Open mike critique

Having taught a fair amount of workshops, I have many participants who will email me images and ask for a critique. I used to do this happily until it became too much. So now my new policy is this; I will give my best opinions on work but it has to be in an open forum. In the off chance I say something intelligent, I want others to benefit. Also, the floor will be open to any of the tens of readers of this blog to give constructive criticism or praise. So we will start with Kristen Olson's work. She agreed to this so let's get this party started.

I'm going to start with this 9x12, the best of the three she sent in. It's a sweet little painting and if I had to nitpick I'd say the light is a little confused. I'm not feeling the same light on the top of the tree that I am seeing on the sand at the trunk. Perhaps a little more light on the tops or more clear delineation of shadow in the tree mass. Might also help to organize that same mass into more carefully designed shapes of light and dark, right now it's a little vague. The same thing is true with the flowers in the foreground, a little more careful designing (Ray Roberts is a great example of this) can help solidify them into more cohesive shapes and act as a stronger lead in to the painting. Or you could leave it alone and do a larger version with these considerations.

This is a really ambitious painting for its size. At 9x12 it reads more like a larger painting at 16x20, which is good. I think a little bit of careful redesigning here would go a long way too. The jagged sawtooth rock pattern at the waterline is too consistent. Work on not repeating shapes here; make some bigger, some smaller, some rounder, some more angled. This will change the negative shape of the water for the better because right now it's too much like a sidewalk (Paul Lauritz, T. Allen Lawsen and Waugh are good ones to look at). You could revisit the tree with this in mind as well. It could use a little more variety in shape and edge. Additionally, the color and value of the rocks are a little too much the same all the way through. Try altering the brightness and saturation as the rocks go out to lead the eye the the main event. A little more light at the point.

This is one of those paintings that wants to be more abstract, I think. The first issue for me is the placement and shape of the water (negative space) it's pretty well centered and almost a perfect triangle, I'd work on a way to throw off the symmetry. I'm not really getting whether there is light on this or if it's one of those foggy day paintings but it's all pretty consistent throughout. Consider darkening down the back wall, simplifying some of the information back there. Look for ways to vary your colors more, especially in the light.

Looking at the three I'd say you tend to stay with very set values and color palette, which is great as a foundation but you could work on getting more saturated colors in your overall palette and work on getting a slightly broader value scale with lighter light accents and darker dark accents. Focus also on your shape making skills, do a lot of little notan sketches in black and white to really see the essential shapes and compose it before you start.

Anybody else see something that will be of help?