My dream has always been to focus on my artwork after retiring. Well I retired in July 2016 and this is my first piece. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback. As you know, you get so absorbed into your work that it is difficult to be totally objective. Thank You.

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This is the reference photo I used for this painting.

Hi David!

Thanks for sharing! This is beautiful! Wow, look at all that detail! Nice job! You  did a great job with your shapes and with simplifying the background a bit. Not easy! I also like the way you adjusted for your canvas size. Giving us more of the water. Nice job with the reflections as well!

I know how you feel about working too long on something, it is hard to see it after a while :)

I have a couple of ideas that might be helpful. Though this is beautiful just the way it is!

The first is about focal point. The ducks in the photo become that - pretty much anything alive will attract our attention first. And then our eye moves along the lines of the ice back to the brick which have a lot of interesting texture, and repeat the colors of the ducks.

Since you have left them out in your painting, the focal point becomes the bricks. The lines lead us to that area and it has the most contrast. Just something to be aware of. To me I would like to see something a little more interesting in that area for it to be a satisfying focal point.... maybe just a few ducks?

Next I want to show you a couple of things about value. Which is just the relative dark to light tones. Getting your values right is really key to establishing realism in your painting. Here is a comparison of the values in your painting to those of the photo.

One key to establish distance and depth in a painting is to make sure your background is lighter in value than your foreground. Especially that your darkest darks in the back are lighter than the darkest darks in the foreground. Check out the area where the back of the bricks is and see how your background behind that is too dark? This pops that area forward instead of it staying in the distance.

Now take a look at your water area. Do you see that you have gotten lighter than the photo where the ice is? And how you have created much more light area. It is making the ice look kind of like foam to me. In the photo the lighter area it mostly just at the edges, with more reflections and darker areas within.

Also look at your yellow structures on top of the bricks. Do you see how much lighter yours are? This is messing with our understanding that this area is under the bridge platform and so is more in shadow. I do get a nice sense that there is more light on the front edge of the bricks, darker toward the rear. I would probably play up that difference even more. By adding more variation of color and texture in this area, you will make it a more interesting focal point.

One more thing I'd like to show you is about color

Take a look at the color of the water and ice in the photo. Do you see how blue it is? And how yours is a much more neutral gray? That color harmony of the blue and the goldish yellow of the bridge makes the photo more lively and appealing to me.

So, those are my thoughts! Hope they are helpful and encouraging David! I can't wait to see more of your paintings!

Thank you Karen.

I have some of the same concerns as you mentioned. I guess it's a good thing that I was aware of the opportunities prior to your professional review. Specifically the color of the ice and the darker areas under the bridge. I was really struggling with replicating the hue and values of the ice. I eventually threw in the towel and accepted what you now see. I also struggled with the darker yellow areas of the under deck bridge structure. Actually, I painted over the bridge structure  four times. Again accepting what you see as what I considered my best attempt. My lack of training and experience made it difficult for me to replicate the variety of values of yellow involved. Both of these issues I chalk up to my lack of knowledge related to color mixing.

I intentionality omitted the ducks from my painting. I wanted the piece to be about the city scape and not the wildlife. Interesting that all of my family members that have seen the painting asked me "where are the ducks?", I have made numerous wildlife paintings and did not want the ducks to leave folks with the impression that this was another wildlife piece. Included at the bottom of my reply is a wildlife painting I started this morning.

As a side note, establishing acceptable perspective of the various shapes on the variety of planes was a challenge for me. I felt that I came close enough that my mind didn't trip over looking at it, but not perfect.

Again, thank you very much for the feedback. It is very helpful. I spent much more time on this painting than I ever have before, months, and was getting to the point where I was considering putting it in the trash.



oh my goodness, do not put it in the trash! it is a very nice painting :) i really like Karen's observations. she is a very good teacher. it is wonderful that you could retire and focus more on painting. enjoy!

Hi Dave

I'm glad the ideas were helpful. Yes, there is a long period (I'm still in it!) when your mind knows a certain concept, but you just can't get it to work like that on the canvas! Don't despair!

This is a beautiful bird painting you have going! Can't wait to see it done :)

As I contemplated your post for a couple of days, something came to mind that might be helpful to you. When I started out I, too spent a lot of time on a painting, working to get it as much like to photo as I could. And through shear perseverance was sometimes able to. But I felt like it really shouldn't be so hard!

One thing I realized much later is that painting is like any other skill you develop. You have to practice, do exercises if you will. You can't expect to jump in and have a perfect performance. In painting we are trying not only to hone our hand coordination skills, but also retrain our brains to look at the world differently. Instead of seeing things starting with the detail that catches our eye, we need to learn to see the big shapes and the values first. Learn to edit and simplify with our eye. It's not many accurate details that create a beautiful painting, instead it is things like composition, value and color harmony.

If you jump right into the detail, your mind goes into that mode and you can find yourself lost in the painting. Knowing something isn't quite right, but not knowing exactly what, and after all that laborious detail, we aren't all that willing to fix it.

So, this simple exercise that I discovered simply changed everything for me. It is something I do before every painting now. You can also do many of them, without doing larger paintings,  as a course in retraining the mind to see as a painter. I thought it might be of benefit to you...

The Quick Study

Thank you Karen. You have been so helpful, I placed a Paypal payment on your personal tutor page for your time. The page says that the fee is $45 but my Paypal account was only charged $35.

I have struggled with getting lost in the fine details for as long as I can remember. I can't tell you how many times I approached starting a new painting with my mind set on painting loosely. However, before you know it I am deep into the fine details. I attribute this to not having formal art training; understanding the concepts of using shapes, light and values to make things come alive. I've always relied solely on my God given talent.

I will explore your Quick Study link this evening after I dig us out from the snow we had here in Lancaster PA today. The timing is perfect because I am ready to start a new painting and this will be a great way to begin.

I've included the finished eagle painting. I completed it today during the snow storm. I think I may have a tendency to migrate to wildlife art so that I can get lost in all of the fine detail of the fur or feathers. Comfort zone.



It's lovely Dave!

Thanks, for the heads up, I'll have to fix the paypal link.

This turned out beautifully!

I sent you on email - you should see a notification that you have a new email up toward the top of the screen.

We will use emails to work on your Personal Tutor project :) Looking forward to it!

Wow, beautiful. He's staring right at me.  And, I also get stuck in details, have to remind myself to start with large, value shapes. 


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