Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Critique your "younger" self.

In May I showed an example of a painting that was critiqued by a real professional and the changes I made based on that critique when I repainted the same scene later.  As I said then, never pass up an opportunity to learn from someone more accomplished.

Unfortunately there are not enough of those opportunities, at least for me.  Earlier this year I worked my way through a couple of boxes of my older paintings in order to make space for newer work.  Some of these had never left the studio but many had been in frames in various shows and on my website and never sold.  On average they were painted 3 years before.  I had no trouble putting many in the "to the landfill" pile.  (Yes, I know I could have painted over the canvases and I'm going to address that in a future blog.)  But there were quite a few that didn't look that bad and I found myself trying to think of ways to improve them.  It dawned on me that there is a more accomplished painter in my own home- me!  At least compared to me several years ago.  It became a fun exercise.  After all, if I was going to pitch them I had nothing to lose by trying to make them better, and it was a chance to practice my critiquing skills.  I found that in some cases just a few brushstrokes made a big difference.  If the basic composition wasn't good I didn't bother.  In some cases the focal point needed more development, the edges needed work, the values/temperatures needed a push and the canvas often needed more paint.

Here are two examples-

This was a 1 1/2 hour plein air study.  The paint is thinly applied, the foreground doesn't have a lot of interest, and the intended center of interest (the grass islands in the upper right area) doesn't stand out very well.

I added paint and brightened up the colors in all the grasses in the light, especially on the upper right area, and I added a few brighter highlights in the foreground.  I made the paint thicker in the blue sky reflections but left the dark reflections thin.

Here is another quick plein air piece.  I liked the light and shadow areas and was fairly happy with the contrast between the two.  I was very bothered by the 3 vertical lines formed by the straight tree trunk and the door frame.  The paint in much of the foliage was thinly applied and the shadows on the light side of the building were too spotty and distracting.

I eliminated the door.  If you didn't see the house yourself you would assume it was located outside of the painting.  I eliminated some of the dark shadows and tried to connect the darks as much as possible hoping to suggest a window.  I added paint to the sky and the cooler shadow areas, still leaving some thin areas there and put in a few thicker highlights on the foliage.  I also lightened up the roof a bit.

As I started to write this blog I realized something else.  I thought I was good about photographing my paintings for my records.  I had two examples that I really wanted to show, better than these, only to realize that I didn't have a photo of the "before" painting. Let that be a lesson to me...

So, pull out your old stuff and get busy!

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