Summer, Revisited

Have you ever finished a painting you were happy with only to find that months, weeks or even days later there are some serious problem areas. Summer Breeze is such a painting.

This painting is a little larger than I usually work, 20″ x 30″, but after two weeks of planning and execution it was finished. There were many things that worked out well, OldSummerBreeze-lr

The gesture of the pose, the expression of her face, the sense of light, but as she sat on my fireplace mantle for several days I started to “feel” there were some areas that needed addressing. It was a “feeling” at first because I couldn’t pin it down enough to do something about it, and I will never go back to rework a painting unless I have a specific change in mind. Enough days had passed, it became crystal clear what was required.

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At #1, the strongest shape in the scene. It is very strong because it’s surrounded by dark, is large and is pointing to the left, drawing way to much attention to an area that is secondary,

The shape at #2 is bothersome because it appears to be the same value as the top plane of the skirt, which is the way the photo appeared because of the tendency for photos to blow out the lights. In reality this area would be darker than the upper plane which is receiving more light.

At #3 and 4#, these light shapes take away from the solid anchoring effect of the dark shadow along the bottom and add more attention to an area that shouldn’t receive any.

 

 

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At #5 I could add a little more information to follow the form of her body and make it more interesting.

All during the painting process I wrestled with that rectangle #6,  behind her head. Should I keep it or not. Now I can see, not, it adds a visual weight to the top of her head, which throws her a little off balance.

At #7, stream line her shoulder a little here to soft her.

The lower shadow area #8, could be working harder to stabilize the balance. I want it to create a more solid base for the figure. Even though there was not a supporting leg on the bench in the photo, it was needed to alleviate the floating sensation in this area.

Last but not least, the color needed adjusting. More warmth in the background wall, as well as in her skirt.

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I was happy with the changes and glad I made them. It’s never too late to go back and make things better!

Developing a Critical Eye

I’m always trying to sharpen my skills at evaluating my own work.

The absolute best time to do this is on day two of a new painting.

Day one got things started and developed to a certain point until painting fatigue kicked in and my decisions started going south.

On day two the first thing I do is sit down, notebook in hand, and begin training my eye to really see what the painting needs to be successful.

Below is a recent painting, Angelina, at the end of day one.

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Here’s my critical list of things that needed attention;

  • Light panel on side of face needs value adjustment
  • Far arm too thin
  • Dress at knee more rounded
  • Soften fabric, near her hands
  • Color to right of face in background more green, less violet
  • Get rid of dark shape on right, use mid value grey green, (I like to put in all the general shapes that are actually in the background, and get rid of them later if needed, in this case it was distracting and added nothing to the scene).
  • I also do a visual check of the drawing, dropping vertical and horizontal lines to see if things are lining up where they should be.
  • And a distraction check, is there anything drawing attention out of the painting, things in the corners etc.

These may seem like little things, but they add up to a big disconnect in the painting.

Below is the finished painting, minus the rose in her hair, not sure if it was a compositional thing (the rose being the same shape and parallel to her forehead), or esthetic , too contrived, anyway I think it’s better gone.

I feel sure I would not have gotten this result without my critical list to start the day.

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Angelina by Diane Eugster