Monday, July 27, 2009

Its dissection time again!

Well its time once again for the scalpel and retractors. Hand me that Skilsaw and lets get to work. We have a fine supply of quivering patients to strap to the gurney and examine.

Here is the first one now

This is an ambitious and complex painting. It reminds me of Hudson River school painting. Nice job! I never reveal who the artist is in these crits, but you know who you are.Here are some things that could be done to help this painting along a little.

The first problem I see with this piece is that the lights and the shadows are inconsistent. Look at the value of the rock in the foreground at A and notice how close it is in value to the shadow u at B. Around B it is in fact very hard to tell what is in the light and what is in the shadow. When you hit a note onto the canvas you must always know, whether what you are painting is in the light or whether it is in the shadow. Below point B in the foliage there are notes which I think are meant to be in the light, which are as dark as that shadow also. Now things of different hues may be lighter or darker but in order to get the effect of light, All of your lights must be noticeably lighter than all of your darks. The shadow of the man shows that this is supposed to be a bright sunny day. But the inconsistency of the light in the rest of the painting doesn't carry out this idea.

I think that strong straight line a C is problematic too here's why

There is an unintended relationship between that line and the line of the lower mid ground. That is making a sort of unwanted geometric shape in that area. At point E there is a missed opportunity to show the light moving through the painting. The strong shadow of the man says bright light but this group of bushes does not.

Here I have doctored up the painting in photoshop. Keep in mind I have no reference for this, so I have no idea what this place really looks like.I have done the following things.
  • I got rid of that offending line in the distance and established larger, stronger shadow shadows in those mountains and cliff on the right.
  • In simplified the middle ground and got rid of that bush which was in front of the figure, That bush seemed to bump up against the figure. Be careful when you put something moving into a painting like a little figure or a sailboat that there isnt something right in front of it, for it to crash into. Losing some of those bushes puts the figure up against a big dark which makes it show up better.
  • I also threw the ground in that area into shadow. That makes the foreground light up better as it provides a foil or comparison for it. Your shadows will determine the brightness of the light just as much as the lights do. Its all about comparison. A painting with no strong darks usually wont light up.
  • I rearranged the clouds a little bit to place a dark behind the illuminated cliff on the right and a light behind the darker mountain above it. It makes these show up better and the contrasts give more snap to the image. I have also made the sky shapes more varied and interesting.
  • I simplified and pulled together into larger shapes of the ledges in the foreground. For those of you elsewhere, ledge is a New England term for exposed rock on the ground, which is something we have a lot of.
  • The trees across the middle ground now establish a thrust in their form which counters the thrust of the mountains behind them. That makes the two balance.
  • The painting now has fewer, larger shapes and I have sorted the lights and the darks more carefully.


Gregory Becker said...

Considering the importance of atmospheric perspective as well as color perspective and how light effects those, it sounds like your suggesting that it is equally important to harmonize the effect of contrast fall off.

willek said...

All really good comments, Stape. The Photoshopping is a great way to illustrate your points. I have been thinking a lot about using the figure in my landscapes and seascapes and about how to go about it. Hudson river guys made them really small so as not to detract from the intent of their picture and to emphasize the grandeur. I really like Jeff Weaver's use of the working men in his Gloucester-scapes. they make a social commentary. I painted a trout stream in Townsend a month or so ago and could not find a way to place a fisherman in it without making the whole thing cornball. In your own painting of the Ducktrap in the other day's post, you used two figures on that happened by. They helped the composition and I could imagine the observer placing themselves in their spot. In this picture the figure seems to be an alter ego of the painter. That is, the view in the picture and the view of the painted figure are similar, suggesting the person in the painting is the painter. It seems that every time a human is placed into a landscape the interpretation/intent of the picture becomes changed. Yet, I am doing a picture now of Pigeon Cove and with no figures the effect is of loneliness and desolation. Moreover, what that figure is doing and where it is looking also has an effect in the picture. You do not appear to use figures very often.

Ovasm= a xxxxing of the XXXX when XXXXX and XXX in XXXXX.

Robert J. Simone said...

Stapleton, I love these crits. I wish I had thought of it myself. I also think sharing your knowledge this way is extremely generous. Thank you.

Sacrificing the details in that shrubbery in favor of more clearly stated lights and shadows does make the painting read better. A valuable lesson to be sure. It reminds me of something I read in Andrew Loomis' Creative Illustration.

Unknown said...

It is amazing to me how making a bunch of small tweaks on what looks to be a good painting can really make it sing. I guess it's that extra 10%.

Unknown said...

Wow, Stape. You make this look so easy. I thought it looked okay before, but what you did, particularly in simplifying the dark trees, and moving that bush in front of the figure made all the difference in the world.

thanks for sharing such valuable tips.
Oh, and love the dissection picture. Where the heck do you GET those, anyway? said...

This was an excellent critique. I wish I could eye my own work that way. The simplification of the foliage brought more strength to the painting as a whole and to the figure specifically. I also like what unifying the dark green shadows did for the reds.And the placing the shadows on the ledge above against the new blue sky all seem simple enough but takes years of an expert eye to see. It's a little thing but I wonder whether or not the dead tree off to the left adds anything. I think I'd like to see that taken out.

Stapleton Kearns said...


I was suggesting that atmospheric perspective isn't always the best solution or even necessarily the appearance of nature.Where did you get the phrase contrast fall off. I known what you ,but I have never heard it put that way.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Do you know Anthony Cirinos paintings of pigeon cove.If anywhere needs a figure In guess it wojuld be there.
I dont ut many figures in my landscapes. They command so much attention that they often become the subject of the painting.But harbor scenes cry out for a figure.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks.That Loomis book is available online. I hear it is going to be reprinted.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Thanks. I was up all night on that thing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks.It is hart to find the dissection pictures but is easier than being dissected.
What, no password

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. That tree is a turnaround. Rather than allowing the eye to go out of the painting there, it guides it up and to the mountian.

Unknown said...

Up all night? wow, thanks for hanging in there for all our benefit.
I've never been dissected, but once I had to have a scope run through my sinus cavities into my lungs with NO ANESTHESIA. I think that maybe came close.

password ho!

"tarrhypo" under utilization of tarr.

Gregory Becker said...

Stape, when I was reading your critique I was thinking how values get closer together as they recede into the distance.
This is going to sound like bs but I pictured a flashlight shining on a series of white poles lined up. I could see that not only did the light have a fall off effect but the intensity of contrast also had a fall off effect.
I don't know if it's a sound theory but it makes sense.
Did I coin a phrase?