View Full Version : Please critique - First Commission - study

05-13-2003, 07:52 PM
This is a study for my first commission. The study is 5"x7" but the actual painting will be 11"x15"" ... I did this to sort out issues when I try it again on a larger scale. In particular, I'm looking for a critique on composition and color choices. The cat is greyish/cinnamonish and the vases holding the flowers are all green. The house is off-white. The reference pic I'm working from, the table where the cat sits is green but I've made it blue ... or would a different color be better? In any event, I am looking for any and all feedback to help me when I attempt it in a larger size. I haven't put in the whiskers yet ... she has long white whiskers, rather than scrape them out, I think I'll try guache for them (I just don't have a bottle of it yet).


05-13-2003, 08:26 PM
Mary-Ann... What does you client expect? A portrait of his/her beautiful cat? Or a compellation of the cat and the household objects and flowers?

I absolutely love the way you have painted the cat. It's purrfect... and I'm wondering what he's looking at in the distance because he appears to be concentrating pretty hard... nice...

The blue table is good for him to be sitting on...

I really feel that the flowers and vases are competing for attention with the cat... If you need to keep them in your composition, I believe they should be much softer.

Your curtains really read well and I like their colour...

This is a wonderful challenge and I congratulate you on the commission. I don't envy your decisions!!! I'm certain that you'll do really well... and there are many others here who can give you much better advice than mine!

BTW, I did make a purchase from Curry's... I now have some new paint and free paper... Thank you so much!!!

05-13-2003, 08:36 PM
Looks like a happy painting Mary Ann. Cat is marvellous, is that what it's all about??? The only thing I would lose is that brown thing behind the cat's head, also would make the vase a very, very light tint (value) of green.

05-13-2003, 08:44 PM
ya, I am with Char....WHAT exactly is the client's preference...then concentrate on that

watch that your BG doesn't compete with your FOCAL point

composition looks good but a little busy!

05-13-2003, 08:45 PM
You have done a fantastic job of creating a timeless piece.

If I was the one commisioning you for this, I would not only over pay for it, but I will also send the cat once in a while to come over to your place and chase any mice that might be bothering you :p

However, the flowers.....me no like

lyn lynch
05-13-2003, 09:55 PM
Does the brown thing behind his head need to be there?
Why not make it just the pot w/a bit of high value greens in it. Make the pot high value terra cotta [bs and turners yellow, or another warm yellow] pot should END at height where the brown thing ends and the spikey green things start there w/a SLIGHT tilt up and some toward the left.
Get rid of all those flowers and the vase. This way too competing w/kitty, both full vase, all those colors and proximity to kitty.
Instead, put a vertical window box on the window sill, also terra cotta colors w/high and mid value greens, spikey like the others and some spilling downward and splots of flowers to remind of geranimums. BUT don't use that pink. keep colors in warm tones, then house in a cool tones to receed it. Use a bit of the cool tone to recede areas of the pot and window box [under ledges]. Warm up table edges nearest to viewer, or on top of table nearest to viewer.
And don't use gouache, if you must, mask out the wiskers and do lost and found selective washes...remember, you do not have to show EVERY whisker, just a few.
And, what is that cat looking at? Need to put a drooping flower or something to stop the eye. Right now he is simply looking out of the view. My eye follows him out of the view and on to the graphic of Shimmi-pup now doing you know what with his monkey...tsk, tsk.

05-13-2003, 11:07 PM
Looks good. I agree with previous comments about subject matter. Both cat and background have strong values and it is a matter of choice to emphasise what goes first. I would soften background and make it floating and bit abstract. Cat would stand out and be more realistic on soft background.

Wonderful idea about using guache on cat.

Good luck,


05-14-2003, 01:56 AM
I too love the cat but have to agree that the pot behind the cat's head is too close to the same color as the cat.

05-14-2003, 04:15 AM
The cat is wonderful, Mary-Ann. And personally, it does not bother me at all that he is looking out of the picture. I rather like it in fact since it creates an interest.

I do agree that the way the flowers are painted now does not quite work, but I'll venture another reason than what's been mentioned before. I think the flowers make the whole painting too scattered as a composition, rather than being a bouquet with a definite SHAPE against the shape of the cat and the table (which are both very pleasing as shapes). In other words, I don't think the problem lies in the value that the flowers have, or in their being a focal point or not, but in the lack of compositional unity in that part of the painting, and that the solution is not to paint them out of focus, but to give the bouquet as a whole (not just the individual flowers) a shape.

Hope I am making sense...


lyn lynch
05-14-2003, 04:39 AM
Sigh, here is I at my worst, and there is Olga making sense. Yes, yes, no shape to either the flowers or the vase, however, I still thinking they don't belong there.

05-14-2003, 04:51 AM
Commissions give us all headaches :(

If the commission is portrait of the cat, then you need to focus on cat, giving background supporting role. Blue table is perfect, and the soft lacey curtain. Vase and other object need to be soft focus, little detail, wet in wet, just shapes to guide the eye back to cat. Suggest you move vases to right, leave out brown object, try wet in wet bouquet, not keen on the reds, they draw the eye from the cat.


05-14-2003, 05:04 AM
You've add wonderful feedback on your study already, just wanted to say what a terrific job you did on the cat. It has vitality. I like the look on its face, maybe the person who commissioned the painting is walking up with a treat!

Agree most definitely about brown pot being a distraction behind the cat's head, not needed there.

Flowers are very top heavy with those large pinkish blooms towering over the smaller daisy-like ones. Agree with Olga about treating the mass of flowers as a shape before adding in details. Also agree they should be subdued in comparison with the lovely cat which is probably the reason for the commission.

Look forward to seeing your larger painting too.

05-14-2003, 06:36 AM
Thanks for looking in and commenting. I really appreciate it.

*Char and Pam - My "client" is the boyfriend of a lady I work with. She really liked a painting on my site but it had already been sold. He said she is hard to buy for and that an original art piece would be just the ticket. I have many reference photos from their garden but chose this one with the cat, he basically said to pick one and go at it. So I picked this one. The sale is contingent on whether or not she likes it when it's done. And I'm cool with that ... if she doesn't like it, I'm willing to do another ... I'm looking at this as great experience. They are terrific so I want to do a good job. She's an educator (and a very nice person) and he is in the arts business, digital right now but has worked in print shops ... they gave me Arches paper they had lying around a while ago and are just terrific supporters. So my first go at it will be a surprise, if it doesn't work out, I'm going to take up your good suggestion and ask what exactly they would like out of it. I'm seriously intent on pleasing them, motivated out of appreciation more than $$$ on this account.

*Char - I'm glad you got some new supplies with their sale ... it's a good one. I was eyeballing their Kolinski brushes, pricey, but someday. Have you received your order from Curry's yet? I haven't received mine yet but am really eager to get it.

I agree with everyone that the flowers are competing for attention with the cat. It's just all over the place. I'm thinking of ditching the flowers all together, or in the very least, using softer values so they don't stand out so much.

*Uschi - thanks for the idea of how to handle the vases if they stay.

*bin - thanks! Your comments are really encouraging, I appreciate that.

*Fookie - thanks for your detailed critique - I'm gonna ditch the brown bucket behind the cat and probably the flowers too. I like the idea for pointy leaves too. I'm wondering about a vertical window box, I understand a horizontal one but not so sure about a vertical one. In the larger piece, the cat will have more room to look, I've cropped the reference image for this one as this is where the main focal point of the painting will be (with the cat) that way, she won't be invading Shimmi's privacy.

*Aselka - Thanks for your comments. I have masking fluid and have only used it once ... I could dig it out again ... but I think I'll try the guache on the study to see how it turns out. Nice to have choices.

*Sher - thanks for your comments.

*Olga - that's an excellent suggestion. I know the lady who will receive this painting is an avid gardener and she would probably like the flowers to stay. You've given me a way they might be able to stay. Although, I sort of think if I changed the cat's head to be looking up at the flowers it might be better.

*Ruth - another good suggestion for a way to keep the flowers in the picture ... just move them over! I like that. Thanks!

*Sylvia - thanks for the detailed comments, especially about them being top heavy, I think you're correct.

Thanks everyone, you're the best!!! I'll let you know how it is coming along.

05-14-2003, 07:59 AM
What a kool study! Just super!

05-14-2003, 08:07 AM
MaryAnn - the cat is wonderfully done (even without the whiskers). The browns work well against the blue of the table. I agree with others that the flowers are too bright, competing with the softness of the cat. Perhaps lilacs in the top ones instead of the reds? And then softer pinks in the other flowers? Looks like tiger lillies and tulips and a lilac-shaped flower.
The brown pot at the cat's head doesn't work right now - I think it just needs to be another color so it doesn't blend into the head - either darker in value or lighter there.
A really good start - and, like others said, it depends on what your client wants. Hope this helps a bit.

05-14-2003, 10:20 PM
Thanks for looking and commenting Ben and Rhonda. I'll be starting the commission over the next couple of days and post an update as soon as I can (as long as I don't completely mess it up.)

05-14-2003, 10:55 PM
Super advice.......... good luck on the biggie..........

05-14-2003, 11:01 PM
Mary-Ann... good luck with this! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!

My parcel arrived! I bought 6 tubes of Winsor & Newton paint and a block of 10x14 Arches cp... I got the free sheets of WN paper in a wonder cardboard portfolio! And then... LOL... I thought about brushes... mine a just not very good... But... budget constraints... Anyway, thanks again for the tip!

lyn lynch
05-15-2003, 02:07 AM
Sorry, MA, I meant horizontal window box. Invading Shimmi privacy, LOL, he don't mind...Start a new thread with the new one, OK? This one be on page 72 by morning way this forum moves.

05-15-2003, 05:06 AM
Thanks Al.

Char - we ordered the same thing (well I got 7 tubes:)) looking forward to the free paper, the portfolio sounds great!!! Funny that we're both in the market for brushes, maybe we can get a group discount. lol.

Fookie - yup, I'll start a new thread. Will be starting it over the next couple of days. Thanks for checking in again.


05-15-2003, 10:03 AM
The commission is just wonderful news.
I look forward to seeing the new thread with your updates to this piece.

I love the rendition of the cat.

05-18-2003, 07:48 AM
Thanks Nina. I appreciate your comments. :)