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10 Things To Ask Yourself While Painting

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Self-critique checklist for painters.

This list is something I have used for many years while outdoor painting but I recently started using it in the studio as well.

To start with, try to finish within two hours (three hours maximum), before the light changes too drastically and you get too deeply invested in the piece and lose judgment. For indoors, it’s good to walk away after a couple of hours for a bit and come back with a fresh eye.

Throughout the course of the painting a little self-critique is a valuable exercise. My father always said; “When you dig yourself into a deep hole, take the time to inspect the quality of your work that got you there in the first place”. Worthy advice. Thus, during the course of the session, especially when close to finishing a painting, pause and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my idea of the painting clear? If not, where did I miss the mark? How can it be reinforced?

  2. Does anything need work? Often the painting has its own direction and should go that way. Listen to it.

  3. Is there a general sense of Harmony? Does the technique (i.e. brush handling) or colour work together and look to be of the “same world”. Does it all look like the same painter painted it or is there inconsistency in style or approach?

  4. What finishing touches could I add to give the painting more zing?

  5. Is there a convincing sense of depth? Are there any tangents that bother me or flatten the painting out?

  6. Does the initial abstract value pattern still read clearly?

  7. Is there enough detail? And then of course, is there too much detail?

  8. Does the painting convey the “mood” of the day? If not - How can I resolve this in the next painting?

  9. Is it really me? My reflection? My interpretation? My style?

  10. As successful as the painting is, how could the next one be better?

If you can’t find an answer, ask a better question!

Hint: It’s best to answer these questions in the presence of a beer, which tends to take the sting out of the answers.

Keep swingin’ that brush!

Your friend in art, Doug.

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