Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A few images gently critiqued

I have been painting in Maine and will return home today. Then I can take my new, new computer back to the store and see if they can fix it, again. If they do, I will be able to load photoshop and do all sorts of wonderful things that I have had to live without lately. I am going to crit a few images I received, as I have been meaning to do this for a while. I won't be able to draw on them or do a remake version this time, but I can discuss them verbally.

I like this one a lot. Probably in spite of myself. But it has a a lot of nice things going on. I like the design of the tree leaning to the right and how that gives a dynamic arrangement. If that tree had been vertical the picture would have been static and less interesting. The color in the fore ground is "modern" I guess and it is nice and clean and forms a nice color chord. Pretty smart. I could fault it a little as I think it looks a little more like a color scheme for a fabric than a landscape. I also think that long yellow sausage shape in the middle of the painting is overly geometric. The rest of the shapes in the painting are naturalistic, but that one shape sticks out as sort of artificial, and its bright yellow color draws attention to its being out of sync with the rest of the painting. Still its a very pleasing little piece and I am sure it will be happily welcomed into some collectors home.
The vertical piece above could use a few design tweaks. I think that the upright trunks if the trees could be varied more. Some could be lower in value and perhaps one or two might catch some light. The also all begin along a line at the bottom. I think they would look better if some were nearer and began closer to the lower margin of the painting and others further from that margin.
The limbs at the top of the trees are a bit repetitive too, most of them are the same weight and sit alone rather than touching another or better yet being arranged into groupings. When you can, paint GROUPS of things rather than individual things. When you look at a passage, particularly one that has a number of similar objects or shapes, ask yourself "how can I group these?" Grouping things is a design ploy that simplifies passages and eliminates repetitive shapes.

I also think the color in the tree trunks is a little too "brown" This might be a better picture with the introduction of some optical violets and maybe some ocher into those trunks to get variation and a feeling of light and shade. The brown feels too "local color".

This painting is in need of a walrus. That is, there needs to be more of a subject, something that will reward us for looking in there and seeing it. The water also feels a little like it runs up hill over on the right side. There are also two mustard colored ball shapes, one to each side, at the water line, that compete for our attention. I also think things could be delineated a little more to make this picture more interesting. This painting is nearly a design I call a three striper. I have made a zillion of them. They happen when you set up on a lake or other body of water and you have three horizontal bands stacked one above another, the lake, the distant shore and the sky, forming, three stripes. Whenever I am on a lake or similar environment I work real hard to stay away from that.

This next painting has an observed from nature look. That's always a good thing. I can make a few suggestions though. First of all the flowers in the foreground seem to sit on the bottom rabbet of the frame. Watch out for figures or trees or whatever, standing on the frame.

The hole through the trees seems too assertive and looks a little unnatural. I think a few spots of foliage within that cutout window would mitigate that a bit. Also the top border of that aperture is a the same height as the back edge of the field to its right. That sets up an unwanted geometric relationship in a place that should be random and varied. It is whats called a tangent I guess. I should do a post on tangents.

The little pool to the right of that doesn't read as well as it might. It doesn't lay out in space but seems to stand up vertically. There is an unintentional overly symmetrical shape left behind by the darks there, see it?

It also lookas if the horizon line is running downhill. but that could be the photography.

I know this boat. I have painted it too. I think it could use a little more space around it. Also the structure of the wheelhouse is a little vague. I think the plane that contains the front windows is in the shadow, that would be consistent with that square shaped extension of the cabin to its left. However the artist seems to have overstated the reflected light until the shadow area is as bright as the plane in the light. There is a general tendency through this whole painting to confuse the values of the lights and the shadows. Remember, no value occurs in both!

I also think the color of the hull is a problem. Both the shadow and the light are the same color.They are different in value, but not in color. The shadow is not a darker version of the color in the light! It is its own separate color. I did a post about that some time ago, here that is. And here is another relevant post.

Here are some things I do to separate my lights from my shadows.
  • I paint the lights in a high value and the shadows in a low value, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights with one pigment and the shadows with a different pigment, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights grave and the shadows highly colored, so you can tell them apart,
  • or I will paint the lights highly colored and the shadows grave, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I will paint the lights warm and the shadows cool, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I will paint the lights cool and the shadows warm, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I will paint my lights opaque and my shadows transparent, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights with hard edges and the shadows with soft edges, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I use cool reflected light in the lights and hot reflected light in the shadow, so you can tell them apart.
See you all tomorrow


Tom said...

Hi Stapleton

Great info as usual. And thanks to all the artist who send in their work and make the critque possible. My question is kinda of aside. When I was in school the artist that was always talked about was Cezanne I was wondering if you had any interest in his work or Van Gogh's or the French impressionists as their work seems to have struck such a strong chord with humanity. The attendence to these artist shows at our major museums is always huge. Also there is another artist, a contemporary landscape painter name Rackstaw Downes, have you heard of him? Rerproductions do not do his work justice, but when seen in reality some are arresting. That is one other thing I have notice about contemporary art, it always looks better in the magazines while if I go see a masters show and then look at the cataloge after seeing the show the reproductions look horrible
Thanks for the great blog

Susan Adsett said...

"three striper" - my very first art instructor taught seascape painting and INSISTED that all the paintings consist of three lines - the shore, the sea, the sky. Anything else was a "distraction".

I HATED that class. The instructor also took us to see another "respected" artist - who insisted that painting the same object over and over again was the mark of "true artist".

I came to the conclusion that artists were barking mad. I gave up on formal art training for years - it's nice to read blogs like this that are a bit more rational.

Marian Fortunati said...

This is my first visit to your blog and you offered fascinating and instructive clear information.
Thank you...Now if only I can apply your vision to my own work!!!

Gregory Becker said...

Seperating light and shadow is always a big challenge for me because I sometimes end up corrupting one or the other and I destroy the key. Then I end up with a painting that is, liuke you said, "Set on medium."
Once that happens I can never get it back.
Thanks for the info. I'll keep those opposites in mind.

willek said...

The front of the wheelhouse. I think I know the problem there, The deck is throwing up a lot of light onto the hose. Might the artist have made the shadow side darker, yet warmer? This works sometime for figures.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The answer to that would take an entire evenings post. I may do that but I don't think it will be tonight. The short answer is Van Gogh Si! Cezanne not so much, Matisse seldom if ever

Rackstraw Downes is associated with Belfast, ME where I have spent a lot of time, in fact I was on a site of his last week on the waterfront there.
I am not a big fan of hyper-realism and the minimalist aesthetic. I preferred Welliver who I actually did meet once.
Thats not to say all of these guys weren't wonderful artists, but I have to pick and choose, as a practitioner, more than as an art appreciator, as I am looking for ideas for my own painting, and I can't use every idea out there, and I can't use opposing ideas at once,(usually)
They just aren't my thing, from the Matisse, Cezanne era I would prefer Sargent or Metcalf.I like to see brushwork, finesse and some "academic" drawing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.I may not be "barking mad" but there is a general agreement that SOMETHING is the matter with me. But we can't agree what it is.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you I hope I am useful

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is always the problem in drawing. At least mass drawing separating the light from the shadow is the job itself. Every time that brush hits the canvas you need to know, is this in the light or is it in the shadow?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes, that is exactly the problem. The reflected light has been allowed to be as bright as the form in the light, rather than kept in the world of the shadow, thus destroying the illusion of form.
I think we should take up a collection and replace the entire boat.

willek said...

No, No. My comment had to do with changing the color of the shadow on the front of the deck house from a cool (Sky) shade to a warm hue because there is reflected light from the deck hitting it. Mightn't that shadow side be kept a low value but LOOK lighter with reflected light if the shadow was made a warm hue? I am also thinking about the phenomenon of light reflecting around in the bell or a trumpet. it gets very red in there.

nulcula= (Pronounced, noo klee arr)a bad kind of war we might have someday.

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Stapleton,

In the cirtique of the 4th painting you wrote "First of all the flowers in the foreground seem to sit on the bottom rabbet of the frame. Watch out for figures or trees or whatever, standing on the frame."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean. It's not jumping out at me as something amiss.

I do a lot of paintings similar to this with grasses and wildflowers in the foreground opening out on to field or marsh and I'm wondering if I'm doing the same thing without realizing it.

Sorry for being so dense can you explain a little more?