Hi dear Ilarians!

I'm learning everyday about painting while reading, viewing videos, watching galleries and - obviously - thanks to my easel. I tried to sum up what I understand in a single drawing showing a pyramid (I invented this tutorial and drew it by myself in Microsoft Excel).

Do you agree with me?

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Hi Philippe!  Nice try, but think it needs some adjustment of priorities.

Format is a personal decision, and I tend to consider it under composition.  The same scene as a rectangle or square can be equally stunning depending upon your cropping.

Size does not seem to be a big factor for most people - depends entirely upon where they plan to hang a painting.

Substrate, or Support may make a difference in pricing, but whether your work is on aluminum, canvas board, stretched canvas or properly prepared wood does not seem to be a big issue in terms of quality.  What is an "error" in this context?

I feel that relative values are a far more important criteria these and would flip these two boxes, placing values on the base level.  If the values are in line, the colours really are not a critical factor.

Otherwise, a fairly good reminder of some issues and concerns we need to put into place before painting, and a good way to check things as we progress. 


Hi Charles! Thanks for reading my post.

You are right, the four elements of my basis do not have the same priority. Indeed an "error" may only appear in the drawing or the composition.

Relative values are certainly the most important factor of the three on the secon line.

I this view I was searching the "wow!" factor. OK, my understanding is not perfect. And obviously it's impossible to sum up what is painting in a single view!

What is success? 

That which separates those who succeed from those who don't succeed.

Hi Bonnie! Your question is not so easy. For a painting I would say that you succeed if most of people say "wow!". This doesn't mean that most of people love your painting, but that something is impressive. If people say simply "not bad" when viewing my painting, I think it's not a success. I don't like when they say "it looks like a photo".

I find this very interesting! I love it when you folks make e think :) thank you

Hi Wenda! Thank you for reading this post.

Great topic for discussion Philippe!

My first thought is that your levels are not so much about success in an individual painting as they sum up the process of learning to paint and learning to create.

You start with all the things you can learn, things the logical mind or left brain can grasp. The "rules" if you will.

Then you can start to perceive the more subjective, creative, right brained concepts. Learning to change your perceptions of the world - see it differently - internalize it.

Then you can begin to visualize creatively - your own style. Taking all that you have learned, your new skills in perception and synthesizing these into your own unique vision.

And, now that I think about it, yes I do kind of go through these steps in an individual painting. The longer I paint the more the basics become automatic to the point that I don't even realize I'm doing them.

A whole other hierarchy - more along the lines that Charles is thinking - would have to do with the elements that are critical to an expressive, impactful painting. Kind of a different way to think about it

Yes Karen, you are right. My drawing shows the process of learning to paint. It was not my first purpose but it works well.

Yesterday I saw a photo that made me to say the "wow" I'm searching in painting. I post it

(Web link =

I think the main factor of success of this photo is the light (where it comes from, what is illuminated...). Values are important but are light dependent.

OK, all that I tell is very academic. I need to train my right brain :)

Exactly Philippe - value is our best tool for showing light. Our natural tendency is to put color first. For example painting something in shadow that is white too light. Color is subordinate to the light. 

Haha, yes you can get caught up in figuring out the rules, its good to know them, but then you have to forget about them and just paint! :)

We often encourage artists to seek out and examine works by others (galleries, museums, etc.) but that is not always a viable option.  There are also photo sites on the web (including this one!) that can serve as an exercise.  Pick out shots that you like (or do not like) and then ask why you respond that way.  Closely examine the composition, values, colours, and overall visual effect.  What makes it work?  Why doesn't it work?  If you were to paint it, what would you change and why?

Whether walking down the street or exploring a strip mall, there are things to see and lessons to be learned about light, value, and design.  Often we just try to include too much geography; getting closer and more restrictive can make a huge difference.  The rules are there as a guide, but they were not intended to be a magic bullet.  What we choose to see and how we see it is far more important.  Picasso and van Gogh did not earn their reputations by following conventional rules or guidelines!

As you become more intuitive in your painting, you may unconsciously follow some conventional rules, but you will use them in a creative way to express yourself rather than having them limit your inner vision.  Rules are made to be broken.

Karen is right about my differing approach to your pyramid.  That's what makes all of us unique, I guess.  It does not diminish what you achieved, but simply provides another way to use the result.  Cannot wait to get back to painting!  Having my equipment almost 600 miles away is more than a bit rough.  At least some of my DVDs and books are still available for study and thought.

600 miles! When will you come back home Charles?


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