View Full Version : "The Grotto" - critique welcome

07-28-2015, 08:00 PM


Title: "The Grotto" - critique welcome
Year Created:
Medium: Oil
Surface: Board
Dimension: 12 x 8 (guess)
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

A painting of mine from a photo I took of the "The Grotto" in the Kimberlies of Weste<br> Australia. The photo is a very processed HDR type image.

Hi I'd love constructive criticism on this one. I'm a very new artist and would be very happy to get suggestions. I am personally quite happy with this one but have noticed friends don't seem that impressed with it lol. I am a keen photographer and remember thinking some of my early photos were great but know better now when I look back at them now! So yeah any lea<br>ings you can give me would be welcome! Don't worry about hurting my feelings :) I have only been playing around for a month or so and I know I have lots to learn.

I do wonder if the lighting is a bit dull and flat... I have posted the original HDR photo of mine too.

Its only a small pic and looks a lot better at a distance...

07-28-2015, 09:43 PM
well I think you've done a pretty good job, but the trees look too large and too green. Notice the trunks are nearly invisible. Just suggest them in a darker duller green. The rock wall facing the waterfall is in shadow and is much darker. You can achieve this by glazing darker mixes of color over that area (there is a nice glazing medium that I like to use. and some of the waterfall looks too solid. I really like your effects on the rocks, especially on the left.

07-29-2015, 01:53 PM
assuming your posted photos are accurate i have to say - somewhere between the two (super duper soft vs super duper sharp) would be perfect!
that being said, there's a startling amount of detail in such a small piece.
i do think more dark on the right would be an improvement over all, to help pop the lights more.


07-29-2015, 02:10 PM
Difficult subject for a new painter. The first thing you should do in a painting like this is to establish the structure. The falls has a horseshoe shape. First get that established as well as the downward movement. Keep this simple. You might be surprise after you accomplish this that it is already starting to look good.

Mark Szymanski
07-29-2015, 05:46 PM
I agree with oldmartinartist, it IS a difficult subject for any artist, but particularly for a newer one.

I won't give so much a critique on what you've done so far, but perhaps direct your thinking to some items I see in the work completed to this point.

One of the main thrusts to think about in painting rock, is the geologic processes which create the rock itself... not so much in naming the type of rock, but more in the solidity and strength of the rock. In this case I see you've broken the rock into small segments to go after the colors, but missed the fact the rock is massive weighty outcroppings. For example, in your painting I don't see the horseshoe curves in the rock - the very thing which allows it to be a grotto. I suspect in times of very high water, the falls are much larger and splash across almost all of the area (no trees, bushes, or nothing growing on the walls or across the bottom). http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2015/1765836-Grotto_Curves.jpg
These mass lines help to swing your eyes across and around the painting, helping to connect one side and the other.
Something else to consider is the mass of rock itself. In the upper sections of the rock is much more of a mass of shape before it is broken into color. If you block the color as a mass first, then very subtly vary the color of the mass of rock you'll usually be more effective in describing those properties which describe rock. In the picture below, I first note 4 major rock masses on the vertical... the dull blue, the orange, the dusky rose, and the green. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2015/1765836-Grotto_mass_of_rocks.jpg
Next on the horizontals, (pink) the table rocks if you will, there is a definite stair pattern to them. To continue the stair metaphor, there are Flat lights on the top (the tread), dull darks on the the verticals connecting them (the risers). These stair treads don't cease to exist at the edge of the water, but actually continue through the water and are causing the the whiter pools. If you think of theses as shelves of stone broken on the edges with extenders thrust out into the cascade of water, holding fast against the forces of erosion, you'll describe the falls better. The brushwork of the falls are simply making a large curvy swoop instead of an area where the water falls onto and then with its volume and speed is forced off this ledge onto more rocks below. Some areas the water has less force and drops vertically, especially along the edges, and other portions the power of the main flow forces the water out and away from ledge into a more angled flow. The other thing to think about is what angle is the water flowing off the shelf relative to the observer... If the water is flowing towards you it will drop nearly vertically, if the flow is parallel to you, it will shoot off at a different angle. These details help describe the rock supporting and shaping the water stream.
There are a great many opportunities to add color to the water, especially the falling water since the mist bends the light. The edges of the falls have water flowing lazily onto the shelves of rock on the right, allowing for some nice softer edges.
The left hand edge of the falls is causing problems for me because of the strong vertical you've created in the painting. This vertical reinforces the vertical in the edge of the painting as well as the frame. In this above reference, I note in dark red that the edge bumps in and out quite often and camouflages that edge more. Below in orange I've pointed out a couple of areas, http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2015/1765836-Grotto_water_edge_darks.jpg
how the darkness of these edges helps to ease the edge to give a softness to the water. They have the added benefit of making the left side seem less vertical than it is so the edge of the picture, edge of the frame and outside edge of the frame don't keep reinforcing this vertical line too much.

As others have ably said massing the dark on the right side near the falls will help.

07-29-2015, 06:16 PM
Wow, a great analysis, I am going to study your comments. Putting in more simply, first you build the structure almost like a sculpture. Break in down into the simplest forms, planes, cylinders, spheres and cones. create 3 dimensions.

Mark Szymanski
07-29-2015, 06:47 PM
Oldnmartist, you're exactly right. Very succinctly and accurately put. The values of the structures still obey the idea of light hitting the planes, just as one learns when drawing geometric solids.

Water cascades downwards until interrupted and then crashes into the tops of those forms splashing outwards. After the initial hit, as the water continues there is often a form shadow under the bright white portion. Many different colors can often be inserted as the water shadows itself, depending on the color structure of the painting.

07-29-2015, 10:45 PM
Wow folks thanks for the awesome feedback! Mark your time is very appreciated! I'm almost thinking I should start again with this info perhaps on a larger size...