View Full Version : Work boat

01-12-2017, 08:27 AM

Title: Work boat
Year Created:
Medium: Watercolor
Surface: Watercolor Paper
Dimension: 18x24
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

From a very old black and white photo

I chose this photo primarily because of the subject matter and enlarged it until I felt that the composition worked, but, composition is something I'm still trying to lea<br> about. Should I have done something different with the sky to round this painting out? Something more dramatic to bring the viewer around and back again? Aside from the big left foot and the boat's skeg not line up quite right, what's keeping this from being a great painting?

01-12-2017, 08:29 AM
This was supposed to go in structured critiques, can you move it for me?

01-12-2017, 05:18 PM
I think there are several technical issues that are holding the painting back. Its a good effort for sure, and especially with a medium like water colour that's rather unforgiving with mistakes; but mistakes are how we learn, so look at it that way.

Besides the two points you mentioned, its also looks like the guy in blue has a floating head..i dont see it connected to his shoulders via a neck??
The guy on the left has an arm that seems to vanish just past the elbow.

Everything except the water is painted as its the same material. The sky and terrain look similar and there is not much difference between the peoples clothing and the boat.

The sky itself looks like it was hastily dabbed on and then rushed over with quick strokes with no real attention to how clouds behave.
The sky is also a omnipresent force that takes up a third of the image and follows a heavy line across almost making a statement about its separation.

The choice of an muted colour pallet lends weight to a dark and oppressing feeling. I feel the piece is more about the sky then the people at the boat.

When you talk about composition you need to talk about value. Great compositions are designed with great value structures. The values are very flat here, with nothing clearly grouped. Even if your ref photo had little in the way of a value structure, you can still add your own.

You need to ask yourself whats the story and design your values around that.
Finding the simple statement in your work will be a life long journey of perfecting and its not always easy. But being able to simplify a scene will turn the most mundane subject into something visually inspiring.

I think there is a lot to take in and study, dont get discouraged and keep pushing yourself.Best of luck

Mark Szymanski
01-12-2017, 08:19 PM
SilverSwallow has some great advice.

Somethings I noticed about the composition.

There is one area of interest, but one of the figures isn't the focal point. Who is the important figure?
Each figure is as important as the next. This triangle is the area which commands all of the attention, then you have very little to look at afterwards. If the near man had been holding onto something... a boat bumper, an anchor, a pail or almost anything it would have helped cement him as the important character.

When I do a vertical split in the middle, all of the weight of the picture is on the left side near the midline. Nothing wrong with that...


But there is nothing on the right side to balance this weight.

If I add a horizontal strip halfway up the side...

Note how the heads are balanced almost on this mid-line. There is some variance-which is good, but what lies above and below for interest? This is rather like all of your notes being very similar to one another which causes a very monotone sort of feel. I don't feel drawn to look across anywhere. The dark line of the boat against the sky is rather near this mid-line too.

I think you've already noticed there is an issue with the sky.


First thing I noticed was all of the same size movements contained within it. All of them are more or less the same size, shape and value. There could have easily been a thread of lighter spots to help lift the value of the sky somewhat.

Because you weighted the painting near the midline, there is an opportunity to draw the eye across the middle and into the opposite side. If you place a small object far from the mid-line in the distance, it will help to counterweight the larger mass balanced on the middle.


I am not saying this is the best choice, but there is more of a balance to the picture now because the eye is drawn across the painting into the distance giving depth to the picture. This helps to define the distance, increasing the feeling of perspective. Having the eye stay only in one area makes the painting feel somewhat unbalanced.

As SilverSwallow mentioned you have treated all of the areas with the same texture. The foreground while more colorful has no more description of what it is than the background. I think there is an opportunity here to help move the eye around with some details strategically placed, a few more lights, and a few more shadows.

Playing with some of the lines in the foreground. Again, I think this is far from the best solution, but may give you some ideas on how to approach some differing textures.

I feel the gesture movements of the figures is somewhat wooden. Maybe look for the flow of how each figure is balanced.

I love the overall color scheme, maybe a bit low key, but still, it all works. That little splash of blue near the bow is quite wonderful.

It is an interesting picture, and I am sure it was a lot of fun to paint.

01-12-2017, 10:50 PM
Thank you both for your wonderful advice, I guess I really need to work on utilizing artistic license. I have a hard time realizing that I'm the boss and can make it whatever I want. And knowing what I want is another thing.....

Thanks again for the effort you put into this, you put on quite a school.


Tom Brown
01-12-2017, 11:12 PM
It's art, not science. I like this piece a lot. Nice feel to it.

01-13-2017, 12:10 AM
Thanks Tom, I wanted that dark, rustic feel to it, but I know it needs more. The original plan was to include a more dramatic sky,but I figured that this one would fit the mood better. I like the idea Mark had about the lighthouse in the distance.

01-13-2017, 12:54 AM
Lots of great advice here. To add to this, I think the clouds need more depth. They seem too similar to each other, almost like a pattern. And within the very asymmetrical nature of clouds that we find in nature, you need more variety. The bottom part of the clouds should indicate they are more distant, so I would recommend painting smaller chunks of them, while adding a few larger clusters on top.

Otherwise I'm no expert on watercolors, and the rest of the painting looks great to me. It has that dreary eastern seaboard feel to it.

01-13-2017, 09:13 AM
I agree the clouds should have been different to add to the overall composition, like you say, more definition and depth, but I thought that they looked real enough because I've seen them lumpy and dense like that, just not as dark. Thank you for your compliment and advice.