How do I get some constructive feedback on my painting?

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Have just finished this painting and would love some feedback !
I know the horizon line doesn't look completely straight but in reality it looks okay.


Beautiful Hilary! Let me look at it for a while and I'll get back to you with some ideas, but they will be small ones as it is a lovely painting! Let me ask a couple of things, did you use a photo reference? If so, would you like to post that for us to see as well? Also let me ask, what did you love most about the scene, what made you want to paint it?

Thanks for sharing!

This is the photo I used . I tried to make the painting as much like the photo as I could

Hi Karen ,

I can only paint what I absolutely love and when I saw this photo I just wanted to recreate it as perfectly as I could .

I just love the colours of the ocean and the colours of the rocks , the fact that the sand is so pristine , the chunky texture of the rocks .

This is my idea of paradise , so private !

I'd love to walk into that emerald sea and have a swim !

I copied the images into the body of your message so we could see them together. I hope you don't mind!

Let me say the rendering of your rocks is beautiful, very realistic and I can just feel the texture!

Also the color in the water is lovely and sooo inviting! Very well done!

In looking at the painting, and knowing that your goal was to be as realistic as possible, I think you might try to focus on the values in some areas.

First, the sky. As we look at a sky it will almost always be warmer in color and darker in value at the top - and get lighter and cooler toward the horizon. Your sky seems mostly one color to me

on the horizon, I think you made a good decision in making the dark band of water at the horizon less obvious, more of a gradation. I think it might be improved by making that color less chromatic. The value seems okay, it is just too bright of a blue. adding a bit of the complimentary color to the blue - a tiny bit of cad red and cad yellow would grey it down a bit.

The foreground rocks - again, a value thing here. Wherever you have your lightest lights, and your darkest darks, the eye will be drawn, it will become a focal point. Even though the dark patches seem that dark in the photo (this is a problem with painting from photos) you would probably be happier if you lightened them up a bit. Except in areas that you want to be a focal point.

in the same area. Look at the values of the shadows the rocks are casting on the sand. Do you see how yours are lighter? If you lighten the shadow sides of the rocks and darken the cast shadows I think you will be happier, and the rocks will settle into the sand and feel more grounded.

Now check out the value of the sand compared to the value of the rock on the left, and the water behind the foam line. Do you see how in the photo those values are almost the same? Now look at your painting at those same spots. In the photo these areas blend together and don't take the eye away from the center of interest - which to me is the central rock leading the eye out to the water.

One more value thing. Check out your patch of sand that is on the base of the central rock? see how much lighter in value it is? compare the value of the left hand rock to the sand patch, in the photo they are about the same. In yours the sand is lighter and the rock darker.

The trick with values is always comparing one area to another and asking yourself. is this area lighter or darker than the one next to it? Getting the values right gives us more realism.

But we are the artists! So we can adjust those value to provide emphasis where we want it, and to lead the eye. Remembering that areas of greatest contrast with always draw the eye first.

One last thing to think about next time - the composition. If I were working with this photo I would have moved the large rock to the side, and made it smaller. This would have created a more inviting pathway into the painting I think

I hope these ideas are helpful! I really do love the painting and thanks so much for sharing!


Hi Karen,

I cannot believe all the time and trouble you took to help me improve this painting .
I'm actually speechless .
Your advice makes such sense and is totally spot on . These suggestions that you made will definitely make a huge difference and in a million years , I would never have thought of them myself .

I haven't been painting very long and am self taught so your help is invaluable .

I spent ages watching "the red tree " videos yesterday and was amazed at how you gradually brought such a simple ordinary scene to life . That reference photo was nothing out of the ordinary yet you managed to make a charming little piece from it .
I learned such a lot from those videos , I had never heard of "values" but I know now they are very important .

I'm going to watch again from the beginning because there is too much information to take in all at once .

Karina , you make me want to keep on painting and improving so thank you so much for taking all the trouble you did .
I just wish there was something I could do to repay you .
Warmest regards ,

You are so welcome Hilary. I spent a lot of time learning from books and online tutorials when I was starting out. I still am! That's part of what makes art such an amazing journey, it is truly lifelong learning. I'm glad the Red Tree video is helping! There are more videos in the other classroom tabs as well.

Happy Painting!


Thank you , Karen .
I'm going to send you my horse picture because I would love your opinion on it .
I put it up on WET CANVAS and a few people said they liked the stonework but didn't mention the horse which was supposed to be the focal point ! :)

I absolutely love this painting because I know the horse personally .
He is very elderly now but has the nicest , kindest personality - a real old gentleman!
He lives in a stable whose stonework dates back six hundred years and is just beautiful , so weathered and mellow , a bit like George himself .

Whenever you get a chance , I would love your comments . I know you're very busy so absolutely no rush .

This is the first animal I've painted so I know the drawing could be a lot better . But what I wanted to do was try to capture his friendly laid-back personality and how cosy he looks in his stable .

I'll take a photo of the photo I took and upload them both later .

Thanks again ,

This is photo of George

This is photo of George


This is the painting !


Hi Hilary! Lovely painting, and thanks again for sharing! I hope others out there following along will add their comments, and share as well. I learn a lot by seeing how other people solve challenges in painting.

But back to this sweet horse. I think you did a wonderful job rendering the photo, there is nothing to say there! I think this is a good example of why it is tough to work from photographs. Your little photo gave you quite a bit of visual information on the rocks, which made it easier to paint them (it's never easy!)

The white horse, though, largely because it is white just lost its detail. Making it harder to model the form and create impact. The shadow behind the horse makes a lovely contrast and a perfect way to identify the center of interest, but as photos all do, it is just dark and flat.

So as you matched the photo, you end up with a center of interest that actually doesn't hold center stage to the rocks and wood and metal. They have more detail, and he less. That's where you start bringing your creativity to play. You sometimes need to change what you see in the photo to suit your artistic needs and tell a story. I'm not sure the focus on the hard rocks, metal, wood tell the story of this soft, gentle horse - see what I mean? The emotion the scene evokes in me is a bit of sadness, he seems sad surrounded by all the hardness. You could still use the scene but I would think about the EDGES you are using. This is another painting term like VALUES. every brushstroke will have either a soft, blended edge, or a hard, crisp edge. Every area of color, every element. You can soften edges to de-emphasize an area and keep your edges crisp in an area you want to draw the attention. Do you see how the horse is mostly soft edges and the environment mostly hard? Again, reversed from what you want in order to keep us looking at your focal point (hence all the comments about the lovely stonework) The eyes of the horse, the detail in his bridle would be a good area to make more crisp and detailed. The problem with that is the detail isn't there in the photo!

Placement. One rule of thumb in composing your piece is not to put your focal point in the center of the painting. I would have cropped the right side of the painting - like this

Do you see how the focus is more on the horse than the place? Now if your focus was the cool old stable, that would be totally different, but you were wanting to showcase this sweet loving horse. Keeping in mind your original purpose helps in making these editing decisions.

The last area I would mention is the flat dark behind him. Again, it goes back to using the elements of the scene to tell your story. The stark black and white are a great visual draw, but to represent his spirit I would add some hints of color and softness some warmth surrounding him as a representation of him, if that makes sense!

But again, lovely, lovely job in painting the scene, you have some wonderful skills!

Happy Painting!



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