Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learning the Hard Way

The subjects of this post are a few of the many near misses I have had with my paintings, and the lessons I learned from them. The first example is this 16x20" Moose painting. I do not remember whether I painted over this one or gave it away. I just knew that it was all wrong when I finished it. The problem was that I did'nt know how to fix it.
Being subjective about your own work, especially after putting so much thought, time, and work into it, is almost impossible. With time, usually a few years, I can often see the glaring defects of a painting. With this painting I can see that the color of the mountains and trees don't match the rest of the painting. I few simple Burnt Sienna and orange glazes would have remedied this one. Putting more definition in the Moose and foreground would have also helped.
This 16x20" Moose painting is a little more difficult to critique. It is meant to be a dramatic standoff between a bull Moose and some wolves. A problem with this one is that I could not decide whether to emphasize the drama of the animals or the grandeur of the mountains. at the very least, this kind of painting should either be much bigger or the animals should be the dominant feature and the mountains much smaller in relation to them.
This 16x20" Canada Goose painting came so close to being good. I love the setting with the glowing mist above the dark water, and the warm tones. I should have done a better job painting the geese, and I should have done something better with the snow. Making it more prominent with a more natural shape would have made this one extra good.  A Burnt Sienna glaze would have pulled it all together as well. I either gave it away or painted over it. I do not remember. So it goes.

This 12x16" Canada Goose painting is more recent. I regret that I painted over it. The painting that covered it came out much worse. It could have been improved by adding more grasses in the lower left corner that would partially cover the lower part of the geese. That would have placed the geese into the context of their environment more convincingly. 
With this 16x20" painting I was trying to make a bedraggled Bald Eagle patiently enduring a rainstorm. This idea could be improved by making the eagle and the foreground rocks bigger and darker. Less blue in the background.
Another near miss. This 20x16" Arctic Grayling is almost good. A better arrangement of the rocks below the fish would have helped. I tried to fix it and I hopelessly messed it up.
If you read this blog regularly you know that I can get hyper-critical of my own work. This 20x16" Wilson's Snipe illustrates that. The only problem with this painting is that the inner parts of the body, head, and neck of the bird need a slightly darker glaze to help it harmonize with its setting. An easy fix. Too late, I painted over it. I am beyond stupid.
When I came up with this 16x20" wolf painting I was undergoing a series of eye surgeries. I just could'nt see well enough to paint properly. This painting was doomed from the first brush stroke. I hope that I never have to repeat that experience.
This 12x16" Red-tailed Hawk has many nagging issues. The bird's beak is slightly too big. The foreground rocks leave much to be desired. They need to be more distinctively shaped, and they should stand out from the background with stronger lighting. This one went away also.
Another doomed 16x20" painting.  It could have been adjusted by making less contrast between the background trees and the sky. Also I should have had a more prominent  foreground shoreline and especially I should have made the trees much bigger and more distinctive. Too late now.
The reason that I take a hard view of past artwork is to help me improve as a painter. My guess is that some of you see obvious flaws that I have overlooked. I welcome critiques, even if they make me squirm in discomfort. I have more of these paintings and their defects to come.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Gees, they look excellent to me. And it takes so much time to change them. How about photographing a painting and Photoshopping it to see the effect? Given the complexity of photoshop, however, I imagine that would take even more time.

john said...

Two things that I think about concerning my own art are; First, I measure the final result of a painting against the mental image that inspired the painting. If it is not close, then I am disappointed with the painting.
Second, I do not want bad paintings to outlive me and cheapen my whole body of work. I guess that I should lighten up about that and not be so anal. Thanks for your comment.