Critique and Color

Well it’s Friday again so I have come to the executive decision that this blog is no longer called the Thursday Blog. It is now Annie’s Weekly Art Blog. Life gets in the way of best laid plans. Enough about that.

Now to the topics of the week.

Critique: I have learned that my paintings always get better when more than one set of eyes looks at them and gives me feedback. Those sets of eyes are usually in my monthly critique group and my weekly art class and individual feedback from friends, my daughter and and my friend Rick, the very talented photographer who exhibited his photos along with my paintings in a recent exhibit about our road trip to Utah last summer.

In the past few weeks I have posted evolving versions of two plein air paintings of a barn in Moneta, VA near Smith Mountain Lake. As I sometimes do, I brought the painting home to be refined and adjusted in my studio. This week, I finally finished the second of two versions of that barn. There was just something about the painting that was bothering me. When I think I have finished a painting but something about it just doesn’t feel right, I expose it to all of the usual sets of eyes and ask for feedback. The members of my critique group always have something constructive to point out that improves the painting considerably. This time, there was so much about it that bothered me and so many issues they pointed out, that after receiving their suggestions, I took it home and painted over everything I didn’t like, which was everything except for the barn. I decided to make some significant changes:

Composition changes: I removed the road that took the eye straight out of the scene before looking anywhere else and replaced it with a fence that disappears into a cut in the hill in the distance, curving it inward to keep the eye in the scene. I moved the trees to the right to better balance the composition. Value changes: I made some changes in contrast and value in the field and the darker areas of the barn because it all seemed just flat to me. Color changes: I added some color to the row of trees and a little to the roof and the larger trees. Drawing: I made some corrections in the drawing of the building and the trees.

So I posted version # 2 (below.) Still, I wasn’t happy with it. So I took it to my art class and watched a wonderful video workshop that addressed exactly the issues with which I have been grappling all week.

Color: In my art class, I asked my instructor, who is focusing a lot on helping us bring paintings alive and, as I said in an earlier post, using musical metaphors to “add notes of color, dance the brush across the canvas, and make the painting sing,” what he saw and what his suggestions might be that would make the painting better. He immediately said I needed to brighten up the field, add color, expand the branches on the trees, and focus on the T’s and Y’s.

T’s andY’s? This is a concept, he explained, that accents where edges overlap (“T” intersections or “Y” intersections). It takes a painting from 2 dimensional to giving it a 3-dimensional nature. Just tiny marks of differing value and/or color can highlight the dimensionality of connecting spaces. He referenced to Cezanne and Da Vinci as examples of where this concept really makes a difference. So I found my T’s and Y’s and used a tiny touch of black or red in each area. I softened them to indicate line and shadow variations and it was amazing the effect it had on the painting. In addition, he suggested that I mix 3 colors for the meadow- a brighter green, a reddish color and perhaps a yellowish color. Using the color spot method he had shown us earlier, I dotted the colors, kind of randomly around the meadow and hillside. Then I gently softened and partially blended them. It was amazing how much life these two changes brought to my painting. Success? I feel pretty good about it. That is how I determine whether a painting is finished. If I like it and feel good about it given the feedback I have received, I have to determine when to stop receiving feedback and making changes and declare it done! I declare image # 3 done! (See image # 3) below.

Have a great week! Here are the three iterations of the painting in order. See you next week.

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