Painting critique

Recently I painted a watercolour from some trees and farms in the neighborhood from Burgerbrug (North Holland).
It was and still is beautiful weather when I write this , the grass was vibrantly green, so I decided not to paint in my usual greens, but in a lighter version.
I added a shadow in the foreground, not to dark, otherwise I was afraid to spoil the fresh green.
I posted my painting on Twitter Facebook and Flickr, and on the last one I received a critique from a good friend Rosalind, that makes beautiful work herself. We are connected on Flickr for years, so I took it seriously.

The friendly critique were:  The grass is all a bit uniform. Perhaps a bit more shadow on the grass to the right of the middle falling diagonally away from the horizon towards the bottom right-hand corner ?

This in my mind I looked at the photo and the watercolour, and indeed the photo shows a bit to uniform green lawn. The watercolour itself have a gradation, and I don’t see this on the photo!

But I always think, if they are right, will it improve my watercolour? In time you develop enough imagination you can actually make colours appear on your paper still in your mind. When you not have developed this, there is a trick, not invented by me, but by Tony van Hasselt, a very good watercolour artist from origin Dutch, but he lives in the USA for a long time and painting for at last 50 years or more! I understand he did followed lessons by the great teacher Edgar Whitney, and this teacher is responsable for a lot of good artist we all know today! Look Whitney up, it is well worth it!

Back to the trick, in Tony’s book The Watercolor FIX-IT Book are tons of advise, a Building Blocks poster and a small sheet of acetate.

The trick is you can lay the acetate over your watercolour, tape it on the sides and add all sorts of shadows and colour, without ruining the underneath original watercolour. Tony used this method in his workshops to help students with their work. He shows what is missing in their watercolour with help of the acetate, and when he removes it, the student can add in her own style and colours make the improvements.
A great solution I may say!

So there we go, I tape the acetate and mix up a few colours, I tried three mixes.The first two I wiped out again, so this is also a advantage, you have more times to see what you do!
The final shadow was a dark green grey, and it seems it destroys the sunny look a bit.So I think I leave it, with in my mind that the watercolour was better in green gradation then the photo! It also became a bit to heavy on the right side.

What do you think?

Best regards Edo
and thanks Tony and Rosalind. 

website Tony van Hasselt

Categories Art

20 thoughts on “Painting critique

  1. What a brilliant idea! I am undecided whether I like the addition of the darker shadow or not. I feel that it does add more contrast to the painting, but as you have already observed that lovely summery feel is somewhat lost and perhaps the foreground becomes too much of a focus. But having said that…………what would I know! LOL

    1. Thanks Robyn, it is always difficult to decide when a painting is done. Some you often see are far from done, while others really are overworked. A friend on facebook said “maybe you could add some birds”? Well that is a nice thought!
      My teacher Kees van Aalst learned me, the first 5 till 10 cm in a painting must happen absolutely nothing. Nothing on he edges, nothing in the corners! regards Edo

      1. That’s correct, Edo. If there are “things” on the edges, they will lead the viewer’s eye off the page.

  2. Na drie keren lezen ,vond ik het waarheid ,ik vind het prachtig geschreven !!!!!

  3. My watercolor workshop leader taught us about the acetate. However, a word of caution: I rolled mine up to take home. It completely stuck together and I couldn’t unroll it.
    It really helps with problems in paintings to use the acetate! Just store it flat!

    1. Well it is yes, Ray Campbell Smith says in one of his videos, if the sky and subject is busy make the foreground calm and a place to rest the eye!

  4. Its a super painting Edo, and I’m very intrigued by this acetate technique. I can see a lot of merit in this, and it could have saved me a lot of anguish in the past! I prefer the original version as it says more to me about the vibrancy of a spring day. I agree that a little something extra in the grass might help, although by keeping that quiet it has enabled the farm and trees, and especially the sky, to have more impact. If I was putting anything else in the field it would be a slim, broken shadow starting as a very thin line close to the dark trees on the right, moving on a gentle diagonal, and becoming thicker to the left. It would hit-and-miss your excellent dry-brush areas and exit the paper just below your signature. It would be not as dark as those you did on the acetate, but darkest at the left hand side to provide some counter-balance to the dark trees on the right.

    1. Thank you so much Oliver, also for your tips about the shadow. I must say the photo from the acetate shadow is a bit dark. Its also difficult to make light washes on this plastic. the photo were I show the acetate is about how dark the original watercolour is. so the photo from the painting itself is a bit to light in that area. so I keep it like it is probably. I often change a watercolour after I post it on facebook, and more then once I wrecked it. lucky enough no people that offered to buy the wrecked one! I saw myself quickly paint a new one haha! regards Edo

      1. Ha! I’m in complete agreement – this has certainly happened to me on more than one occasion! As Joseph Zbukvic said – “Many ruined paintings are preceded by the words ‘I’ll just do this!'”

  5. I enjoyed viewing your site. Thanks for the kind words regarding my site. The acetate overlay is a very good technique. I used it to some degree years ago. Now, in my senior years, I usually just go ahead and paint. However, there are times when the overlay is the perfect solution. I usually use a product called “wet media.” Some stores no longer carry it since it seems that a lot of younger painters aren’t even aware that it exists. I think it is great that you share the idea.

    1. Thank you very much Don Rankin, I use it not very often, but it was nice to make a small article about the acetate, cause a lot of beginning artist have the problem that they can not visualize the color or dark tones on the right place. I often hear “I am afraid to spoil my painting”. I always say, spoil a lot and learn from it! I shall have a look about that wet media. I never hear from that. but watercolor is a never ending learning process!

  6. What a great idea, I often destroy many ‘good’ watercolors with that addage, “I’ll just do this one more thing”. Brilliant idea.

  7. Seeing we’re talking of tips and suggestions what about the Zbukvic one “ more paintings are ruined by the thought of I think I’ll just do this”. The original painting is fine, leave it alone. Not every suggestion is right for us

    1. Thanks Larry, sometimes I have a painting half done. (I thought) and after a lunchbreak it looks done!
      Or I show a friend what I am doing , and then she says dont do anythoing more! its good how it is!
      To stop on the right moment is hard, you need to paint with a open mind. And prepared to change your plan how to do it in the first place.

  8. Edo your painting is beautiful as is I wont change nothing! To be true to your perception and feeling of fresh summery grass. I actually don’t think that your grass is too uniform and I can see the shadow and the light gradation that you did with your watercolor. Tony use a clever trick I never used it. I agree with your teacher Kees van Aalst about “the first 5 till 10 cm in a painting must happen absolutely nothing” I love that. Keep up your wonderful work! Carolina

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