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Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 02:31 AM
Hi all! I started to put this in the scumble but then thought it should be a separate discussion. Lately, as I view the posted works, I find that I see many paintings as very well done, but in reading the critiques, there are obvious (to others) flaws. When I go back after reading the critique, I can see what is being addressed and sometimes it seems really important to the success of the work. Other times, I see what is being discussed but it does not seem like anything wrong.

This brings me to wonder about my own work. I'm self taught and definitely a novice with much to learn yet. If I cannot see the problem areas in another's work, how can I possibly expect to get my own paintings done well?

Another question: Often the critique is to quote a standard guideline, a general rule. While often true and essential to a painting's harmony, do people just look to see if all the rules are met? Maybe in some paintings the rule is bent but it does not matter?

This musing comes from several days of looking and basicly commenting with "ooohs" and "aaahs" while everyone else is saying adjust this or move that or crop (I cringe at that) of half of it or...you know what I mean. Anyway, I want critique of my work because it is part of the learning experience. I wonder though if I am holding up my end of the bargain. Can I be a cheerleader and you all be the tacticians?

Some of this is the result of looking over some of my older photos and seeing things I would like to paint but being unsure how to approach them. For example, I just scanned in photos from a vacation about five years ago to the Grand Canyon and Bryce and Zion. The following photo of Bryce is very compelling to me but I cannot begin to figure out the compositional do's and don'ts. Can you?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2004/14550-scan0263_2.jpg

1. Is this a paintable subject?
2. Would it be better to do a section of it rather than the whole scene?
3. What are the lines and are they compositionally good?
4. What are the likely pitfalls?

I'd love to hear what you all think of this and of the subject of critique and seeing flaws.

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 02:42 AM
Maybe something like this would be a better subject?
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Jul-2004/14550-scan0236_2.jpg

If I did this, I would probably exagerate the shapes in the rocks. When I look, I see two parrots with crowns. In the first photo above, I see a mediaval (sp?) court or many many chess pieces all grouped together for a party. Would that still be art? Or would it be a parody?

Kitty Wallis
07-29-2004, 03:05 AM
Good comments and questions. Here's my take on it.

I choose pictures that I have some feeling for, some confidence that I can get into it and some mystery to reach for.

About the first pic: I would not choose this picture to paint because I'm not good at rocks yet. I don't feel the 'entry point' If that makes any sense. When I look at that picture, I don't know how to make the scale convincing.
Problems:
Warm colors on the rocks moving forward, To make a Big space I must make the rocks look distant.
The rocks seem to me to need a lot of detail to make them read right as Big. The picture must be very large to get that detail with pastel which is a blunt instrument.
The prominant diagonal presents a composition problem, the picture seems to travel down on the right, how to get the viewer to want to come back into the picture?
The picture is split into two triangles, one distant cool gray and the other -warm orange.

HOwever, you may feel an entry point, your questions imply that you do. And parody is definitly art.

SweetBabyJ
07-29-2004, 03:07 AM
Aaaaahhh- Mikki- you're getting ready to grow- that's what this is.

Compositional guidelines are just that- guidelines. Some folks very definately "knee-jerk" responses to "bent rules" without ever stopping to check if the piece is better for the bend, but what I've found is when a bent guideline works, the piece is VERY strong, indeed.

As for seeing problems with your own work, that's one reason people post here (the other is to garner praise) so a pair of fresh eyes can see the "wrong" and clue us in to how to fix it. We get so close to these works, so wedded to certain parts, or an idea, half-imagined, and even walking away and glancing back- our eyes will skim over the "wrong" and fill it in with "right".

But you know what might help? Start lurking over in the Comp and Structured Critique forums- read and read and read- and when you get to the point where you can tell a real compositional PROBLEM from a poster's personal, subjective preference, you'll be well on your way to having internalized the "guidelines" and your own work will be that much stronger.

As for the two pics, for ME- I see huge problems. First, I suck at landscapes; second, there's no way "into" either photo nothing to guide the viewer in nicely, just an in-your-face pile of rocks. That works for photography, but not so easily for paintings. The first photo would probably be a very boring painting, actually, unless you got very adventurous with colour, and weren't afraid to change the weight of the mass of background- it draws too much as is. Does that mean neither are good reference material? Certainly not- but you'd have to solve the "lead-in" issue somehow.

However- that second one (and the first to a lesser degree) would make a really, REALLY good semi-abstract- if your mind twists that way. Try hard outlining the main, most important shapes, and see what you have, then take it into a editing program and see what massing colours does. It's possible you could come up with a very intriguing piece of work- strong and clean and vibrant.

What if you played up the chess pieces idea? What if you exaggerated the "parrots in hats"? What if you painted what you saw in your mind's eye, instead of what you saw in a photo?

Go, Mikki- grow.

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 03:44 AM
Thanks both of you!

Kitty, I knew there were reasons that photo would not translate to a painting but I didn't know what those reasons were. Your points make perfect sense. I've never even considered an "entry point"...another new concept to chew on. I'm moved by the vastness of the landscape and, in this case, by the very unusual terrain. Also, at the Park, you learn that old Native American legend holds that the first people inhabitied this land and became slothful and debased which angered the gods who turned them to stone where they stood. I cannot look at these rocks without seeing all sorts of animals and people. My mind skitters around ideas for portraying this but so far, I only come up with kitch.

Julie, I've visited the composition and open critique forums a few times but get intimidated by all I do not know. It comes at me too fast. Maybe you are right and I need to face the challenge and go back there. I hope all this is preparatory to growth. Right now it just feels like a loss of confidence.

As for the photos...I mostly put them up because I knew they were fraught with problems and I'm hoping explanations like yours will help me figure all this out. Thaks very much to you both.

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 04:06 AM
I really should make better use of all the forums on this site...I took Julie's advice and peeked in at the Composition and Design forum. For anyone else floundering as I am, the very first stick is a wonderful list of general compositional guidelines and do's and don'ts for successful paintings. Here's the link:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=179525

jackiesimmonds
07-29-2004, 04:26 AM
One little comment that you made in your post rang out loud and clear to me... you said, and I paraphrase "cropping ...that makes me cringe".

This is interesting. Clearly it bothers you to think of cutting off bits of someone's hard work....but in fact, often a crop produces a MUCH stronger image. And the reason for this, is that the artist often has not considered the overall design and composition, from the beginning, (usually because they have been so involved in the detail, or the story, or the beauty of the subject) and the crop results in an image with shapes which relate better to each other and to the edge of the rectangle, making for a stronger underlying DESIGN.

You could do well, to treat yourself to some reading about composition and design. You say you are self taught, and feel intimidated by others' knowledge. Well, I too am self taught, because when I went to college I was taught absolutely nothing whatsoever about painting. Drawing, yes, how to achieve good tones and 3D form, and perspective, but nothing at all about composition for painting, I had to teach myself when I left college!! When I was asked to write my first book, I taught myself a whole heap about composition - I had to - by reading other people's books, so that when I came to writing my own chapter about composition, I could simplify what I had learnt and offer my thoughts to others. With every book I read, I picked up bits and pieces, and I began to analyse the works of the masters whenever I came across an interesting concept and wanted to double check it. One of the most helpful books was David Lauer's book "Design Basics". More recently, I discovered Greg Albert's book "The simple secret to better painting" - he simplifies everything down to "the golden rule of design", and his book is a real treasure-trove of helpful compositional ideas, I really recommend it.You would get a lot out of his chapter "Pleasing the eye", when he talks about the path of the eye; compositional magnets ; lines leads and pointers ; blocks and exits etc.

You cannot expect to be able to analyse your own, or others' works without having some basic guidelines which help to reveal WHY something does work, or doesn't work, as well as it might. Without those guidelines, you have to rely on instinct.

That's not to say there is no validity in instinct ... there is plenty. But fumbling around hoping for one's instincts to kick in, is sometimes time consuming and frustrating. You often find that you adjust something, dont know quite why you did it, dont remember quite how you did it, you just know it "looks" better ... and you cannot use that experience another time because it is so nebulous.

I believe it helps to learn from others. You can take some of the information you learn, and discard other bits that yu do not feel are useful to you. But the learning is never a waste of time, and as an artist, it can only help you to grow. And learning means not just visiting WC to listen to other people's opinions, but reading worthwhile books, where the author has given a huge amount of his or her time and energy to explaining, just for you. Get that Greg Albert book for starters.


"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."- Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 04:44 AM
Thaks for the book referrals Jackie. I'm heading over to Amazon.Com as soon as I finish this.

You are so right about my not doing my homework. I'm impulsive by nature and tend to just jump into things. I know some basic stuff like the rules of perspective, but I'm so frequently caught off guard by new concepts that are completely unfamiliar when critiques. I have a whole shelf full of art books but they tend to be focused on how to use various mediums or how to paint specific subjects. I have lseiler's new electronic book which is jam packed with concepts but the stuff does not stick in my head. Maybe if I do some reading specifically on composition basics, it will give me a point of reference to build a knowledge base. I can draw and paint "things"...I just don't have clue how to put them together in a harmonious way. I tend to focus too much on technique, loose or tight, etc. without taking care of the important foundations. Don't ever ask me to build a house :rolleyes: !

soap
07-29-2004, 05:18 AM
Mikki, what an interesting subject. I am sure many people feel the same. If I project your thoughts on myself I'd shout however, 'Don't worry so much!'

I know this is personal, this is me, and that there are a lot of people who benefit very much from reading books and learning rules. Maybe I should do that more often too. But I came into painting because of the fun I find in it. Because I read books a lot for other things in my life and because painting gives me freedom. I have been studying (from books) most of my life and I love to be able to just explore, 'feel', 'see' and not analyse, no rules, no homework. I know, this is just me.
Hence, I don't like to study perspective rules, compositional schemes, the golden middle rule or any other sort of rules. I prefer to 'see' and 'feel'. I like to learn by looking at people's art and get grabbed by something, which I then try to incorporate in my own work as well. I would love to paint rocks, but like you, I would not know where to start, because I have never painted rocks. If it means I have to dive into books and rules and homework, all the fun would be gone. When I feel I have the time and inclination to paint rocks, I'd just start. See (literally) what works and what doesn't. Prepared to make horrible pictures, but I know that if I stick to it, and try and try, I'd get better.
You know I like painting architecture - but I rarely check my perspective lines. I never make a drawing. If my buildings look crooked I look and I look and try to figure out why they look crooked. Maybe if I straightend this....or if I bend that......I paint and I erase. It's a great discovery tour and it does not involve rules, homework, books, rights and wrongs.
With portraiture I KNOW I 'should' benefit from studying anatomy and such. But I dread studying the subject. Way too technical and dry for my taste. But I must admit I feel guilty about it sometimes and wonder I am limiting myself by this reluctance to study rules.
Just follow your heart and eyes!

dragonlady
07-29-2004, 07:46 AM
Mikki,

Thanks for posting this - I have been feeling much the same. I would love to be able to contribute more but frequently miss what seems obvious to others. But isn't some of this very subjective. To take Kitty's points about the first picture - I have a book by Larry Blovitts, Pastel for the Serious Beginner, with some absolutely gorgeous pastels of rocks. One of these is very similar in composition to your first picture but he chose his vantage point specifically to give him a strong diagonal composition and to slice the picture in half colourwise. To him these weren't problems but good design. Maybe this is just a good example of an experience painter bending the rules and making a stronger picture but it does make it difficult for the less experienced of us to know which way to go.

jackiesimmonds
07-29-2004, 08:30 AM
wonder I am limiting myself by this reluctance to study rules.


Yes, I believe you are. You may "get there" in your own time, and in your own way, but you may suffer heaps of frustration along the way, which could have been avoided with a little bit of help from a "rule", or guidline, better word. And funnily enough, you may get to the same place, only more quickly.

Sure, you can build a house by trial and error, and it MAY be a good, strong house, but I bet you would have sweated buckets of blood along the way, struggling to get things to stay up, or in.

The bloke next door, who has studied about house building, will build his house in half the time, and with great confidence.

But we aren't talking about building houses really. It isn't a fair analogy, it doesn't take "creativity" into account in quite the same way. However, every painting will benefit from a good, solid foundation.

Reading up about the things other artists have discovered along the way, need not be "dry". there is nothing "dry" about the Greg Albert book, for instance. I personally find it absolutely FASCINATING, particularly if it is presented in an easy-to-digest fashion. There are dry books out there...forget those, they are impossible to plough through and the author does not deserve your time and energy. But there are plenty which are NOT difficult, and they are, in fact, enlightening, and you will find yourself looking at paintings with a new awareness, and with eyes that see so much more than before. It is so exciting, really rewarding, and above all, FUN...if you allow it to be so. Soap says that if painting rocks, which she knows nothing about, meant diving into books to learn about how to paint rock, it would take all the joy out of it. For me, it would throw a great light on the subject...I would look at how others have tackled rocks, and I would be totally fascinated, and my reaction would be "OH, so THAT'S how I could do it, to get the effect I'd like" or "oh my goodness, I never realised I needed to emphasise the changes of plane " or possibly "Oh no, I wouldn't want it to look like that, so I will try something else". It would not feel like homework to me, it would feel like ...........like opening a bag of yummy candies.....it would feel like having the help of a master ...it would shift me into rock-painting gear. It's all to do with attitude of mind.

Jackie

soap
07-29-2004, 08:44 AM
hmm.......something tells me you are right.......maybe I have seen too many dry books about perspective and colour theory that have put me off reading them. I don't want to learn by heart that red is a complementary colour to green, but I like to SEE how it sets it off in my own experiments. Much more fun and it stays in my mind much easier (seeing is believing). Indeed, I like to put the effort and sweat in painting, not in reading about it. But, for instance Wetcanvas has helped me as I learned, along the way without 'searching' for it, some compositional guidelines (better word indeed :D) - your posts have helped in the past. It is a shame the average bookshop does not have a very good collection of books about this subject as I usually see either the beginner's book to colour or a mathematical study about perspective. Enough to make me run to the art history department and study and enjoy the pictures in those books.
I know you are right Jackie.......it's the teenager in me rebelling....or no, actually it is also my history in the academic art history world where all those professors spend way too much time analysing and too little 'seeing'. All sorts of reasons, indeed, but maybe I am limiting myself and should stop being so silly about 'guidelines'. Maybe I'll take them in when I come across some in the future......

:angel: :angel:

I still would like to discover how to paint rocks by myself......... :evil: :evil: ....Just using my eyes (=hard enough) should do the trick. :p

karenlee
07-29-2004, 09:15 AM
HI impete! I am sorta new on this board, and I don't have a computer yet to post my work, but I lurk daily because there so much here to look at and learn. I could use the phrase self taught but I think the phrase self taught is a misnomer- I think I never taught myself anything. I learn from looking and doing. I learned almost everyting from the beginning from other people. (they didn't have phd's either.) In my opinion, you can choose which rules are appropriate for you at what you are attempting to do at the moment. The comments I see on this board have been
very astute and I would not hesitate to ask for advice here. These people have excellent art eyes!
Your subject matter is whatever appeals to you... you can approach the same subject 1 million different ways --cropped, not cropped, enlarged, reduced, and STILL NEVER be satisfied! SO I am looking forward to seeing what you do with the canyon!

jackiesimmonds
07-29-2004, 10:11 AM
I still would like to discover how to paint rocks by myself......... :evil: :evil: ....Just using my eyes (=hard enough) should do the trick. :p

Yes, provided you use your EYES, and not a photo. Sorry, this may open another can of worms, but it is a fact. if you were sitting in front of a great big rock, or pile of rocks 10' wide, just think how much more you would be able to see than could possibly be see-able in 2" of photograph.

Then, having actually experienced rocks, and rock painting, using your eyes, it would be OK to pursue further rock paintings from photos.

Jackie

soap
07-29-2004, 11:29 AM
Very true Jackie!

Khadres
07-29-2004, 01:08 PM
You could do well, to treat yourself to some reading about composition and design. One of the most helpful books was David Lauer's book "Design Basics". More recently, I discovered Greg Albert's book "The simple secret to better painting" - he simplifies everything down to "the golden rule of design", and his book is a real treasure-trove of helpful compositional ideas, I really recommend it.You would get a lot out of his chapter "Pleasing the eye", when he talks about the path of the eye; compositional magnets ; lines leads and pointers ; blocks and exits etc.


Jackie, would you mind putting this in the Books and Video thread? I'll try and find it and boost it nearer the top of the list...again. :D What does one have to do to get a thread stickied or whatever they call it so it's easy to find?

PS...ok, found it....

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=169912&highlight=Book+Video+Reviews

If any of the rest of y'all know of neat books, please add them to this thread to keep it fresh and current and USEFUL to all of us! Thanks so much!

Kathryn Wilson
07-29-2004, 01:13 PM
Jackie, would you mind putting this in the Books and Video thread? I'll try and find it and boost it nearer the top of the list...again. :D What does one have to do to get a thread stickied or whatever they call it so it's easy to find?

Sooz - if you want a thread to be saved in the Pastel Library, hit the Report button and request it - hopefully it has been given an excellent rating. The Mods in charge will then look at it to see where it needs to be put so it can be found easily in the Library.

Mikki - I've been ruminating all morning on a response - will post later! It's an excellent thread and I hope people are rating this also.

artist_pw
07-29-2004, 01:28 PM
Hi:

In general, I prefer honest critiques. I've struggled with composition, but I don't seem to have that problem too much anymore. I think it really helped me when I got a digital camera. For landscape reference photos compositions, it helps me to look at the images in thumbnail versions, and the images that catch my eye in this form, usually have a good composition or one that can be tweaked to become a good subject. Usually, you need a good focal point, but I've seen excellent paintings where I couldn't locate a focal point (one example I'm thinking of is a Gustav Klimpt painting of what looks like sparkling Aspen trees.) I like the second photo better for a painting subject myself, and can almost imagine it painted sort of like a Monet hillside with all sorts of lovely colors.

A current pastellist who does excellent rock formations (and in general, really wonderful landscapes) is Albert Handell, so you might try looking at some of his images for ideas. You also might try doing some small studies, and that way you won't get intimidated by a large painting, and it will give you time to practice your techniques. It might help you to visit museums or look at other great artists' paintings for some inspiration, too.

Hope this might help a little at least.

Khadres
07-29-2004, 01:52 PM
I think y'all have hit upon just what makes THIS PLACE such an excellent demonstration of compositional/color/technique, etc. wisdom. Here...we have comments and critiques WITH ILLUSTRATIONS and explanations laid out for us daily in whichever medium or technique we choose to look at. I've got lots of good art books, too, but reading one of Jackie's explanations about someone's perpective problems, or one of SBJ's responses about someone's compositional design, or any of dozens of others' thoughts on the various subjects IN CONTEXT with a painting ILLUSTRATING the issue at hand is the very reason we all learn faster here than we do in most face-to-face classes or countless book readings.

You've said it yourself, Mikki, critique threads expose you to knew issues every day, showing you what you didn't know about before. Before I found WC, I didn't even KNOW what I didn't know! I still don't know it all, by a long shot, but boy, I certainly know tons more now than I did....and I've learned it for FREE, no less, and in conjunction with getting to know other artists who have much the same concerns and desires to excel as I have. Fantastico, when you stop and think about it!

I do agree that a good book, well written and illustrated, is hard to beat for those of us isolated from traditional classrooms, etc. And today, of course, we also have the convenience of videos which can show us even more, faster and more painlessly than ever.

But I think my overall attitude toward your dilemma is that you just need to have patience...obviously, you're already learning! But you can't possibly take it all in at once...one of my teachers in writing once said that we are well on the road to spiritual and mental death when we think we've learned all there is to know about any subject. If you're doing it right, each new thing you learn SHOULD open up a new vista in which you realize you actually now know LESS than you did...because you can now see further into the limitless horizon of all there is out there TO know...if that makes sense. A lot of folks find this idea distressing, but I'm just crazy enough to think it's WONDERFUL! It means that whatever I'm passionate about persuing, I'll never be bored, I'll never have it all down pat, and there will always be more aspect to experiment with, to experience, to LEARN about, practice, and use. I've never been as bored in my life as I was in a couple of jobs I had where I had totally mastered the tasks to the point where I could do the work on "autopilot". The phrase "you couldn't pay me enough" applied there in spades! If I ever came close to being an alcoholic, it was during those days when I had no choice but to work those horrible, deadend jobs!

Your work is already advancing at an amazing pace; I see it in everything you post! Your critiques are becoming more focused, as well. Give yourself time, my friend, avail yourself of whatever knowledge you need at the moment, and enjoy the journey! :D

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 03:11 PM
Don't ya just LOVE it! I post a whiny pouty jag and look at all the wonderful conversation and information that erupts around it!

I learn best by reading or hearing something and then trying it myself. I love step by step D-I-Y books. Guess I'm just in information overload right now and I just want to produce good ART!

I'm a kidred spirit with Sophie, I think, when I rebel at all the guidelines (I've always been one to buck the system). I, to, love the down and dirty, get in there and PAINT approach. Art is supposed to be my interpretation of what I see so why all the rules :mad: !

But then, over the years, I've had to accept that rules (guidelines) are like cliches, they exist because they are true. I remember, many years ago, working in a Family councilling practice, designing and putting together brochures for the practice. I knew very little about what I was doing and the strips of text in py paste up were always off kilter. My boss sent me for instruction from a Graphic designer int he building. Never occurred to me to use a t-square to line up everything :o . Sure made a difference though!

Dudley D, in the Composition forum has a saying under his signature that I think I will hang on my computer and on my easel: "I did it my way and messed it all up. Okay, I'm ready to listen to suggestions now." Kinda says it all, don't it? :p

Keep talking everyone. I'm loving this conversation!

Deborah Secor
07-29-2004, 03:15 PM
Mikki, I'm glad you've posted this discussion! Composition is one of those places where people get bogged down, isn't it? Handell always said, "The bad news is you can't teach composition, but the good news is you can learn it." It may sound like one of those cute, clever sayings at first, but over the years as an instructor I've come more and more to appreciate what he was saying.

I don't think a 'rule book' teaches composition, even though there are generally some rules we all must take into consideration. However, I don't think 'experience' teaches composition all on its own either, for the reasons Jackie mentioned--you may get there but you'll be bloody, not to mention OLD before your time. However, the willing student learns to compose by studying, acknowledging the rules as she meets the need, and then applying the information wisely. So it's knowledge (the rules, the experience of failure/success), understanding (when to use the rules, when to try new things or bend the rules, as Julie mentioned) and wisdom (it works when I...whatever). Sounds a lot like life, doesn't it? :p

I've always been an odd mixture of the impulsive, experiential learner and the academician. I like to learn by doing, but then I want to understand why it worked (or, more often, didn't work). Once I discover a rule for myself it's internalized in ways that books can't teach. We're all this way, I think. There's nothing sadder than having something work and not being able to use it because it hasn't been internalized--it was just a happy accident that I can't reproduce or learn from in any way. BUT once I discover a teacher that I'm in sync with I trust him/her to teach me more.

For example, I had painted landscapes for a few years when I was introduced to Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting. I found so many affirmations of things I had discovered on my own (the blue bowl of the sky, the color of clouds on the horizon, the bluing of aerial perspective) that I was more than willing to trust him for further information--and dug into his book.

Mikki, that photos you showed are not ones I'd choose to paint for a number of reasons. First of all, in my experience painting the outlandish, the unusual, and the exceptional landscape is a recipe for disaster in my work. Those places are fodder for the photographer, not the painter, in part because the camera assures the viewer of the authenticity of the place, while the painter will be soundly doubted. Now, this doesn't mean that those places won't be 'the usual' for some painters. A person who lives among those rocks may see them as ordinary and paint for an audience who understands and doesn't doubt her authority. But when I paint them for my home audience, they don't get it at all. So one of my first 'rules' of composition is, paint what you KNOW. (Not very original, but then it came to be a rule because as a rule it's true...) this doesn't mean painting a subject you know how to paint already (how could you learn anything?) but painting what is familiar, frequently seen, common to your area of experience--something you bump into routinely and see in differing light at different times of day.

You asked these questions about the first photo:
1. Is this a paintable subject?
Sure--what isn't? Are you the one to paint it? That depends on what you KNOW.

2. Would it be better to do a section of it rather than the whole scene?
Possibly. Again, how well do you KNOW the subject?

3. What are the lines and are they compositionally good?
Do an experiment. Reduce it to black and white, then blur the whole thing in some paint program. Now analyze what's happening. You know more than you think you do. However, I wouldn't bother to do it unless it passes the first test--do I KNOW this subject well enough already?

4. What are the likely pitfalls?
Ah--here's the rub. This is where your knowledge of the 'rules' will pay off. Keep in mind that you can only use the rules you've internalized, though a careful teacher will warn you of the pitfalls, as Kitty did in mentioning the point of entry. I always tell my students that the painting needs a visual pathway that allows you to get to the focal point. Everything else must work to support that point. And again I refer you back to point 1--do you KNOW the subject.

You might also ask yourself what it is about this place that makes you want to paint it. If you admired it for being so unique and unusual, so out of your experience, perhaps you should wait until you have a history of painting that kind of subject matter. So, in this case, you may want to paint Bryce because of the drama and grandeur of the rocky outcropping--but the noun there is rocks. So first you might want to paint the rocks in your area, learn about how to capture the wieght, texture, color, and planes of rocks in general, before taking on a subject as dramatic and grand as this one.

I guess what I'm saying in a very long, roundabout fashion is that you should take composition in bite-sized chunks. Your knowledge of composition is incremental. Don't discard paintings that fail to please you--submit them to rigorous examination using the rules of composition (none of which are chiseled in stone--they tend to be far more flexible and alive than that!) and see what you learn. This is a great place to do that, since so many people give of their talents and knowledge here.

Good subject! Thanks for the discussion... :D

Deborah

(Oh my, I do go on so. I am so long-winded, but at this point I'll just forgo the delete button and post it! I just hope it has some value to someone at some point! LOL)

SweetBabyJ
07-29-2004, 03:41 PM
You've kinda hit the nail on the head there, too, Mikki, talking about how *YOU* learn, vis-a-vis how someone else learns. Some people are visual learners, others aural learners, and still others tactile learners- meaning they have to do something- feel it- to score the appropriate pathways into memory.

Me, I remember what I read- but don't always have the appropriate tactile file for storing that information as "useable". Right now, I'm trying desperately to learn enough about F-stops and shutter speeds and all that photography "stuff" (I nearly chose a different word there- I am NOT having fun learning this!) so that I can do on purpose what I've done accidentally a few times. I've lots of folks explaining just how all that "stuff" works, and I nod and smile and can parrot it all back to 'em, but when I hold the camera in my hands and say "Okay, F-stop is aperature and shutter speed means how long the shutter is open and I want it to be quick, but a short depth of field which is aperature again..." well, generally I manage not to actually throw the camera into the dog's water dish, but it's a close thing. However- I, accidentally again, managed to catch what I wanted darned near- sooo close- and THIS time, I wrote down what I did- and NOW, for THAT effect, I almost understand why the settings need to be the way they are.

So, when I want to capture that effect again, I have the knowledge internalized; and, what is hoped, is I can ALSO extrapolate from that knowledge what I might need to do to get a different effect, and then another different one- and on and on. I REMEMBER what I read, but I LEARN by doing- tactile memory, that's me. However, if I do something wrong, I do not necessarily remember it was a mistake- all I recall is the tactile experience, (Trivial Pursuit comes to mind- I reckon I've done all the questions a time or two, but if I got one wrong, I can remember both the right answer and the wrong answer, but not which is which- drives me nuts sometimes).

I can also easily follow a map- so DIY instructions are GREAT for me, too; I keep wishing for a Chilton's manual for photography. And as a bonus- once I've driven someplace, I know EXACTLY where it is, and can go there again sans map. In psychological parlance, this is called "positive reinforcement"- and it means I learn by experiencing POSITIVELY- see the Trivial Pursuit example above.

CAN I learn other ways? Yep- but none are so fast, easy or "stuck" as positive tactile experience learning. Sooo... figure out how you learn, and then set about learning what you think you don't know about composition in a way which matches your learning style.

But Dee's right- you know a whole lot more than you think- you knew those two pics had major problems for a painting, you just didn't have the words to put the whys in order in your head. Now you do- and you've got a tactile experience to go on, now.

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 03:43 PM
Deborah, long winded is yakking on and on and never saying much. One could never acuse your posts as that. They are always concise and informative.

I like what you say about small bites...I forget the journey is made up of small steps. I also know in my heart that you are right about painting what I KNOW. Paintings of local subjects invariably come out better. Another thing I learned in English Composition back in school is to narrow my focus. The trouble is...we paint our passion and I am filled with awe for the grandeur that is nature and am frequently drawn to vast subjects.

And I've taken you all to heart on the "painting from life" guideline, too. I plan to do many small studies from life while on vacation in New Mexico next month. Our rock is granite, I need red rock. Our plants are leafy, I like desert vegetation. I will as usual take a gazillion photos, but perhaps by doing all these small studies on location, I will be more successful in interpretting them on paper.

Thank you for your generous comments.

Mikki Petersen
07-29-2004, 03:50 PM
Julie, you are so good at zeroing in on a problem! I believe I am a tactile learner almost exclusively. I can read and follow instructions but only by the doing will I retain anything. Also, I make LOTS of mistakes, but generally once I have corrected a mistake, I won't make that one again. Fortunately, there are always new mistakes to make, hence I continue to learn...it's painful sometimes.

As for the F-stop thing...I gave up on that one a long time ago and bought a good auto-focus SLR (before digital). That's why I paint...take the picture and then paint it the way I remember it and wanted the picture to look :D

metalhead
07-29-2004, 03:51 PM
Mikki, that photos you showed are not ones I'd choose to paint for a number of reasons. First of all, in my experience painting the outlandish, the unusual, and the exceptional landscape is a recipe for disaster in my work. Those places are fodder for the photographer, not the painter, in part because the camera assures the viewer of the authenticity of the place, while the painter will be soundly doubted.

YES! I totally agree with this, and when I started reading this thread, this is exactly what popped into my mind. I've done amateur landscape photography for a number of years and have quite a lot of landscape photos I've taken in Colorado, Montana, etc. over the years that I really like. But I've often gone through them looking for ones that would make good painting subjects, and the very few I find among the pile that would work as paintings aren't very good as photographs. My photos are (trying to be ever so slightly) like those of Galen Rowell, and if you know his work, much of what makes them magic is that they are really spectacular scenes and because they are photographs, you know it's real. The same scene as a painting would look made up. One famous and extreme example is the rainbow over the Potala palace: http://www.mountainlight.com/gallery.tibet/aa0019pic.html As a photo, it's amazing, as a painting it would look sort of ridiculous. ("Why'd you paint that giant rainbow in there?") There are lots of other photos that fit the same pattern, they make great photos, not so great paintings.

Lately, I've tried to keep my eye open for scenes that would make good paintings when I'm out shooting photos, but the majestic landscape photo-ops tend to beat you over the head with their presence, while the more subtle scenes are tougher to spot.

Kitty Wallis
07-29-2004, 03:59 PM
For me, the important thing is: Art is not a hobby, it's not easy, it's a sacred activity. We can make a contribution to this human achievement. This from an agnostic :)

Art takes everything we've got to become excellent; including all the energy and time of our lifetimes. What we eat, do, think, care about, spend our time at, are willing to try and fail at repeatedly, and any other indications of our character all contribute to our development as artists. It's an Olympic level challenge and a path to realization.

Not to say we are slaves to it. On the contrary. It gives more than we put in.

Of course we all will fail, and succeed.

Deborah Secor
07-29-2004, 04:15 PM
Lately, I've tried to keep my eye open for scenes that would make good paintings when I'm out shooting photos, but the majestic landscape photo-ops tend to beat you over the head with their presence, while the more subtle scenes are tougher to spot.

I've said it many times, bad photos make good paintings! I look for a photo that isn't 'picture perfect' but holds the essence of what I want to paint and brings to mind the experience I had of the place. I usually take the perfect photo, on the rare occasions I have one, and blur it out or otherwise manipulate it so that I'm not enslaved to painting what's there, but freed to paint what I know!

Deborah

Kitty Wallis
07-29-2004, 04:40 PM
I've said it many times, bad photos make good paintings! Deborah

Exactly! I've never painted a sunset, or any of the usual photo-ops that make tourist postcards. Not because they've been done to death, but because they are already done.

Now a mud puddle, that's inspiring. Mostly because I've ignored it and don't know it. Also because I get a kick out of making an interesting painting from it. I love to take apart the forms and colors of a mundane thing and make it wonderful. Without losing it's reality.

metalhead
07-29-2004, 04:54 PM
I usually take the perfect photo, on the rare occasions I have one, and blur it out or otherwise manipulate it. One effect I like to do is a double exposure on a tripod, one in focus, and one slightly blurry, or simulate the same thing in photoshop or the like by a semi-transparent blurred version of the image superimposed over the original. Works especially well with trees and foliage.

I think one well known exception to this rule about what makes a good landscape photo makes a bad painting is the Li River in China: http://images.google.com/images?q=li+river&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&btnG=Google+Search

There are probably some other places like that.

bnoonan
07-29-2004, 05:13 PM
Wow - how you all wax on and I learn and learn so much!!! Thank you!!!

Mikki - something I tried, and it's helped some... is to take out a stack of my old photos that I have on file (no doubt you have some of those) and/or go to a magazine or even some paintings I admire.

I then get a piece of paper and grid it off into thumbnail sizes. (appx the same size as the photos. (landscape or portrait) Next I take and draw the "gesture" of the compositional lines that lead me to the focal point. I quickly draw the balance lines and/or look at a list of compositional components. It helps me figure out if this will work as is or if I need to "doctor" it up.

Mind you... I'm pretty green in my landscapes but it seems to help.

I'll attach a few example but it's going to be drawing the design on the actual photo in photoshop... (I know after doing this that these all fail in all sound compositional measures and will need to be altered if used).

I think Julie phrased it best for me - I learn by watching and doing and not necessarily by reading it in a book. By putting line to paper, I'm learning this way.

I also do try to "shrink" the image on the computer screen as small as possible to see if it just looks like it will work compositionally - ie - large and small shapes balanced. Dark and light balanced.

Kitty I also agree with - why paint it if it can be captured so well in photographs. Sometimes you just have to let it be.


GREAT TOPIC!!!! Barb

Kathryn Wilson
07-29-2004, 05:16 PM
Well, Mikki, I've read and digested all the posts to your questions and plea for help. I'm gonna get trounced for what I'm going to say . . . but nowhere here is anyone talking about Mikki's vision and joy that she wants to convey in a painting of Bryce. We are talking about technical things, but where's the joy?! the spontaneity? We are picking this apart before she even tackles it.

You can read all the books you want, read all the posts here you want, but in the long run, Mikki, you are going to have to try this one on your own and see if it works. You've been on this forum long enough to know what is good and bad . . . I've seen it in your work. You'll never know until you try it.

I've been to Bryce Canyon and I know what Mikki wants to say in her painting . . . I felt it too. It is an incredible place, full of mystery and awe. It challenges you to "paint me".

Why not start with some thumbnails and come up with some ideas and take them to the composition forum, or here, and see what everyone thinks.

Oh, and Dee, I know I am going to get "the look" - but if I painted only what I know, there would be a lot of very boring paintings in my portfolio. I want to stretch and paint what I don't know - learn what I don't know - learn from the mistakes I make.

:D

SweetBabyJ
07-29-2004, 05:51 PM
I pm'd Mikki this earlier this morning:

"You like those rocks in that first pic- you said they look like chess pieces at a party. So that's your key- those rocks- all gathered round each other chatting and laughing. Print that pic out, and use one colour- say a sky blue, and block out all the things which are not rocks- now what do you have? Does it sit in the rectangle right, or is it tilted? Tilt it back- add a few more rocks if it needs it, and take some away- right now they AREN'T rocks- they're just shapes. What do you have?

Now, a way in- the second photo offers you a clue: See that little tiny slip of a ledge on the right bottom corner? That works- it gives you height for your point of view, and an entry way in- so use it- exaggerate it a bit, give it some emphasis by making it bigger and not sticking it way off in the corner but coming along about a quarter of the way across the bottom- at -and this is important- the OPPOSITE angle of the rocks. See the dynamics coming now? You're starting a Z-comp here- very strong stuff.

Before you go further, decide what of the "not rocks" you need to keep, how much of that negative space is needed- in otherwords, what SHAPE your piece of paper is going to be- a square, a rectangle, long and narrow, what. Cut the pic down to that shape. (Notice I've avoided the use of the word "crop"- we're deciding the shape of the picture plane, instead). Personally, I think it's a square you need- the left side running down the left edge of that "castle rock" up top- you may see something else, though. Find your shape, and cut the pic to that shape. Now all that's left is the negative space up top- so think about the Z-thing we've got going.... wouldn't a bank of clouds, its top line becoming the last part of the Z work there? (with the clouds, incidentally, echoing the rock shapes somewhat- huh? huh?)

Try it- BUT- decide your light source before you commit- everything is evenly lit across this pic- and you want to put shadows in there, trust me (they give form, not just "values") So let's think... We've a Z-comp going, so if we throw the light right onto the rock faces, the shadows will fall back and left- which echoes the entry ledge line- by George! I think we've got it!!

That's all it is, Mikki- find what pleases YOU and play it up.

Don't let it intimidate you- it isn't rocket science, it's art. Think about what works, then worry about what doesn't. Think of it that way- think of it as a list of To DO's, rather than Do NOTs."




I remember the Without a Net project, painting from your head with no reference at all, and how everyone was so surprised at what they'd managed. Well, this is the same thing: You have a vision in your head, now go catch it. If your vision is strong and clear, you'll soon see how to project it- MAKE it work- just the same as when you were painting without looking at anything but what you saw in your head. "Does this look right? No? It needs to be thinner, darker, closer, farther..." Let your eyes and brain do their job, and your hands will follow.

meowmeow
07-30-2004, 12:26 PM
Super WC discussion!
Kat, I don't think anyone is saying you absolutely always have to paint by the rules and only what you know and ignore what you feel and respond to in a scene. I've never gotten the feeling that most people here feel that way.
I think that Mikki asked a question and people were simply responding to it. I think in our own way most of us do both...and ultimately the more you "know" (no matter how you learned it) helps you to paint what you feel.
For me, I do look at and read books...and then paint and then come here and see what the experts say and all that together helps me to learn. Sometimes what is in the book seems dry and I am not sure I get it. But after I do a painting and Jackie or Deborah makes a comment it begins to gel. It's all part of the big picture.

Deborah Secor
07-30-2004, 02:07 PM
Well, Kat, maybe you should give me 'the look'! ;) I think I must not have expressed myself well.

When I say paint what you know, I don't mean that you should paint what's safe, well understood and can be successfully done. Far from it. Instead I mean learn from the inside out. Let's see if I can do a better job of saying this.

Painting is an expression of the heart that uses our talent and skill. It comes out of where we live, that interior landscape of love--maybe that sacredness that Kitty talked about. It's a way to make concrete something that you are, using something you know. I'm not saying this well... Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Likewise with art.

I know that when I stand before some incredibly inspiring place that's beyond my everyday experience I respond with awe. My heart overflows with the desire to somehow show others my feelings about the place in my painting, much like you express about Bryce.

Painting what you know means painting out of the place that makes you alive--but do you really live out of awe-inspiring places alone? I suggest that you live out of the things you experience more frequently, the daily humdrum things you see in passing at all hours of the day or night. Bryce inspires you to paint it, but will you successfully paint it before you successfully paint the rocks you see every day? How? I find that when I paint those everyday rocks I learn my ABCs, the language of rocks, the tools I can use to describe them in pastel. And often it's in the painting of the familiar that I learn how to express the sublime. Then, when the time comes that I stand before Bryce and know that joyous awe, I have the tools to paint the expression of it.

So often I find my students want to paint things they've only seen once. They want to express the peace they felt while on vacation in Cabo, or the delight they took in seeing the lavender fields of Provence, or the awe they had that day at the Grand Canyon. It's the feeling they want to recover, the peace, delight, or awe, but it's the place they paint. More often than not they find themselves frustrated by two things: they can't make the place look right and therefore the feeling isn't expressed... Why? Because they haven't yet reached the point in their experience where they know this place. They don't live from it. It's not a part of the interior landscape of the heart--it's just a momentary visit.

So, you ask, how do you ever live there? I submit that you do it not by visiting the place over and over, for in going to Bryce repeatedly or living there literally it will become mundane, the awe will fade. No, I believe it's in learning to see and express your internal landscape out of your daily experience, painting the rocks you see every day in all kinds of combinations, lighting situations, times of the year, when wet, muddy, snowy, dry, decorated with lichens or covered with fallen leaves, when the sunset turns them pink or the moon makes them look ghostly. It's in some deep inner place that we learn that language of rocks or trees or sky or whatever, and try to touch in our paintings.

We don't paint the rocks, we have to paint the awe. Yet a huge portion of the awe is expressed by learning how to paint the rocks. Again I say it's a way to make concrete something that you are, using something you know. Until you have the knowledge there's no good, consistent way to express who you are.

When you learn something you then have a tool you can use to make something. The awe inspired by the rocks only exists in your heart but you can't share it with the world. Then you use the tool, your skill at painting mundane, everyday, yet beautiful rocks, to speak of the awe you feel when you stand before Bryce Canyon.

I don't know if this can really be said in words. Either you get what I'm saying or I seem like I'm babbling! I guess what I want to say is, yes, paint from the heart. But don't fool yourself into thinking that the love or awe or joy, or whatever feeling, is all you need--that's just not true. You will paint using the tools you have at hand, derived out of the place you live.

Deborah

Mikki Petersen
07-30-2004, 03:33 PM
Deborah, I understand what you are talking about because in my experience I've been working to learn trees, evergreen trees, forest. I live in the forest and I look at these trees and I study these trees and I keep working to paint these trees. Each time I go to my easel to paint a pine tree or a spruce or cedar, I realize that I still do not have all the information yet. I go back and study some more...how the light plays on the neeedles in the morning, at mid-day, in the evening, in the light of the full moon. How do the branches fork? How do they drape? How do the needles grow from them? What are the distinctive shapes of each type of tree, branch, needle cluster? I take pictures and analyse the photos...where are the darks and lights? I still don't paint satisfactory trees yet.

I have done a number of fairly successful studies of rocks. But they are granite and granite, while gray, is full of color as the light plays. Blue gray, pink gray, green gray, lavender gray, even yellow gray. I know the properties of granite. One of the big stoppers in painting Bryce is that I don't "know" the properties of limestone or whatever that red rock is. How will I make an intersting study of those hoodoos without knowing the colors they show in different lights. My photos don't tell me that...in photos they are yellow and orange, period. I have done one fairly successful painting of the Grand Canyon because the rock there is closer to the rock of the Sierras and we have river canyons here that are smaller versions of that great gorge. My hope next month on our trip to New Mexico, that I will be painting small studies of all the different types of formation in all the varieties of light and then I may better be able to develop a composition that reflects the unique nature of this natural wonder. I've already concluded that it would be more successful done in closer studies than one grand sweeping vista.

At the same time, I paint from all sorts of photos from the RIL just because they grab my interest. Again, I learn that way, too. Sometimes I can't get the painting to work the way I want it to because the photo does not have the detail my mind fills in and my hands and eyes cannot do the job because I don't have that underlying inner knowledge of the subject.

To date, my two best paintings (in my estimation), the ones framed and hanging in my living room are of local things. One is of mossy rocks in a little creek and the other is a fall scene of a Sierra creek. I know those things. I watch for scenes like that. I have a deep inner knowledge of them as part of my world.

I keep seeing articles in the art magazines about the value of traveling to spice up your painting. I don't know how this advice fits exactly. I think maybe it's because when we travel, we are comparing the new places we see with the places we live and in the comparison are attracted to the unique, or even the familiar, qualities of the place where we travel.

BTW, I went to Borders last night in quest of the books you and Jackie recommended...they have every kind of how-to-paint book imaginable but nothing on composition theory. When I got home, I went to trusty old Amazon.com and ordered them. Should be here next week. I look forward to reading, trying out the ideas and generally making a mess. Making a mess is the best way to learn!

soap
07-30-2004, 03:36 PM
Deborah, that is very eloquently said. All true.

Khadres
07-30-2004, 04:11 PM
For me, the important thing is: Art is not a hobby, it's not easy, it's a sacred activity. We can make a contribution to this human achievement. This from an agnostic :)

Art takes everything we've got to become excellent; including all the energy and time of our lifetimes. What we eat, do, think, care about, spend our time at, are willing to try and fail at repeatedly, and any other indications of our character all contribute to our development as artists. It's an Olympic level challenge and a path to realization.

Not to say we are slaves to it. On the contrary. It gives more than we put in.

Of course we all will fail, and succeed.

I hope everyone prints that message out and tacks it on their wall....at least those of us who are after something more than a "fun" hobby. There's nothing wrong with the that at all, but for those of us interested in more, you've hit it on the head. I'd only like to add that I don't THINK there are many short cuts, if any. We grow by striving, studying, seeing, and striving again. And the payoff, when one achieves even the least goal, is SOOOOOOO worth it! I know I'm not a stellar artist....yet, but I also know I feel priveledged to even try.

weckster
07-30-2004, 06:20 PM
I find that I see many paintings as very well done, but in reading the critiques, there are obvious (to others) flaws.
I do that too...

If I cannot see the problem areas in another's work, how can I possibly expect to get my own paintings done well?
I find it hard to...I try to practice critiquing before looking at other's. There's a lot of variation, but some good hard advice out there.

Can I be a cheerleader and you all be the tacticians?
It's great to have some cheer leaders! Helps the morale. But, speaking for myself, I really like the input of others. If some thinks something I've done is cr*! I'd really like to know (and why of course!!)

1. Is this a paintable subject?
Hmmm...I find this stuff sooooo difficult.
It's a nice picture, but I'm not sure there's enough of interest in it, or perhaps there is if the contrast is made with colour - exaggerated red/oranges and blues???
I really like the second picture - looks as if it could be really textural.
Gosh...there's my input for the day.
Thanks for addressing these issues...I constantly find them REALLLY difficult too. Cheers

Kitty Wallis
07-31-2004, 04:28 AM
About Painting what you know.

Deborah said it well, It's an important issue. So I am adding this bit in case there is still any confusion.

I like to think about it in this metaphore:
Thinking of writers and literature we have read that fills us with the sense of it, when we suspend disbelief and enter the experience.

I like to read a piece that is written with knowledge, such deep knowledge that the writer is confident about evoking the place, feeling, character, etc. with a few well chosen points rather than a complete longwinded description. Barbara Kingsolver, in 'Prodigal Summer' as the character handles her hair, braids it. We feel the thickness, texture, weight in our hands. She knows it, she writes the essence of it.

I know when I'm painting like that and I know when I don't know the subject enough to achieve it. And I know when I can stretch toward it, choosing a subject that I know and don't know. New and different enough to stretch me, but not so much that I have no point of contact, no point of entry.

Kitty Wallis
07-31-2004, 04:35 AM
I keep seeing articles in the art magazines about the value of traveling to spice up your painting. I don't know how this advice fits exactly. I think maybe it's because when we travel, we are comparing the new places we see with the places we live and in the comparison are attracted to the unique, or even the familiar, qualities of the place where we travel.

A friend lived in a tiny one street town, he painted 'all up and down the street.' He was happy to sink deeper into knowledge of his subject and didn't want to go anywhere else. Monet with his garden and the nearby Seine. I've heard of other artists, whose names I forget, who loved their enviornment and had no need to travel.

I like to travel, but I doubt that I've gotten much for my painting prowess from it. I have noticed it's a great marketing tool, however. :)

I rated this thread

Dyin
07-31-2004, 12:34 PM
Much respect to Deborah and Kitty for their approach to knowing your subject. But I understand what Kat is trying to say...we aren't all wired the same way. I would go insane confining myself to one little street for subjects to paint, to painting rocks over and over and over. I've spent a good portion of my life moving from place to place, seeing and doing as much as I could and every ounce of life knowledge comes into play when I paint. To my mind it doesn't matter what subject you paint, it all has to do with light, shadow and tone. What makes the painting different from the next artist's interpretation is the soul of yourself that you insert. Skills and technique are important and the more you paint, the more you seek to learn how to create certain effects, the better you will get. But I think you have to challenge yourself too. I like to paint things I don't know...just like I like to meet people with whole different life experiences than mine or go to places I've never been. The more I dig into it the more I add to my life experience. To me painting is a journey, a way to grow. I don't think anyone can grow without a lot of failures along the way...or without pushing their limits by challenging themselves to doing what they don't know.
Kitty, I totally understand what you are saying about authors that intimately know their subject and I enjoy that feeling too. But I also admire authors that can take me away from a ordinary existance into an unknown possibility. How does Anne Rice make me believe in vampires, if only for so long as I read her story? How does she make them come so alive (although they are the undead lol) that I can believe in the humanity of an un-human being that she can't possibly know as it doesn't even exist? She used her imagination and enriched it with things she did know...she sees the human condition and she transferred and enrichened it onto the impossible and so she catches my imagination. I read to try and understand the rest of the world, to put my feet in someone else's shoes for awhile and to learn from their experiences as much as I learn from my own. I paint for the same reason.
I am in no way saying that it's wrong to know your subject or to study it and become intimate with it. I'm just saying that there are different approaches for different people.
Mikki, this really is about you. What moves you about this? What do you want to say and how do you want to say it? How is this any different than the photo you used of mine...it had mountains, trees and bushes too....and you'd never been there. But I have and you captured what I had felt there...the awe, the wonder, a moment from my past. You captured my imagination and my memory and I was entranced. How did you do that? You don't have to have the exact colors to make something believable, you have to have the exact feel of those rocks. You have to have some knowledge of how to make 2 dimensional appear 3 dimensional and you have to understand things like aerial perspective and the nature of shadow and light. But painting is all about illusion. It's a combination of skill and technique to create the illusion and it's all about projecting what you feel when you paint it.
I'm painting a sea turtle right now that I have never seen. What's more it's a green sea turtle and I'm painting it in purple tones. I am entranced by the patterns and texture and I am doing it on the largest canvas I have used to date...and my photograph ref is very good, but there are many black holes where I have had to fill in the blanks. And wow...what discoveries I have made. I could now run my hand over a real turtle's head and already intimately know it...I can for a moment escape and and feel what it is like to swim perpetually in a huge waterworld. Painting is an EXPERIENCE...if you can't throw yourself into it, become the turtle, become the rock, what's the point?
Painting, like life, has to be approached by you alone. You have to know yourself, know how you tick so that you can use it effectively. Some will do best with a methodical approach, some will do best by completely stretching into the abstract. No one will do it without lots of study, work and practice. I just believe it's like everything else in life...only when body, mind and spirit work together will we be happy with it.
So I just wanted to put my 2 cents in here...not to argue or dispute the wonderful advice here which will apply to many struggling artists, but to just say there's more than one way to paint a painting.

Kathryn Wilson
07-31-2004, 12:54 PM
Mikki - I think you know more than you realize. I've watched your work progress over the past year and a half - you ARE growing by leaps and bounds. All of your reading and absorbing the knowledge on this forum is there, in your brain, now I'd like see you put it all to work.

Take that painting as a challenge to your skill, interpret what you love about it, use your knowledge you already have and make the painting better than the photo, research what you don't know about those rocks (there are plenty of photos on the internet). This painting that is within you will speak to you until you sit down to do it - it may be a long time before you tackle it, but it will be there.

I know you can do this.

-------------

Dee - I've got the look coming back at ya! ;) What I really meant is that my environment around me is so boring to me that I'm am totally uninspired by what I see - it's boring and it's green all over! Someone who has not been here probably would love this place and find joy in painting it, but it's not me. I have seriously tried to find things to inspire - the gardens, the architecture, the flowers - but in the end, I feel I must paint other things.

Kitty Wallis
07-31-2004, 02:55 PM
....Kitty, I totally understand what you are saying about authors that intimately know their subject and I enjoy that feeling too. But I also admire authors that can take me away from a ordinary existance into an unknown possibility. How does Anne Rice make me believe in vampires, if only for so long as I read her story? How does she make them come so alive (although they are the undead lol) that I can believe in the humanity of an un-human being that she can't possibly know as it doesn't even exist? She used her imagination and enriched it with things she did know...she sees the human condition and she transferred and enrichened it onto the impossible and so she catches my imagination. .

Good points. I've been reading fantasy and science fiction all my life and didn't get the dicotomy of what I was saying until you wote this. Thanks for that. Here's to different strokes. (icon of smiley holding wine glass aloft)

Dyin
07-31-2004, 03:11 PM
"clink"
Kitty...somehow I knew you'd see what I meant. :) Just as I saw what you meant...
btw...subscribed to Robert Genn's letters...thanks for that!

bogbeast
07-31-2004, 07:04 PM
Mikki, you started a wonderful thread!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:

this has been addressing so many of my own thoughts and concerns--I've started a word document of quotes, from all of you, and will be adding the whole thread to my bookmarks file! Thanks to everyone for this compiled wisdom and experience!

To go back to your original post--I am frequently dombfounded by the beauty and expertise of the work I see posted here. Aside from a couple of drawing classes, I am also "self-taught", and my remembering of compositional and design rules grinds to a halt as soon as I pass the "rule of thirds". I tend to rebel at perceived constrictions, but want my work to look a lot better than it does. After practicing scales and etudes on violin and viola for many years, having to "practice" sometimes galls me...and yet that is what I now find myself doing with pastels, which seem to have become my chosen medium.

I am also hampered by my own internal contradictions--alternately seeing my work, and progress, as good or awful. I forget that, as I believe Kitty said, that making art is a sacred activity, and that all I can provide is effort and humility :p

What I know at this moment is that there are times when others are talking crops and composition in every critique, and all that I identify as bothersome in a given picture is that the shadow isn't deep enough here, or something similar that seems very obvious---or is it my own untrained, inexpert viewing, and if it were really a problem someone more skilled would already have commented on it? Expecially when I know that my own work is nowhere nearly as good as what I am critiqueing! So I wonder if I should even comment...

I do know that I greatly appreciate every bit of thought and critical insight that others have offered me when I've posted--even if I don't re-do that piece, it goes into the pot, so to speak, of the next one!

Mikki Petersen
07-31-2004, 07:39 PM
I gotta say here that I feel so lucky to have such great cyber-friends. Everyone really puts great effort into answering these questions and it's so reqarding to read everyone's thoughts, suggestions and advice.

I did a portrait today in under two hours for the WDE...who'd a thought it? If I can do that then I can learn anything!

I have always resisted structured learning on the subject of art because I have an unconcious need to copy. I'm one of those people who, around someone speaking with an accent, suddenly I have the same accent. I don't mean to and it's not meant as disrespect, it just happens and I don't know I'm doing it until someone points it out to me. When I was young, I quit painting because my work looked like something I painted, not like the work I admired otheres doing. Now, I understand it's a good thing that my work is distinctive but I fear learning from otheres will set back in a place of trying to BE like others. I don't want to go there.

As for the Bryce Canyon photos, I knew the were lousy compositions for paintings, by instinct, if nothing else. I put them up to see if anyone could make one or both into a good composition. I have frequently had the experience of trying to paint the unfamiliar with little success. I have also had the experience of painting the unfamiliar with good success because the subject hit a familiar chord, if that makes sense.

Mostly, I guess I'm in one of those reflective periods. I've now been painting again for about two years and I get frustrated when I seem to keep falling into the same bear traps. I aught to know those by now. One thing I know for sure is that I'm not quitting again. My legacy may be boxes of inadequate paintings but they will be my legacy none the less.

SweetBabyJ
07-31-2004, 07:48 PM
Mikki, I was thinking today- always dangerous- but why not take a coupla scraps of paper and DELIBERATELY break a compositional rule- divide that paper in half, stick the focal point right in the middle, leave a line-shape going right off the edge... whatever. Do the whole thing- and then stick it up somewhere and glance at it- and see if you can understand why it doesn't work (unless you managed to overcome the weakness, which means you really are better than you thought!)

I remember the cafe scenes DJStar was doing, and how so many people were knee-jerking about the one from the outside: A telephone pole in a reflection was dead center of the piece- tsk-tsk-tsk. Come to the finish, though, and anyone who really *saw* that telephone pole saw it exactly for what it was: Just a bit of reflection in a window filled with light and colour- it certainly did nothing to disturb the eye. She saw the possible weakness, and made sure it was a strength, instead.

Kitty Wallis
07-31-2004, 08:38 PM
...when I know that my own work is nowhere nearly as good as what I am critiqueing! So I wonder if I should even comment...


I think we are all able to offer a critique, even if we are not technicly as proficient as some. Our vision is and always will be ahead of our ability to paint. It's our guide; without it we wouldn't know how to proceed. We can share our guide with others. All of us have a piece of the vision.

DGrau
08-01-2004, 12:11 AM
What an intersting thread. I would like to give some thoughts on this

[QUOTE=1mpete] I can see what is being addressed and sometimes it seems really important to the success of the work. Other times, I see what is being discussed but it does not seem like anything wrong.

~perhaps in cases there isn't anything wrong and/or it isn't really important
When I learn something new such as blueing a background to acheive distance then I am prone to notice the lack of that, and I belive that in trying to share newfound knowledge and to help it is very possible to overdo it. yes sometimes it will help a painting but at others it is not neccessary for the actuall distanace protrayed. But both are correct..the actual painting as is, and my helpfull sugggestion{wich I am gung ho over at the moment} Is something along these lines possibly what is going on with at least some of them?

If I cannot see the problem areas in another's work, how can I possibly expect to get my own paintings done well?

Perhaps it is just how you look and what you look atand how you absorb what you are seeing. I have seen your work and it is quite nice. Even in this thread you stated you knew instinctively that the photo wasn't the best which leads me to believe amongst veiwing your work you know more than you let yourself beleive, but scince you are asking these questions, you will seek more knowledge which will confirm what you know already and add to it, for you have reached a point where you want to increase your knowledge.

, do people just look to see if all the rules are met? Maybe in some paintings the rule is bent it does not matter?

I think perhaps I look differently here..but when I am out and stop at a gallery to simply look and enjoy art for pure pleasure...... I look and dismiss that which I don't care for, then one catches my eye and holds it and I enjoy it. As I look longer it slowly reveals itself to me. Either it continues to hold my eye or something which is doesn't work right causes me to lose interest.and I think what a shame. If it continues to hold my eye then al of the elements which hold it slowly show themselves to me, the hues/values, the compostion,texture, how my eye is held and led thru out it. As each thing reveals itself to me it brings to me a greater joy and a deeper appreciation. I do not look to see what is wrong, but inadvertantly after studying and enjoying a piece its flaws or finer points just show up.(those I am aware of)
As far as a rule being bent~ I think everything you do matters. Why Are you bending the rule, what is being accomplished by bending it, in what way does it enhance what you are trying to say~ if it was bent unintentionally then I would think it more than likely would just end up detracting from your work unless you were lucky.
I am learing also ~trying hard to
Just my thoughts and opinions
regards
David
there is an article here by johhane vollothius???? {Know I blew that spelling} do read it if you havent....aprox. 23 pages.. about composistion in landscapes

Khadres
08-01-2004, 01:30 AM
there is an article here by johhane vollothius???? {Know I blew that spelling} do read it if you havent....aprox. 23 pages.. about composistion in landscapes

Any idea what the URL for that article is?

Dyin
08-01-2004, 01:36 AM
Any idea what the URL for that article is?



http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/135/120/

bookmarked it a long time ago...good article.

DGrau
08-01-2004, 01:52 AM
Thanks for the save Dyin...had no clue how to find a url till now{just figured it out}
D.

Dyin
08-01-2004, 01:56 AM
lol David...glad you figured it out! It is a really good article and it was getting dusty in my index...was nice to blow it off and get refreshed so thanks!

Mikki Petersen
08-01-2004, 02:40 AM
Thank you David for pointing out the article and, Sue, Thanks for supplying the address. I just read through that lesson plan twice and am going back for another go. First time I was so enchanted by the paintings that I lost the context of what he was saying. Second time, the illustrations and his explanations really made sense, especially about balance.

I know many have said it in various ways, but, I love hearing that we should not try to copy nature but should compose from it since we do not have the value range nature has. WOW!

Diyart
08-01-2004, 09:04 AM
hello,

I had a look at your recent posts.. for example the "Tetons".. and hardly can understand your "problem"...
Theory is a nice thing,but for me it is a kind of after work pleasure which will influence my next steps somehow..
Also there is no short cut in painting.. so for heavens sake give yourself some time.. be nice to yourself you deserve it !!!!!!!!
You have a unique way of using colors.. good shadows etc.. all the rest will come...just concentrate on that what you like to do...
if you do not yet I would only recommend to work from life as much as you can.


Martin

Mikki Petersen
08-03-2004, 05:08 PM
I just read my newsletter from Robert Genn and how more timely to this discussion could it have been!?! Here is an excerpt:

With the last few letters about losing your mojo and about
negative and positive self-talk in the studio, there came a
fresh wave of artists looking for a simple fix. "I need an
answer here," said one. Then there were others who, often
through trial and error, were in a position to provide some of
those answers. In many there was the theme of "just do it."
The truth, surprising to some, is that the business of doing it
comes before the business of being any good at it. Learning by
doing is the Broadway of art. "There's nothing to it but to do
it," repeated several artists. Fact is, stroking the process
causes an artist to fall in love. A blooming love leads to
proficiency, plain and simple. As Picasso said: "My genius
shines most when I work." Among the letters, a motivational
coach offered ten ways to see your life as a work of art: Treat
life as a grand experiment. Make your life colorful. Stay
curious. Find humor everywhere. Take risks. Live in evolutionary
environments. Be open and spontaneous. Consider everything as
potential art material. Live in the present. Express yourself
passionately.

Food for thought.

mhimeswc
08-04-2004, 12:51 PM
1. Is this a paintable subject?
2. Would it be better to do a section of it rather than the whole scene?
3. What are the lines and are they compositionally good?
4. What are the likely pitfalls?



Mikki, I think these are both paintable subjects. Take a look at www.artsfortheparks.com to see the beautiful paintings derived from such subject matter. Can you make a successful painting from it? Could I? I don't know, but I would surely have fun trying if they were my photos.

Would it be better to do a section rather than the whole scene? I guess it depends on your vision and painting style. I almost always make a more successful painting when I concentrate on a section of the subject. I like doing one large flower, a window instead of a building, a face instead of a figure. But that first picture grabs me with the grandeur of the whole view. Yes, you would have to solve the problem of a lead-in and a focal point, as well as how to show scale and distance. But I love the diagonal and the shapes that the tops of the rocks make.

The pitfalls are many. Composition is not my strongpoint so I will not attempt to help you there. But I think these photos have possibilities, and if they are calling you to paint them, I would give it a shot. Someone back a few posts suggested putting them into Photoshop and playing with them. You may find a composition you like, or you may decide to put them away for another time. Good luck with them if you decide to "go for it".

Michelle

mhimeswc
08-04-2004, 03:45 PM
I found a watercolor at the Arts For the Parks site that looks like it's of the same area as your photo.
http://www.artsfortheparks.com/2004m100/pages/BeblavyNatures.html

Michelle

prestonsega
08-04-2004, 07:05 PM
What a thread!!! I love it... Now...Mikki...Looking historically and culturally about art...What kind of a critique would this painting would recieve today at WC? By our standards, it is a perspective nightmare.

Netherlands , 1425

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Aug-2004/29946-josephperspec.jpg


..It makes one wonder how our paintings and thoughts on composition today will be looked upon in 600 years.

Mikki Petersen
08-05-2004, 02:56 AM
Michelle, thank you for introducing me to Arts for the Parks. I've spent a very pleasant two hours wandering through this years entries. Incredible work in every medium possible I think. You are right about the one painting being very close to what I'm looking at. Interesting to see her version. Beautifully done.

Oh, Preston...I think we still respect the Dutch Masters. The work is more illustrative than what most of us try for these days but still quite wonderful.

soap
08-05-2004, 04:28 AM
LOL, funny example of the Dutch painting. But don't forget we don't think this is a bad painting. Art history appreciates it for what it is and in 600 years time art historians will hopefully do the same for art from our own time.

prestonsega
08-05-2004, 01:32 PM
I'm glad you see the humor and got the point I was making....If I posted a painting with a table like that everyone with a photoshop would draw vanishing points and lines.....others would kindly say" you may want to check the pespective on the table...others would say" I get the feeling all the tools are about to fall off the table." While I am in no way an art history buff, I do think it important to look at the past and understand that somethings that look like mistakes on the artists part are indeed intended to look that way for what ever reason. Another point I would like to make here....I have been surfing hundreds of other pastel artrists' websites and it seems that here at WC there is almost an "inbreeding" of style...

Dyin
08-05-2004, 02:08 PM
interesting thought, Preston. When I saw this painting it reminded me of Jackie's painting where she wanted to tilt the perspective. It probably would have been easier to see her intent right away if correct perspective hadn't always been a part of her work. I wish a lot of times that people would explain more of their thought process when they create a piece. It really does make a difference to the critique.
As to the 'inbreeding' lol...them there are probably going to be fighting words to some lol! But I have noticed that postings with paintings that tend towards true abstract or totally non-realistic interpretation don't get a lot of feedback. I know one reason for that is not knowing what the 'rules' of this type of painting are and how to comment on what you don't know about. But the one unexpected side effect wc has had on me is to open my eyes to a closer understanding of work I never used to appreciate. Sometimes I'm not looking at rules but into the artist's thought process...this is what the artist is conveying and the only thing they are truly concerned with.
I think there are a lot of beginning artists here and a lot that are on the cusp of finding a way to say what they want to say in their own unique way. I'd say that if you take a famous school's approach where everyone paints plaster statues you're going to get a lot of very similar looking work. But it's a foundation that they are learning. If foundations aren't built to specs the rest of the building gets wonky. I think the theme here is to learn to build the foundation first and then build a flight of fancy that will hold up over the solid base. I think that when people reach this phase a lot of them move on from here into an exploration of their own path, hence the more varied work that you are seeing on individual websites. WC is more like a school...most of us come here to learn, whereas these people have the basics and are off onto their own learning curve. Thats IMO anyways. :D

prestonsega
08-05-2004, 04:39 PM
Sue,,I think you are dead on!!! In schools one naturally mimics his mentors style,,then after graduation is when the learning really taked place...I in no way intended to downgrade WC..It is practically my life!!!! I think Jackie made reference to being self taught artist after going to an art school.......I know I have grown by leaps in confidence if nothing else while participating in discussions and critiques.....LONG LIVE WC !!!!!!

Dyin
08-05-2004, 06:00 PM
lol Preston...I didn't think you meant to downgrade WC. I think it's kind of cool to have the Pastel talk forum so we can talk and think about stuff like this. And I think we do better here than in the debate forum where it always seems to get off subject and sometimes pretty nasty! You brought up a really good point and I really had to think on it a bit. :)

Mikki Petersen
08-06-2004, 01:10 AM
Discussion is such a wonderful thing! My first reaction, Preston, to your comment about a WC style was "oh no...I hope not!" But then Sue came back with some logical thoughts and I came right back down to earth. Whew!

I will say that I spent several hours last night browsing the Arts for Parks website that Michelle offered. It was refreshing to see such a variety of works, all of them winners in their own right, and most of them NOT perfect. What I did crave but was absent, was any dialog fromt he artist about what moved them to paint the subject, where it was, how they approached it, etc. I always feel this way in galleries as well. I wish galleries would ask the artist to write a short narrative explaining the work. I know many artists view their work as being something the viewer should interpret themselves but as a fellow artist I want the nuts and bolts. This is what I love so much about this site.

I've also noticed that experienced artists will read critiques, chew on them a bit and come back with an explanation for why they chose the path they did. We novices have more of a tendency to go: "Oops! I need to fix that." without questioning their own motivations.

Sue's thoughts about abstract and expressionist works are right on the money, IMHO. I for one admire some of these works and am completely bewildered about others. I know no "rules" for abstracts except that if one makes me react then it supposedly served it's purpose. Often they look to me like housepainter's drop cloths (apologies to abstract painters everywhere). I often lurk in the abstract forum trying to increase my understanding but I would not dream of commenting because I have not a clue about the work. I think it is human nature to find beauty in the familiar and abstract concepts are not familiar territory for me.

Intriguing thoughts, Preston. Keep the home fires burning!

bogbeast
08-06-2004, 04:57 PM
Mikki, I've found almost exactly what you are talking about in International Artist magazine--there's a section where each artist does a blurb about "sensation" and "process" for the work shown. Not often enough in pastel, but always interesting!

Mikki Petersen
08-07-2004, 12:44 AM
Yep, Libby, I've seen them. They do that in Watercolor Magic a lot too. I just think it is interesting and makes the painting somehow more intimate if the artist shares a bit about technique and or the expecations they had in creating the artwork.

Deborah Secor
08-07-2004, 02:23 AM
Netherlands , 1425

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Aug-2004/29946-josephperspec.jpg


..It makes one wonder how our paintings and thoughts on composition today will be looked upon in 600 years.

Yep. Preston, it does make you wonder. I find this one interesting because it was made at a time when the formal rules of perspective were just being developed in Europe (really REdeveloped, since the Greeks/Romans had used perspective), and painting was done by eye entirely. I wonder if I'd not had classes to show me how to use perspective whether I could do any better, even with the benefit of a camera to teach me how to portray a 3-D scene in 2-D. It goes to further illustrate the point Sue made about foundations, in a way, in that now we can look at this and see the wonkiness (love that word!) where in 1425 I suspect folks only appreciated the painting for what it was meant to portray (Joseph making a mousetrap--I understand someone built one and it caught a mouse!) and admired Campin for his work in perspective. He really got interested in perspective and was one of the leading edge painters trying to make things look real. Funny how we see this as wonky but they probably saw it as remarkably real looking back in 1425! Just goes to show you that what you see is predicated on what you know.

An Mikki, I just wanted to add that I think the 'rules' of abstracts are the very same as they are for any other kind of painting, at least in terms of things like color, value, line, contrast, balance, rhythm, focal point, and all the other non-objective aspects of painting. It's only in the recent past that we've decided that 'anything is art'. Well, as my art profs used to say, "Yeah, okay. But is it good art or bad art?" I have to say that here in NM they've carried the 'anything is art' idea to extremes: 'sandwich artist', and 'toilet gallery' come to mind. Wouldn't the dadaists have loved it?

Deborah

prestonsega
08-09-2004, 12:31 AM
A mouse trap??? No....he's making one of those games that you play by jumping one golf tee over another until there's only one tee left! You know the ones...they're on restaurant tables to keep you occupied while you wait on your burger and fries....lol.

Thanks for that tid bit of trivia... and the commentary on Campin and the Netherlandish re development of perspective. As this was an altar piece, I wondered if the perspective wasn't purposefully skewed based on where the viewer was expected to be positioned. Now Mikki has started something..I'm digging through my collection of Sister Wendy books....Art history is so interesting...

Thanks again, Dee :) (a toilet gallery???argh!)