Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Barns and birches in brown

Above is an image sent to me for a critique. I have a bunch of them and am choosing them not by quality or the order received but because I see something in them that I can use to teach certain points.
  • I like the foreground of this painting. It looks to have been painted with a knife and has an interesting texture. Below are the "problems I think this picture has.
  • Almost everything in this painting marches from one side of the canvas to the other. This is a fault I call stripyness.That repetitive pattern of shapes doesn't lead the eye into the painting and is static rather than dynamic. It makes the shapes too like one another. Even the trees in the background are striped in the same manner as the rest of the painting.
  • The barns are too close to the rabbet on the edge top be as interesting as they are. Their decreasing size directs the eye into the edge of the painting, and that feels uncomfortable.
  • The birch trees on the left are too complicated and the artist was unable to communicate whether they are in the light or the shadow. They are represented as bright as the sky. Even though they are white, the could have been a lower note, or at least part of them could be. They are painted with their local color (white) rather than as they might appear under some particular illumination. White things are subject to light and shadow, value shifts and temperature changes like anything else. Also all of the branches reach from the trunks to the right, more variation in the direction the branches grow would be good too. About half as many branches would be about right. The branches should probably darken as they pass in front of the sky, and against the grass in the foreground. That is called counterchange. I have written about that here.
  • The shadows in the trees in the background are the same value as the darks in the very foreground. They are also full of deep color. I would expect to see less chroma at this distance and also a value shift as things go into the distance is often useful and would be in this instance I think.The darks back there are sort of inky. When you paint a dark passage try to think beyond just DARK, think about WHICH DARK? You need to have more value arrows in your quiver.
  • That thin strip of sky at the top is too narrow, it seems like an afterthought or that the artist just felt they had to squeeze it in. When the painting is framed the rabbet of the frame will hide about a third of it and the problem will be compounded. Remember that you are going to lose the width of a small brush handle into the frame and you need to account for that in your designs. That is probably going to put the right hand barn hard against the frame too. Jamming things into the edge of the frame can give a very unnatural look to a painting. It is better to stop well clear of it, or drive boldly through it.
  • There are two subjects in the painting. That's a problem I call "one for each eye" The tree on the right and the barns are both pulling the viewer about equally. It is important to know where you want the viewer to go, and then to arrange things so as to take them there.
  • The barns could have been made more interesting, perhaps they could have been brought in closer so that we might see a little information about their sides, the roofs could be decorated with some rust or variation of some kind. It would be nice to get more "story" about the barns. Perhaps a little light on their sides to tell us about their color or the material or texture. Maybe some variation in the tree roofs would be nice too, they are all the same shape, varied only in size. Perhaps a tree might break through the horizontal lines of those roofs, perhaps a silo, something else needs to go here.
  • I think this painting could use more variety in color. The whole thing is warm, perhaps some cool notes in the barn roofs or in the sky or the birch. Also I think it would be nice to introduce another color besides the gold red notes, Perhaps a violet or some blue in the sky. A little variation in the color would make this painting less "the same color all over".
  • I think the amount of texture in the grass should decrease as the field recedes from the viewer. I also think that the chroma of the field should drop off as it recedes too. The plane of the field seems more like a vertical wall than a field stretching away from us into the difference. It looks as if we must scale it, rather than walk across it.
  • The field in the left hand lower quadrant has two yellow stripes divided by two green stripes, all of the same width, stacked one above another. This passage needs more variety of shape, that's what I mean by stripey. Watch out for stripes!
  • Other than that, I have no problems with it.
Thank you mystery artist for letting me crit your work. I know it takes a lot of courage to allow me to rip into your painting. I hope you and the other readers will profit by my criticism. Of course you are you, and the painting is something you have made. I critiqued the painting, and not you. For our mental health it is important to understand that. What a great guy I would be if I could improve myself as easily as I can improve my painting.


Karla said...

What a great teaching blog. I learned so much when I could refer back to the painting to see what you were talking about. Thanks again Stape! And thank you to the artists who are sharing your work. I would be too chicken to do that.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Wonderful teaching post again today. It is hard for an artist to hear what is wrong with a piece of their art. However so much can be learned from a good critique. If you can hear it as someone trying to HELP your painting, and not as an attack on your being it will be time well spent to listen.

Stapeleton, you have a wonderful gift and I thank you for sharing it.

janice skivington said...

Great critique again. I haven't thought about the stripey problem before, at first I thought, "what a lovely red gold brown hued painting" And it is a nice painting, but your remarks are so instructive for future work.

Judy P. said...

Wow, more great clarifying info that trains the eye. Thank you Professor!

billspaintingmn said...

(I'll bet you're a big hearted softy that acts like an ogre to camoflage his kindness..)
Geez whizz Stape! Did ya have to cut into that artist work so harshly?! C'mon nobody made em paint that picture, it was an act of creativity ;)
I honestly liked the forground of grass, and the color value was warm and inviteing.
Your critque was helpful, and as always, very professional!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. Chicken? Gee I try to be nice.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Stripey, you haven't heard that before cause I made it up.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. Is that a karate avatar?

Stapleton Kearns said...

No its the opposite I pretend to be nice. I am actually more like Darth Vader.I eat seagulls.