How to Critique a Painting in 5 Steps

Pin-Diane-Eugster-CritiqueWe all know that Sorolla was a master artist, so I am going to use one of his paintings, Evening Sun, to illustrate the points below.

Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903
Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903

1. Composition

Does your eye flow throughout the painting or does it stop awkwardly and hit dead ends?

Notice how the elements of this painting draw you right in and form a loop that keeps your eye moving around and around.

Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903

2. Color

Has color been used to provoke an emotion or just copied, are similar colors woven throughout?

Sorrolla uses a grayed green tone many times in this painting, whether it is a hat, water or shadow on an ox. This repetition creates a wonderful harmony.

Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903

3. Unity

Have elements been treated stylistically the same across the painting?

Sorrolla uses a wave-like shape in all areas of the image, creating the strong feeling of movement. Notice the one strong horizontal line at the horizon that anchors all of this motion.

Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903

4. Center of Interest

Do element within the painting support the Center of Interest?

Sorolla shows us what a master he is by putting his center of interest successfully in the middle of the painting. Does anything convey strength like the muscled hind ends of those oxen fighting the rushing waves?

Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903
Evening Sun by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1903

5. Emotion

Is the painting a collection of “things” or does it evoke a deeper emotion in you?

Is this painting “Evening Sun” by Sorolla y Bastida simply a seascape with some oxen and figures. . . you decide.

Alla Prima, My New Obsession

Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla, all used it in the creation of their fabulous art-


Alla Prima is a style of painting where the entire surface is worked wet into wet.

Artist Richard Schmid even wrote a book about it  Alla Prima; Everything I know about Painting, which has a wealth of  advise and information for every artist .

Pushing wet paint around, the brush gliding over the canvas, long strokes that intermingle, that’s the beauty of direct painting. After working with this direct approach for a month on the 30/30 challenge, there’s no going back to the way I worked before.

In the past it was so frustrating to approach a painting on the 4th or 5th day only to find the paint in a worse than dry state… that gummy in between stage, where I felt like I was wading through mud with rubber boots on.  Yes, it’s time for a change.

Some of the most successfully completed work I’ve done were fast and fresh, like this image I did of my husband John-johnLR

In the next post; all about my painting process make-over….




Sorolla Art Exhibition

Evening Sun, Sorolla de Bastida 1903
Evening Sun, Jouquin Sorolla 1903


My husband John and I have just returned from one of the most inspirational art exhibitions I’ve seen in years, Sorolla And America at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Having long admired Joaquin Sorolla’s loose paint handling and brilliant portrayal of light effects we wanted to be sure not to miss this great opportunity to see his work in person.

Sad Inheritance by Jouquin Sorolla
Sad Inheritance by Joaquin Sorolla

The first painting in the show was a massive 10′ x 15′ canvas titled Sad Inheritance. A black cloaked monk slightly bending forward to help a crippled young man with crutches make careful steps into the sparkling sea water. Other children play in the distant waves, while some struggle at the waters edge, a very emotional painting which won him numerous awards.

Benito Perez Galdos, Juaquin Sorolla 1905
Benito Perez Galdos, Joaquin Sorolla 1905

When he became well known he received so many portrait commissions that he had a hard time keeping up with them.

He was a very prolific painter, producing thousand of paintings and sketches in his lifetime.

Bacchante Sorolla y Bastida 1886
Bacchante Sorolla y Bastida 1886


Everyones favorites of course where the beach scenes of playful children juxtaposed with weathered fisherman and lumbering oxen bringing the fishing boats ashore.

The photos in art books just can’t convey the grandeur of standing in front of one of his large canvases, knowing that he painted most of them plein air, on location.

Children on the Beach, Jouquin Sorolla 1916
Children on the Beach, Joaquin Sorolla 1916


Some of these paintings were in the San Diego show, some where from other collections. A great site to see more of his work is The Athenaeum.