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This is an acrylic,  8x10" on canvas, of a scene in our front yard field from 2016.  Composition changes and less details were deliberate in most areas.  ? Are the more detailed grasses in the left foreground too heavy?  I can't decide if they help move the eye around the painting or if they need some balancing out on the right.  Just one of my questions; I'll leave it though for any comments you might have time to make.  Thank you!

Hi Mary, I think this painting is a beauty. I love the softness and the feeling of distance you have created.

When looking at this, one of the questions for me would be what is the focal point? My eye pauses at the green tree and then moves down the path to the fence. If the distant fence is the focal point, I like Wenda's suggestion to open the gate - as that invites you in - and perhaps, you could work on that section a bit to clearly make it the focal point.

If the green tree is the focal point then I would work on that area more to make it clear.

I hope this is helpful (as you know I am learning too), but it is what comes to mind when looking at your painting.

It is a beauty and I am looking forward to seeing the finished painting!

Thanks Sarah and Wenda for your time and suggestions!  

hi Mary! i think this is really a nice painting. love the soft loose feel. nice palette. the focal point is the tree closest to me. you have great distance. i have but one request :) could you open the gate? i would like to hike over to the mountains. i think the right side grasses are fine. that is how i got into the painting. i came in on the right, walked to the left, and climbed over your fence.

Ok, here's my two cents.  The basic scene gives one a bit of a warm fuzzy moment of comfort, and you have captured that fairly well.  The question is: do you want a comfortable repro of a photo that has personal value, or a painting that makes the viewer stop and take note?  You could easily do a series of small canvases based upon this photo.  If you are looking beyond copying the photo, there are other question and challenges. 

Where do we put the darkest values and strongest contrasts?  Usually at the center of interest or the foreground, depending upon out motives.  Here they are along the base of the mid distance tree line.  So that is what draws my eye in before going left to right, right to left, looking for a focal point.  The horizontal motion immediately brings attention to the somewhat symmetrical lines of the tree line and the distant horizon.  The brighter greens of the near evergreen also catch my eye.  So it leaves me a bit confused; I'm not sure what I am looking for or expected to see.

From the shadow under the evergreen the light is coming straight down, so we have no dimensional shadows to show us the contours, and no shadows under the grasses.  Still, it is a nice photo, so what does one do?

I think I would try this as an emotional or mood painting rather than a landscape.  Initial thoughts would be to keep the background quite flat in value, and cool in colour.  Reduce contrast in mid tree line, keeping shadows soft and cool in hue.  The grasses I would anchor with some darker slightly cool values but keep the edges soft.  Perhaps a bit more cool hue for the mid ground snow (even a wash would serve).  Overall, a loss of contrast and detail front to back, with few clear edges other than the grasses/weeds in front.  Then I would take diluted paint and lightly spatter from one direction to give the effect of a directional snowfall.  Diluted and grayed for the background, and some cleaner white for the closer snow flakes.  This type of approach would give much stronger response than a straight scene reproduction.

Other possibilities might be the inclusion of a shed or barn, old farm equipment or vehicle, or even a snowmobile to provide a distinct center of interest.  The lighting is key to all else.  On a cloudy or overcast day, the light is cooler and gives a bluish tint to everything; colours are less saturated and shadows have softer edges.  Contrast is also reduced - there is not as wide a range between the brightest and darkest values in any given scene under diffused or flat lighting.

So I guess it's all up to you!  Without more input as to your motives, opinions offered may not be relevant to what you had in mind.  I do see a lot of options with a moody scene like this but that is a personal response and may be completely out of touch with what you envision.   

THanks s

I have been waiting for you obsevations on this. I am thankful for Mary's posting. And the input of others. There is so much to learn.

There are few rights and wrongs in the arts.  Unless you are playing Chopin or Beethoven and improvise too much {:>).  So much depends upon what each of us sees, how we interpret what we see, and how we wish to express it to others.  Having said that, some posts I can respond to fairly quickly, some take more thought, and many get no response.  Guess it has to do with how I feel about a painting and also who submitted the post.  I'm simply more comfortable sharing with some than with others.  Hope that makes sense.

Have been quite impressed with your latest posts, Wenda.  You are definitely getting more confident and the results are quite amazing.  You have come a long way in the past few months and I see a lot more maturity in your pieces.  You have been learning, for sure! 

Thanks Charles. It is awesome having you all to help me learn. It is exciting :)

Hi Mary!

Thanks for sharing this, it is really lovely! I love what you have done with the foreground grasses!! The subtle tans and purples with a little bit of dark here and there is really nice! Soft edges, just enough detail for a foreground. And adding in the pathlike area leading to the tree is great!

I love your distance as well, nicely done! The composition works really well, in my view.

The areas that bother me are the dark midground trees and the evergreen tree.

One thing to think about in painting theses bare trees - take a look at the tops of them. The branches get smaller and smaller toward the top and edges. So as we look at the tree, The values get lighter toward the edges of the trees and the edges are all very soft - because the branches are small and twiggy. So if you lighten your paint, keeping the darker color only toward the center and base it will look a bit more natural and you won't have those strong darks against the very light sky. It is that contrast that is drawing our eye where we don't want it to go right away.

I think I would add some of the grasses  - a little more greyed and blued and darker where in shadow to soften out the base of the tree line there. And yes, as Charles mentioned - be careful of not going darker in the tree line than the darks you have in the foreground - just to maintain that relative distance.

The second area is the focal point tree.  It's tough because you don't have a lot of info. I'm assuming this is our focal area. I like that you have added some color here, very nicely done.

What catches my eye is that you seem to have the lighter colors on the bottom, and the darker colors on top. With the light coming from above I think you will be happier with the darker colors below.

Size: the fact that the tree is smaller than the trees behind it is messing with the sense of distance. Things being larger as they are closer helps us understand the depth. If it were me I would make the tree taller than the mid ground trees - up into the sky. This would give it more presence and not be as confusing to the eye.

Shape: I know in the photo it is a very symmetrical tree, I would just do my best to try to vary the edges so the shape isn't so geometric. It will just look more natural

Shadow: again, I know the shadows are directly below in the photo. If it were me I would push them more to one side, and I would put more of my lighter values on one side of the tree itself. Just for the sake of interest and trying to avoid symmetry.

Color: Your color integration is nice with some tan colors going into the trees as well as some of the greens in the treeline. I would add little touches of the green in the foreground as well. Just a tiny bit - lighter and more neutral. This will help integrate the tree a bit more. 

The last thing I would probably do is add just a dusting of snow to your focal point tree. Maybe drift some snow a bit higher on one side of the trunk. Again, just to integrate it into the scene a bit more.

This is a great little painting Mary! Your composition is great and again those grasses are awesome!

As always, just my ideas, you're the artist here, so use what sounds right to you! :)

Karen & Charles:  

I'll address this to both of you because somehow the one I started and thought I finished and sent in response to Charles never got beyond Thanks!.

 Anyway, I'm very grateful to both of you for the detailed responses and the time and energy you  spent on sharing your knowledge with me.  There is a lot of helpful commentary in both of your responses and I'll be taking a good look and review of my painting trying to incorporate the lessons you have so generously shared.  

Mary, Thanks so much for posting your painting for critique. I am getting ready to start a winter scene with bare trees and some evergreens.  I love the colors you have used in your painting and that along with the feedback you've received will help me thanks again.  My critical eye is not nearly as trained and honed as Karen and Charles and I didn't see what they saw until I read the critiques.  I like the painting as is but look forward to seeing what you might do next with it. 


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