Sunday, May 29, 2016

Take Advantage of a Good Critique

Critiques are invaluable especially early in the process, but should become a permanent practice for the long run.  Even the best artists do this.  If you paint with other painters, ask them to look at your work while they are taking a break.  Return the favor.  A growing number of professional artists offer critique services online for a fee.  If you follow artists via social media or email you can ask if they are willing to do this, even if they do not advertise the service.  Ask the artists whose work you admire and are known to be good instructors.  Most workshops end with a critique, usually of the work done during the workshop.

Recently I had the opportunity at the end of a workshop to bring in a painting from home that was giving me trouble.  The critique was extremely helpful and I will show you what I did as a result.

First of all,  here is the reference photo I used for this studio piece.  It is a scene very close to my house.  I live in a VERY GREEN region and the typical lagoon scenes are very complex.  My goal is to find a good approach to these scenes.  So, here is the reference-

Green, right?  Maybe not the best choice for a reference, but I have many paintings in my files (see post from March 20th) which are good examples of excellent all green paintings by other artists.  It can be done!  Here is the image of my first try-

I managed to knock down the greens by using a lot of red and violet near-blacks, but  I knew that the painting was not working and didn't know why.  Here is the critique-

1.  Big bad green shape to the left.  I had tried to avoid the parallel lines of green but made a bad shape as a result.  I thought it looked like an alligator's head but was informed it looked more like a molar.

2.  The focal point on the upper left is too close to the upper edge of the painting.  The viewer's eye stops there and stays there.  No movement.  I had decided to make this a nocturne, though it wasn't.  I added a moon on the upper left and tried to make a night sky.  The moon needs to be lower, is too bright for a moon and there needs to be some light on the water to help move the eye around.

3.  The darks should be more united, which always improves a composition.

First I painted over the already dry painting for practice.  I had so much thick paint on the moon that moving it would be difficult.  I decided to start over with a slightly larger panel and try again.  Here is the second painting-

Molar gone, like a trip to the dentist.  Moon is now in a much better location and not as bright though the image might not make that obvious.  There is light on the water which balances the moon and helps move the eye around.  It is debatable that the darks are more united though I tried- more work on that would help.  The previous molar might be too much of a circle now and eliminating some of it would help unite the darks...

I took notes during the critique and made up my mind to address them right away. Painting it again was very helpful.  This will carry forward to every painting I do from here on and will help me develop my own critique skills.  Of the many things we have to learn, critiquing is another skill to study.

And here is an example of a successful green painting by James Richards.  How did he even DO this?

Thanks for checking in- and enjoy your art journey.