Friday, June 12, 2009

June critique 2

I am having a dreadful time with my beat up old computer. If this post should end in mid sentence, appear upside down, or in Mandarin I have been defeated. It has grown progressively worse over the last several weeks and has now become nearly unusable. My lovely and patient wife, who is my tech expert is going to rebuild it for me this weekend. I will try to get this post out as best I can tonight. I feel like Van Johnson in one of those old WWII movies, flying a B17 back to England trailing smoke and on one engine with holes shot in the fuselage. As the camera cuts to leaking hydraulic fuel spurting from the nacelle around the one functioning engine it sputters and coughs while the wheel bucks in his hands, smoke starts coming out of the instrument panel......Mayday, Mayday,

Lets see if I can be useful and crit one or two last pieces before I ditch in the water.

I just don't quite know what= to say about this tater picture. But I will try. I think it sits uncomfortably close to the rabbet of the frame on the left hand side.The color temperature is uniform over the entire piece also. If it was cool in the lights and warm in the shadows it would be more interesting. I think in order to paint a tater effectively you need to have a lot of handling going on.The tater itself won't bring visual excitement to the piece the same way a beautiful nude might. Visual excitement will have to be installed into a tater. Expressive brushwork, heightened color, glow, hot and cold passages all would help make this a more compelling painting. If you were to shove a knitting needle through that potato you would get some bizarre narrative quality that would make it seem edgy and contemporary. Either way this thing needs more going on. I can imagine Rembrandt doing this well. But this is just a little too matter of fact. I also think it would benefit from having a reflected light on the right hand side to complete the description of the form over there. ( the computer is madly ins=ertin=g =e=qual signs and I am highlighting them and deleting them as fast as I can, =). The s=cr=e=en is flashing =an=d= =d=i=m=m=ing=Mayday ,M==ayday=

OK, That's enough of that! Now I am on my daughters computer that she has kindly allowed me to borrow for a little while, I will continue without all of the glitches.

Here's a painting done up in the White Mountains, near me and it looks like great location. I like the very convincing atmospheric perspective in the background. The first problem with this painting is the difficulty I have getting in to it. It would benefit from having a clear path through the foreground and into the background. That pile of rocks serves as as a wall over which I must climb to continue. A little bit of arrangement would make that problem go away.

If I were to try to solve the problem I would simplify all of those little lights that break up the rocks and grass into one or a few big shapes, so that rather than all of those individual rocks, there is a larger and more simplified grouping. Many of those rocks seem to be about the same size and shape, and that looks repetitive. Tying some of those shadows together would help to simplify the foreground too. Another means of dealing with the problem would be to throw the whole foreground into shadow and let that simplify the passage.What all of these ideas have in common is that they would reduce the number of shapes in that foreground from a lot to a few, and would make those fewer shapes more varied and thus more interesting.

Another problem with this piece is a repeated pattern of three equally spaced diagonals in the midground. The first is the top of that first "wall" beyond the rock pile, the second, equally spaced above that, is the cliff just behind it which is the same size and shape. The third repeated line is the beginning of the distant ridge line that also drops down at the same repeated angle.I am using a verbal description here when I would usually use photoshop to draw some lines on the painting, but again I am not on my own computer.

My last criticism of this painting is that although it falls into three divisions, the rock pile, the mid ground, and the distant ridge, all three are equally interesting. This would be a better image if one of them was dominant. There always needs to be a dominant element in a painting supported by several lesser elements.Even though the foreground is trying to be the dominant with its value contrasts and bright lights, it is not far enough into the picture to justify its importance. That's a little like putting the great climax of a novel in the first chapter.

Those downward sloping lines in the foreground and middleground tend to drop the eye to the left where it falls into a sort of abyss and out the bottom left hand corner. if the foreground had extended all the way to the left hand side of the painting the whole thing would have worked better. You could still have that abyss, but behind the rock pile.

I think the values of the darks and the lights in this picture are a little uncertain. The darks in the foreground rocks are not enough different from the lights to be effective. Also they could be a decidedly different color and temperature than the lights and that would help.Remember the shadows are their own color which you must observe or invent. Making them a darker version of the color of the lights is not going to work. They will contain some of that local color but they are their own world.

The last piece here must be from California. I can feel the warm sun and sense the temperature of the day.The light works pretty well in this painting. If you can get the feeling of light in a painting, you are off to a very good start. Any painting that has convincing light is gong to be attractive and welcoming, no matter what it is a painting of.

The shadow in the foreground bothers me a little though. The sky holes of the tree showing on the ground are very evenly spaced and most of them are in a line up the center of the shadow. I think a greater variety of shape in these sun light spots would help a lot here,
The bottom half of the painting works pretty well, but the top half isn't as successful. I think the drawing of the tree could be better. It seems a little mechanical and not as natural as I would like. I think taking it out a second time and getting more observation into that foliage would help. I also think that having the top of the tree kissing the rabbet at the top of the painting is a problem too. I guess stopping well short of the frame might be difficult, so a better answer would be to run its top boldly out of the top of the canvas, and not recognizing that boundary at all. Look back through my blog for the posts on Hibbard and notice the way he paints the pine trees.

Another problem with that tree is the brightness of the sky holes. They need to be dropped in value considerably from the larger sky because of an effect called diffraction. If they are as bright as the rest of the sky they will look like lights hung in the tree. I will write more on diffraction soon, and halation too.

Until tomorrow.....


knittingoutloud said...

Hope you got the computer fixed, Stape? I just read your post to Scott, over our morning coffee. So I got to listen to him laugh (instead of grumble over the newspaper). I love the potato!

Stapleton Kearns said...

=+N=o= I don't have it fixed. Its driving me crazy! My wife says if we rebuild it all that will go away. I hop=e =so. Its flashing and dimming as I work.

Unknown said...

Enlightening as usual. As I improve on getting the matter of fact look of something down, I am struggling with how to inject passages of brushwork of differing in color and color temperature like you have suggested. That is my next challenge. I just got the Aldro Hibbard book, maybe that will help. I understand the theory, it is just figuring out how to execute it.

I hope you get your computer working. I had an old pc that typed randomly too. It was maddening. Maybe you should switch to a mac... ;)

JAMES A. COOK said...

It could just be your keyboard giving you all this trouble. They are very cheap now . My keyboard has pooped out on me in the past and a new one did the trick.


Ramon said...

Ahh thank you so much, these critiques are incredibly helpful!

I'm working on a new plein air this week and your posts have been most helpful!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will be interested to hear what you think of the Hibbards. The book is a little dated but it is the only book and the color plates are mice.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is a lap top but I am using a separate keyboard.It may be the keyboard on the laptop itself, I suspect that.Hopefully a rebuild will solver that. This is reminiscent of the old ghost in the machine thing from the 1700's.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Good luck with that. Remember to put butter in your shoes!

Ramon said...

hahaha butter in the ol'
sneakers it is!

Unknown said...

Great comments as usual
My favorite quote in tonight's lesson is "visual excitement will have to be installed into a tater". I do hope you write a book because these little wry witticisms will be worth the price all by themselves. I might have to type that one out and tape it by the easel too.
So does all this stuff EVER become second nature? Can we EVER approach a blank canvas without ticking off a conscious checklist of compositional do's and don'ts, values, edges, color, paint quality, etc. etc.? Do we ever reach the level of unconscious competence?