View Full Version : C&C Envy (portrait-ish, reflections in a mirror)

10-15-2013, 08:48 AM
Hello all! I have been lurking on these forums for about a year, and I've finally gotten the courage to post. Yikes! :)

This is a painting I've just completed: 12"x16", with mostly Rembrandts soft pastels on Murano pastel paper. I have been painting very intermittently in the past two years, so I am at the painful in-between stage of not being a beginner, and having no true mastery over the medium.


I would really appreciate your thoughts on what could be improved! Three questions:
Colour vibrancy and balance: The painting is predominately green, but I threw in some blues in the shadows and highlights to liven up the colours. I don't know if it helped, so let me know if the colours are too dull/muddy. I would love to hear any suggestions on how to make the colours pop!
Strange, inhuman(?) face reflection: The face in the mirror looks strange, though I'm not sure what's wrong. (On another note, I'm also aware the figure and reflection do not match up - unfortunately, I caught this mistake late on, and it does not seem correctable without a major work over :o)
Texture: I smudge most of the marks (even the ones on the top "final" layer) I make: either to soften them, or to fill up the tooth of the paper. I don't know if this made the texture of the painting excessively smooth, so let me know what you think!All other comments are welcomed. Thanks for reading, and a further thanks in advance for your critiques!

(PS: Detail of face below)


10-15-2013, 07:14 PM
Thanks for joining us after a long lurk-dom!

Well, you sure have picked an extremely complex painting for your first post! Wow!

Some general comments which may or may not address your questions! You might want to try a paper that is smoother. I'm not familiar with the Murano paper, but it looks similar to Canson Mi-Tientes, which has a very textured side and a smoother side. Most folks prefer the smoother side. If you are using a textured paper, it might be a good idea to cover the "dots" right away with your first layer of application. You can do this by blending with your fingers or use a paper towel or something else. The pastel at this stage can be spread fairly thin. Then you can paint over the top without doing as much (or any) blending. This might help make your colors pop - as the final layer will be fairly direct and pure!

The face in the reflection has a very down-turned mouth. I'm guessing that is what you are noticing. Since the head is tilted slightly downward, even completely straight lips would be turned slightly upward due to the head tilt. So, perhaps a little less down-tilt might be the trick!

I think that the color harmony and overall balance is very well done! And considering the complexity of the composition - well done!!


10-15-2013, 11:09 PM
I like the composition and the perspective. It tells a story; feels eerie. In addition to what Don said, I think that the values across the face are too similar. For example the eyes and eyebrows are the same value even though one set is on the shadow side and should be darker. Also, the neck is very muscular, which doesn't seem to match the feminine shoulders we see from behind. You may want to consider bringing the far edge of the neck in a little so that the face has a little independence from it.

Good job!

10-16-2013, 10:44 PM

curious , and perhaps very wacky , but to me ,
because of the texture of the paper ,
it looks like a person turning away from a statue of her in front of her
which faces the mirror/recollection
and she turns her head away because neither is who she is/understands now ...

this is about sisters/growing up/maturing ?

the tip of a foam brush or a stump/tortillon can gently push pigment into those pesky dots .


10-17-2013, 08:45 AM
Congratulations on a very effecting composition, and your technique is terrific. What might be throwing you is that the image in the reflection should be smaller, not larger, than the person holding the mirror. Don't forget everything converges to the vanishing point!

Best, Evelyn

10-17-2013, 10:51 AM
DAK723: Thanks for the welcome! Yes, Murano pastel paper has a smoother surface on the other side. And that's a great tip about blending the first layer into the teeth of the paper; I'll give it a go for my next project. Regarding your point about the slope of the mouth too - you're right, and it's to do with the cylindrical-ish form of the teeth behind the mouth, I think. Good catch!

Bongo1: Thanks, I'm glad you like it! I'll work on the points you've raised: I think the similarity of the values across the face is another reason as to why it looks less-than-convincingly human.

sketchZ1ol: Hello! You know what, I think I actually prefer your interpretation of the painting. It sure explains the mismatched angles! Unfortunately, I had a less interesting concept in mind - insecurity/envy towards the progress of others, especially in contrast to the rut one's stuck in. I'll keep yours in mind though, especially if someone brings up the mismatched angles ;)

neddelta: Thank you for the kind words! And great point about lines converging to a vanishing point: for some reason, I never thought of applying to the head and reflection in the foreground!

Thanks to everyone again for the kind words and encouragement - everyone's so nice! :clap: I should be able to post a corrected version of the painting sometime next week, so drop in again if you're interested!

All warm and fuzzy inside,

10-17-2013, 06:25 PM
I'm impressed. Pam:wave:

10-27-2013, 11:28 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Pam!

As promised, the corrections:


I've added shadows to the (viewer's) left, made some adjustments to the eyes, shortened the chin, tucked in the neck and changed the pitch of the mouth. I think it looks better now! Thank you all for the kind advice, and thanks for looking!

10-27-2013, 11:47 AM
It does look better. :) I really like this piece. It's very evocative of....something I can't put into words but that appeals to me in a melancholy way. I can't paint like that at all. I can't seem to express things via art. I wish I could so when I see something that does I love it.

10-27-2013, 12:25 PM
That's really sweet of you to say, Christinal! And it really means a lot to me, because I remember showing some folks my drawings in the past, and being very hurt when they told me they 'lacked feeling'. It took quite a long time to get over it, which is kind of embarrassing to admit :)

Anyway, for a long while I thought I was incapable of expressive art as well (perhaps I still am!), but I realized that it was unhelpful to keep putting myself in that box. I also suspect that a certain level of mastery over the medium is first required in order to create expressive art. So it's not some fundamental defect in you (as I thought about myself!) that's holding you back! Keep at your art, and try not to be so hard on yourself! :)