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This is a 10.5x7" Acrylic on paper - hopefully the first of (3) that will be on the same piece of paper separated by 1/2".  I'm wanting to express how spring travels up the mountain:  "Sugar Cove Spring Progression".   Since this is the first I'm hoping for artist's input before I go further.  

Any and all critiques are appreciated - on anything, values, color, brushwork, etc.  Thanks very much for your time.

Mark & Philippe:  Thanks very much for your time and insightful remarks.  I appreciate hearing about composition set up and the tree placement; I struggle with trying to use artistic license in that regard and your reminders are helpful.  

This is our view out the front of our house so I'm mentally a little "stuck" on wanting to be true to the view I'm so familiar with so,  my thought for that open space on the right that I haven't put in yet is including an almost life size painting there of a small golden daisy like wild flower that was blooming during this period in the field -  and I planned to have it overflow into the white 1/2" border around the painting.  I'm hoping to do that to the other 2 paintings so the next time around I may move that tree as you suggest and place the next flower over to the left where those current uninterested privets are at the bottom left.  Anyway, thanks so much for all the helpful tips.

One detailed ?  I have is when the mt. is in shadow (this is a 7pm south exposure sunset picture as they all will be) how do I "cool" that color or do I have to completely redo the purpley mixture and change it to blues/greys - if I add some green will that cool it down sufficiently?  This mountain is not that far away from us - just up the street vs. miles off in the distance if that helps.  

I've been told this many times before (Karen can attest to this - about the blues and greys of the distance) but I can't seem to figure it out when I'm looking at a picture and trying to pic the colors.    Color - if I live to be 100 I'll only scratch the surface of learning.....

Thanks again for helping!!!!  Philippe you suggestions with pictures really drive home the points.  Thank you so much for your time on this. 

I understand what you are saying about the shadow part of the 

Hi Mary, love your idea of the daisies tying everything together, and the thing about composition...well it's just a tool not a rule, so you go girl!

To try and answer your question "how do I cool that color"...Well I do see some purple in the background shadows, but it leans to the red (warm) side. A mixture of blue and raw sienna will cool it (basically blue and it's compliment). Keeping in mind it's value of course. Greens go either way...more blue-cooler more yellow-warmer. You may want to save your greens until later in your progression when things start really greening up more.

Don't be concerned about the colors in the photo, what we want is color "temperature"...cooler in the background...warmer in the foreground like that you already have in the foreground.

Hope this make sense and helps in any way

Hi Mary! You're living in a very pleasant place! 

About composition, I found a free little PDF from Phil Davies. Very clear and interesting. Here is the link: (free register may be required ):

Philippe:  As always I'm so grateful to you and your suggestions - I'm on page 37 now and this is incredibly helpful.  

Yes we are blessed to live here and see this beauty every day.  Thank you!!!  Mary

Still working on this - put it in; take it out, eeeek I'm understanding now how important it is to spend more up front time on the composition issues before the paint brush gets picked up.  

Anyway, I had previously added a yellow bush (bottom left) which I took out along with the bare tree.  It's open land there now but I'm wondering if I need something small to bring the eye back to the flower piece on the right side.  

Choosing a beautiful composition "before the paint brush gets picked up" is a part of the pleasure of painting I think. I haven't answers to your questions but I think these are good questions. (You may follow the advice of Phil Davies: chose a single focal point and organize the composition around it: value, color, lines, breathing area...). Can't wait to admire the result.


Hi Mary! You really have a creative idea on showing the spring progression. This looks like where I live with the trees in the hills starting to get their fuzz on. and I'm liking your fuzz brush work.

The main thing I'm seeing is that you have a lot of warm color in the far background hills. These darker colors will get cooler, bluer, and lighter as they recede. The camera shot has these distant values very dark, don't let that fool you, the darks will always get darker as they come forward.

Choose a main focal point and hit it hard with light. You have done a great job with the lighting coming in low and from the right with long shadows to the left (must be early morn or late afternoon) This gives you the opportunity to add some hard light to the right of objects (mainly your focal point) while the left side stays mostly dark giving you a high contrast.

For the sake of composition, I would move the green tree in the foreground to the right so that it's not lining up with the peak of the distant hill. This will open up the valley more instead of cutting it in half.

And remember, these are only mere suggestions and I'm sure you will have a wonderful progression piece. Can't wait to see them!

Hi Mary! Your idea is great! Your brush stoke is beautiful.. Colors are interesting.

My main remark is that your composition is too close to the reference photo. It's good you squeeze the width and push the blue ofthelittle house, but you didn't really use your "artist licence" to define an interesting focal point. The main tree (wich seems to be the focal point) is just in the middle. That's not a really good place. Furthermore this tree has a symetrical hat with a hill summit just above it.

I tried some changes with a software to test my ideas.

Sorry Mary, I come back to your painting. I had an other idea. What not to tilt the ground. Here is another testing.

Hi Mary,

I love this idea! and you have some excellent ideas from Mark and Phillippe. :)

We run into this often with the composition. Wanting to show a place accurately, because it is well know and loved. But wanting to make a good paintings as well. In that case your strongest tool is the way you are cropping the image.

Given the 10.5 x 7 size, I would have cropped it more like this

What this does is move that center tree to a position more on a third line. It also adds some more foreground ground area which will be nice in showing the changes in other seasons. Keeping the slope of the mountain more gradual, as it is in the photo, helps to minimize the way the tree lines up with the mountain. I've cut off some of the trees on the right, but I think there are plenty of trees still there to represent that part of the landscape.

Next is value (you knew I would say that! :)

So, this season gives us less contrast, and more neutral tones. You've done a good job with this overall. The mid ground trees are a bit too light and the building as well. Notice how that foreground tree reads as a darker value against a lighter value behind it. Also the lightest area is the grass in sunlight. In your painting the mid ground trees are lighter.

Back to those neutral tones.

As Mark mentioned, that warm background is your biggest challenge. Following the seasons, for this one you will want it to be the coolest, most wintery. As far as mixing the color. Don't be afraid to practice! If the color needs to be bluer, add blue! If it needs to be neutral, add a tiny bit of the complimentary color. Taking some time to paint some swatches on watercolor paper, making notes of your mixture will really help with your confidence. In the end it's about following your instinct. If the color is too warm, add blue. You may need to add some white as well to keep the value right.

Those midground trees are only a bunch of very subtle shades of greys and tans. Only a tiny bit of color is needed to portray this season. You would be amazed how much fun you can have with just subtle shifts of greys from warmer to cooler. The key is to test the color on the canvas against the other colors already there. On your palette a slightly warm grey will look really dull, put it on the canvas next to a cool grey and it will look orange! Try it, you will be amazed. ALWAYS test the color against the other colors around it.

Anyway, glad you are having fun with this one! Can't wait to see the update :)

Thanks very much Karen for your detailed, helpful reply.  I'll keep working at it and see what I can come up with.  I really appreciate all the comparative photo work you provided with your critique.


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