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What to do when you know you need to do something... but what? Self-critique.

Self Critiquing

I have written on this subject before but alas here it is again. Another painting that sits on the fence. It’s not bad enough to scrap but not good enough to be sent out into the world. So what does one do? Well, I like to lean on the muse of 5 dominations and see what she has to say. Let’s look at the painting.

One hour in. 20" x 24" in size.

Landscape painting of a lake with logs in it.

Not bad but not great either.

The primary problem with this painting is it really isn’t saying much. It doesn’t lean one way or the other.

When this happens I like to go over 5 things I can look at and see if there may be a solution. I have said this many times before; 90% of a painting's problems occur in the first 5 minutes and for this painting, I believe it to be true.

Let’s go over the 5 areas and see what we get.

#1 - Motif, Domination of space.

Here our first problem rears its ugly head. There is no domination of space. The composition is really 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. We do not have a definite design.

Landscape painting of a lake with red lines indicating the foreground, middle ground and background.

How do I resolve this? Well lets go back k to the drawing board and hit the design stage,

I need to decide what is the motif for this painting. If I push the trees to the right and make them bigger I will get a more foreground motif. This will join up the water /trees to become one unit.

Landscape painting of a lake with logs in it.

By also bringing the cooler water down into the foreground warms I help solidify the foreground as the star player.

Ya I have a foreground motive painting. But it seems now I do not have and definitive middle ground to back ground. This move though good has caused some other problems. I have no background. Noe I only have two dimensions. So I need to solve this.

By putting an exit point of some kind of sky colour up in the back I now have a small background/ exit point that makes the middle ground read.

Landscape painting of a lake with logs in it.

#2 - Centre of interest.

I know that not every painting needs to have a centre of interest but it certainly helps if you do not have an extremely strong design. In this painting what seems to be the centre of interest (say seems because it's so weak it’s struggling to get noticed) is almost right in the middle of the painting.

Impressionistic landscape painting of a lake and a forest.


Landscape painting with red lines indicating the focus point.

Landscape painting on a lake and a forest.

By pushing the reflection to the left the eye moves to a better, more comfortable spot.

#3 - Value composition. Domination of value. Value design.

The value design seems to have followed the lead. In the original when we turn it to black and white we again see the snootiness of it. 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Equal amounts of Light, dark, mid-tone. No one wants to take the lead.

Black and white version of a landscape painting.

In the second fixed photo, we now have a bit more resolution.

Black and white version of a landscape painting near a lake.

Dominant mid-tone. Medium dark, small light.

This will help make the light values pop.

#4 - Direction of light. Once again we seem to have light floating all over the place from every direction. This is again the original.

Landscape painting of a lake and lots of logs in the water.

Hers is the fixed version. More light on the left side of the trees as well as under the logs. Strengthening the dark in the water helps push the light on the back of the snow.

Landscape painting of a lake and logs in the water.

#5 - Domination of temperature.

And lastly, to add to the mundaneness of this there is no dominant temperature in the painting. It is neither warm nor cool dominant. It’s in a sleepy little hollow hiding. By pushing some cools into the tree shadows we can move things over to the cooler side. The warms are a bit smaller making for a better composition.

Here is the original and the fixed and the painting Sid by side I feel there is a fix in the mix but you decide.

Two landscape paintings, one with lots of snow and the other with hardly any.

Keep those brushes swinging,

Your friend in art, Doug.

1,418 views6 comments


Wells Edith
Wells Edith
3 days ago

Whether it's a personal project, career decision, or life goal, self-critique can be a valuable tool to gain clarity and direction. geometry dash razorleaf


Stunningly good post! This is something that I will most surely incorporate into the creative process that I am going through. gorilla tag


Awesome. You make it look easy!


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Lucy Williams

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