiquing. Avoid this at all cost. Be direct and firm.
For an example: If a deviation is a drawing of a hand, and the fingers just look wrong, simply point out what you see looks wrong. Such as: "It looks like one finger is out of proportion, like its much shorter than the rest. Perhaps you can look at your own hand for reference in drawing hands to get a better look at the autonomy". That should do it. Avoid something like: "The hand has one short finger! That's cute".
Although critique is inevitably related to what you know and how much you know about the process of creating art, and art itself, you can always use it to your advantage when giving a well thought-out and helpful comment.
After you have provided criticism(s), perhaps it is time to point out what you like about the art itself. Tell the artist exactly why you like the art, and not just by using one-worded phrases, e.g. "COOL!" State what you like in ways that proves the art has its strength. By doing this you give the well-round pat on the back to the artist, which will often give the artist some energy to smile, at least. Compliment on the things you like and do not state "I love the colors! I love the forms! I love the eyes!" You would just be stating the obvious. Try avoiding that as it has most probably been repeated. Put yourself in the artist's shoes. Doesn't it feel a BIT dull after getting the same comments over and over again?
A compliment should be followed by the reason for the compliment, i.e. just what you like about the piece. For an example, when saying you like the colors do not simply say, "I love the colors" and just leave it there. Put more thoughts into it by saying, "I love the colors, the way you use them effectively to set the mood in the art itself. That is what first caught my eye". As you can see it is more read-worthy than your ordinary "I love the colors!" So why do you love it? Artists often ask themselves that and do not bother asking you; they are busy reading more comprehensive and constructive comments, so they will simply glance over yours and just get it over with. You do not want that to happen, do you? Your efforts will then be rendered useless.
You will most probably never comment on the same piece again, so why not give it your best? No time? Make time, or leave it when you have the time. As I venture about the community, I've seen people complaining about being bored, with absolutely nothing to do. Well now you have something to do, and offer support to artists and to the community at the same time.
Skeleton: Ask Questions
This is an extra thing you may want to include in your comment. There are lots of times you wonder how the artist did that effect, or what tool they used in their art. If it hasn't already been mentioned in the description, just ask. There is no punishment for asking questions, often the artist would be glad to help you out, and if they do not, well, at least you asked. Asking questions provides a small interaction between you and the artist, where you can learn from those you admire. Although they may not reply you all too soon, they will eventually spill out what you need to know.
Questions will lead to interaction and might lead to friendship. So take it seriously and do not be annoying by asking questions that have already been answered. What sort of questions are you able to ask? Anything that might interest you, or if you want to learn more about the materials used, the tools, techniques, etc.
There it is, the basic skeleton structure to help you become a better commenter, so take this and apply it to your normal commenting style. If you are worried that it will change your style, fret not, because this is skeleton structure will slip on nicely with any comment body. This 'skin' will hold up the appearance of your comment, and enforce its standing. Although with the skeleton structure in place you will still need to work at your comments. Master them by experimenting with various styles in delivering comments.
Extra tips in making your comment a bit more professional:
Spell check, grammar check, and punctuation check:
Use MSWord for it, or any text editing program that may offer this feature. This will help your writing to be completely or at least almost error-free (Highly recommended).
It is best to revise what you have said to see if it is clearly written for the artist to understand. Do not have it all in a confusing bunch, otherwise what is the point? Revision helps you make changes in certain aspects of your comment so as enhance it, because when reading something after you have written it you would most likely be able to improve, by making it sound better, be more helpful, as well as appear more visual and more real.
English & Other Languages:
Use simple English if you can; don't burst out your vocabs which may be an inconvenience to the artist as not everyone's first language is English. I encourage you to use English if English is not your first language. Practice makes perfect. However, if you feel that expressing in your language may better benefit the artist, be sure that the artist speaks and reads the same language.
If you feel the urge to use them, few should be fine, as too many will be a distraction.
It will take a lot out of you and your time in deviling one of your most thought-out comments (by applying the comment skeleton structure). It is good to keep on giving until you feel your fingers need resting. Your dedication will help so many, and what better way then to give back than to give a better comment? Build up your endurance, the more you do it, the less work it will be. Do not forget to have fun when commenting though; this may seem like a chore, but it is only so if you think of it that way.
That is all there is for the basic concept to give a better comment. If you adopt this skeleton structure you will definitely deliver more successful comments, which the artist and those who may be reading your comment can really relish upon. It provides a sense that you care, that you have looked at their piece in depth and did not just glance at it. With the thousands of submissions deviantART receives on a daily basis, you will see that comments are rarely given, and good comment even rarer. Despite the facts, use this skeleton structure to your advantage; you will definitely stand out among the sea of "Cool" and "Wow" comments.
I hope this guide is beneficial to you in some way. If you want to stand out in your art, in being an individual, then why not do stand out in every aspect, in everything you do? Even commenting?
I would like to thank all 'bad' commenters out there for encouraging me to write this guide. I dedicate this to you.
Project Director: ZirTuan
Project Editor: snowmask