Been following this thread with mild interest. I have been a working artist for over 40 years. In school, my professor used 'peer grading' as opposed to instructor grading. He insisted that we be honest and forthcoming and said to us directly,
"If you think it sucks say you think it sucks; which does not neccesarily MEAN that it sucks; it only means that is your opinion."
That approach taught me/us many things: how to take critcism and recognize it for what it's worth, the neccesity for having thick skins (and man, do you need that in this line of work), and how to honestly critique another's work. At first, some feelings were hurt and egos bruised but we quickly learned the value of honest criticism instead of constantly hearing "Oh, that's great!", "That's wonderful", "How talented!"; which is really meaningless to the serious artist. Art is not about ego. And it's not about 'being nice'. I think his approach to grading was brilliant. One Friday we had our peer review. Nearly every person in the class thought a particular work was shitty, thought it sucked, was amatuerish, etc. The artist stood quietly, undaunted and listened to people rip his work apart. Finally, the prof turned to him and asked him if he had any response. The kid smiled and said
"Well, I think you're all full of shit. It's what I felt at the time, I worked hard at it, and I am satisfied with the way it turned out. He got an "