It can sometimes be difficult to look at our own work with an objective eye. Below are 3 simple tips to provide a fresh perspective.
I’ll use Dreamscape No. 518 as an example:
Because I’ve used neutralized hues, I can’t hide behind jazzed up color. The basic design, even though simple, has to be solid for this painting to pass muster. See how I use the 3 tips below to view with an objective eye.
1. Step away from the painting – Far Away, 20 feet away. Or, view the thumbnail image on your monitor. A compelling work will stand out from a distance in addition to up close with cohesive, yet interesting color harmony. Do any of the colors clash with the others? Or stand out too much? Have any shapes morphed into distracting faces, etc. Sometimes these are wonderful discoveries, sometimes not.
This is a commission piece requiring me to work in colors combos I don’t normally use, Adirondack: Butterscoth, Caramel, Ginger, Cranberry, Gold/Copper Mixatives and the tiniest touch of Stream, couldn’t resist Cranberry has a tendency to turn everything pink, which I wanted to avoid.
2. Desaturate or run black and white copy – This shows only the values, which are more important than colors. The goal is to create an interesting value pattern of lights, mids and darks to lead the viewer through out and keep in the painting. What is the dominant value?
Dreamscape No. 518 has a dominance of mid-light values supported by smaller dark values. If I would not have had a dark value on lower left, the darker mountain shapes would have been too distracting. The subtle soft-edged value changes in the water lead the viewer up into the painting. The verticals in sky serve same purpose, directing downward.
3. Turn the painting upside down – This helps to to see only the shapes and not the subject. A good guideline is to have 3-5 main shapes of different sizes. What are the main shapes? No amount of detailing can fix a poorly designed compostion.
I thought Dreamscape No. 518 had 3 main shapes, until I flipped it, now I see 5! The sky is the largest, water is 2nd with two shapes and distant mountains which also have the most texture are the smallest two shapes. (The copper sun is close to sky color and I don’t consider it a separate shape). Flipped as shown above, the water could easily be a sky.
I hope this has been helpful. If you have tips you use to critique your paintings, I hope you will share in the comments section by scrolling to top of this post and clicking, “Leave Comment.”
Let’s Keep Dreaming,