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5 Tips to Evaluate the Quality of Your Work

Years ago, I sat in my painting class, laboring away to create a photo-realistic painting of my idol, Audrey Hepburn. I struggled greatly in the beginning, trying to get the proportions correct with my sepia outlines so it wouldn’t look like a caricature. I built the painting up little by little, adding shadows, then pigments, then highlights. After a great amount of time and struggle, I stood back and looked at it and pronounced it completed.

That’s when my painting teacher, Felix Ampah, walked by. “Hmm…” he started, looking at my work and then at the photo I’d been referencing, “looks like there’s a lot more information in here”—he pointed to her cheek—”and here”—he swept his hand along the virtual Audrey’s lip and chin. “Much more to do!” he concluded, my own Mr. Miyagi sending me back to the fence.
The completed painting
Feeling defeated, I examined the photo and my painting. Sure enough, there was more “information” there—subtle changes in the shadows and highlights within the areas he pointed out. I worked the rest of the class and the next filling in “the information” that had escaped my eye on the first round. And when the painting was really completed, I felt it was my best work yet!

The lesson I learned from this experience I carry with me today: little adjustments make a big difference in the quality of a concept, and ultimately in my clients’ satisfaction.

Artist or not, here are some tips for judging the quality of your own work:
1) Walk away and come back. Often we're too attached to what we've created to view it objectively. Taking some time away then viewing it with fresh eyes can reveal obvious errors or omissions.

2) Ask yourself two questions: Does it meet my clients' standards? Does it meet my OWN standards? Your work should meet both questions to your satisfaction.

3) Request a peer review. Ask a colleague or group of peers for honest feedback. Let them know you're willing to exchange the favor for them.

4) Print it out. Often, you'll catch mistakes on a draft that's in your hands vs. on the computer screen.

5) View it in another way. My friend Cheryl, a painter, evaluates her work by holding it up to a mirror. Seeing the piece in reverse reveals errors in perspective she may have missed otherwise. And back when I was making exhibits, we had a client ask us to smear Vasoline on our glasses and try to read a graphic we created to simulate how it would read to someone with low vision.

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