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Self Critique - Asking the right questions about your painting.

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Good questions are the key to solving painting problems.

“Paralysis by analysis”, is a great way to get bogged down in painting. It’s true that overthinking can create its own set of problems, yet if done correctly, self-critique is one of the best ways to get better results.

The trick is to know what questions to ask. If you’re not clear about the question you’re asking, your answer will also be unclear, because your brain comes up with answers only if it has a specific problem to solve.

Here are some questions to keep in mind while painting or assessing your artwork…

  • Why am I painting this scene? What interests me about it? Does it actually excite me?

  • Does the shape and size of my canvas help or hinder the overall theme of my painting? Was my canvas or paper the same dimension as my sketch? (You did do a sketch first - right?)

  • Is the division of space dynamic? Do I have a clearly defined composition? Is it a foreground, a sky-scape or a middle ground painting? Am I boring people with a third-third-third sky, middle and foreground?

  • Are the darks too dark?

  • Are the colours too garish?

  • Is the brush work interesting?

  • Is the movement organized throughout my painting or is everything chaotic?

  • Are the objects grouped artistically or is everything haphazardly placed? Is everything organized to achieve a rhythm and balance?

  • Do the trees look like mother nature put them there or like the army core of engineers planted them?

  • Is there a focal point? Is it in the right place? Is it actually interesting?

  • Is the perspective correct? Do I need a lesson on perspective?

  • Is there a well-established horizon line which tells the viewer that everything sits correctly and creates a sense of depth?

  • Is the value range consistent with the mood of the scene?

  • Is there an interesting light and dark pattern?

  • Are the negative shapes in the painting varied?

  • Is the temperature in the painting consistent and predominately warm or cool?

  • Is the total presentation attractive?

  • Did I paint within a limited colour harmony or use every Crayola in the box?

  • Is there too much or not enough detail? Is the detail in the right place (focal point)?

If you can’t formulate the right question or find the answers you’re looking for it’s a good idea to seek help from your peers. There are many other questions you can ask and they may help you ask the right one. Good questions are the key to solving painting problems.

Happy fixing!

Your friend in art,


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