Friday, September 3, 2010

the critique

Here is my humble little cringing painting of a fountain in a park in Wheaton, Illinois.
And here is the critique as given by the worthy Stapleton Kearns.


"I was sent this image by a reader and it seemed like a good piece to critique. I might do a few more of these, so if you have something for me to eviscerate send it in. I will of course, only critique those pieces that have something wrong with them. If I don't choose to use your submission you can assume it is perfect.

I am going to shoot bullets at this piece, so let me jack a round into the chamber.

               The painting lacks a clear subject. I expect the artist wanted to portray the fountain, but the trees on either side are equally as important. The path, the trees and the fountain are given equal importance in this tableau. It would be improved by the subordination of these competing elements to the fountain. Sometimes it is possible to allocate space on the canvas in proportion to the importance of the element in the picture. It is often useful to begin a painting by asking yourself,"what is the name of this picture?
               The values are muddled. The underside of the bowl of the fountain for instance. Is that in the light or the shadow? My guess is that it was in the shadow but bathed in reflected light. The artist has overemphasized that reflected light and made it as bright as something in the light. When you look at the shadow alone out of context with the lights, the reflected light seems very bright. But if you look at the larger scene the reflected light assumes its rightful place in the shadow world. Remember
NOTHING IN THE DARKS IS EVER AS LIGHT AS THE DARKEST THING IN THE LIGHTS.

Here is a post that explains the parts of the light.

               Look at the shadow on the ground to the left of the fountain, its value is about the same as the trees in the foreground which I think are supposed to be in the light. This doesn't read. Every time you touch your brush to that canvas you need to know "is this passage in the light? or is it in the shadow?" The shadows are going to be from one end of the value scale ALL OF THEM, and the lights from the other end of the value scale, ALL OF THEM. No value exists in both the lights and the shadows. They are two different worlds and wholly separate. ( You have heard me say this before, haven't you?)"

Tomorrow I will post the rest of his critique because Mr. Kearns becomes even more helpful by showing a fabulous painting by John Singer Sargent (one of my all-time heros) which contrasts all too starkly with my own work.

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