View Full Version : Rocky Perch

12-16-2008, 01:15 AM

Title: Rocky Perch
Year Created:
Medium: Oil
Surface: Canvas
Dimension: 24X30
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

This is a compilation of rock cuts beside highways in Northe<br> Ontario and done entirely with a palette knife.

I love knife painting more than any other type of oil painting, but I don't know if my technique is too rough. Also do I have enough contrast and points of interest? any input is welcome.

Gemini IX
12-16-2008, 05:41 AM
Hello and welcome!
I am not an expert, but I think you could improve this painting something fierce. First of all get rid of the birds flying. You most likely will never find birds like that flying in fine art. It seems to me the highway should be curved around a bit or something, somehow the perspective does not seem right, I can't really say. I wish I could help you more. Maybe someone can give you some tips. With a few adjustments I think you would be quite pleased.
Keep up with the knife!

12-16-2008, 07:50 AM
I've found it difficult to compellingly paint rock structures and you've produced a creative and competent treatment with your knife work. I feel like the problem with the painting is entirely the left side for several reasons:

Compositionally, it doesn't really add anything to have a vague, far view all on the left. I think a photographer would not compose his frame that way. The painting is about the dramatic rock structure and should therefore limit itself to the structure. I offer a photoshop which simply crops out the left and suggest that it looks better:


Your technique on the left is also much simpler and accordingly less effective than the fine work on the rock. The road is straight. There are three straight lines of monotone foliage which parallel the road. The orange foliage is also monotone. My general point is that when painting nature, you've got to vary shapes, tones, values and hues to make the depiction compelling. This can be subtly done in less important parts of the painting but it can't be entirely dismissed as I feel you've done.

But back to the rock, there you were feeling the magic. I only suggest that the green tree/bush at the upper left needs more work with especially some darks. It's all one tone.

thomas w
12-16-2008, 07:52 AM
The rocks look great. I would do the entire painting in that style if it were me, although I've never done a knife painting. It might not have an have an atmospheric perspective if you did it that way but it would have a better overall cohesion.
Thomas W

12-16-2008, 01:48 PM
Wish we could see this one in person since we are losing the inherent joy of texture in this knife piece when it's online in 2D.

I like your flying birds though would have each of them in a different flight pose. You do see pelicans gliding close above the water all with their wings in identical postures, so maybe these birds are all catching an up current - otherwise having them all the same makes it monotonous, implying you were not 'feeling, or seeing, birds' so much as just getting the painting done. I fight this off - the act of 'just filling in' when I disconnect, lose patience or hurry - and it always looks monotonous and uninspiring.

Two problems...

Your colors seem as if white has been added to everything, causing inevitable 'chalk' paleness. Or is that my monitor? I have major troubles here too and now try to resist reaching for the tube of white. (esp. titanium which is so dense.)

The biggest issue has been identified - composition!

It's hard having two focus points - the dark bird on the rock top edge and then the area where the road meets the sky are equally competing for my attention. There are several ways you could crop this way down to eliminate the issue.

FYI I keep two large pieces of tag board shaped like "L's" (or a mat cut in half) so i can slide these around on top of sketches or finished pieces to see if they need cropping (can change the ratio of the two sides when you have these two "L" pieces, as well as the overall size of the 'window')

And the dark areas in the rocks are not leading my eye around the painting but rather are like individual spots. This lacks cohesion.

My advice would be to get some books on composition and really play by the 'rules' for a while before you branch out from them. I too still often start a painting before plotting the composition and it always causes problems - usually irreversible too. I am studying masters to figure this out. Just found Juaquin Sorolla, Spanish Impressionist-era artist. Every tiny piece of his hugh, elaborate compositions somehow connect. Amazing. Good luck to you (and me) in this thorny area of composing.

12-16-2008, 01:48 PM

12-16-2008, 02:25 PM
Amazing how that cropping by Bob made such a strong composition. Your treatment of the rocks is very creative.

12-19-2008, 12:02 AM
:crying: just kidding. Well, I did ask. I was aware of the monotone problem. This was a particulairly frustrating painting as nothing seemed to be working for me on this project.

I appreciate everyone's gracious input. tgsloth was right of course, but I would have left a bit of the distance to give some frame of reference. But indeed it was too simple in the backgorund. Since painting this, I have learned a lot more about colour variety and composition, but I wanted to hear some honest and new opinions about the work. I too like the rocks and the bird but not much else about it.

dianalynn has outed me. I confess I lightened every drop of paint with titanium white. It was revelation to me tho about the black leading the eye around. Something to remember.

About the l's. I did not do a sketch with this piece. When working with the knife, I tend to just start and see where I end up. Now I know. This was an oil project and I have only just switched to acrylics last month (Nov) and I am learning all over again.

Thank you all. I have learned a lot already and I've been here for a few weeks.


12-19-2008, 12:42 PM
When I first opened this my heart almost skipped a beat from vertigo. Even with its shortcomings it is a great visual experience. I would myself alter it not much as too overall composition, but I would greatly alter the handling of its individual elements. The challenge is to emphasize that breathtaking sense of upthrust or down drop...that sense of vertigo. This means you must push the left hand side of the painting back, let it drop downward and fall away. This calls for softening of values and colors and textures that still harmonize with the hard massive volumes of the cliff on the right. This means you would avoid the hard cutting edge of your knives and use the flat of the blade in more of a blending troweling manner.
The birds in the sky I do not like because subjectively speaking it emphasizes lifelessness rather than adding a touch of moving soaring life. Birds on the ground, unmoving, on the other hand are not pretending to something they are not. I love the grounded bird in this! So much so that I think I would add to his manage. I would then call the painting "The Aerie". A matter that is not subjective is the danger when painting rocks of getting accidental images that distract or add touches of undesired humor. Here I would encourage you too "paint outside the box!" The red and orange line shows what I mean. This painting has such a personal appeal also in that while hunting orchids one winter, and being unaware as to exactly where I was, I almost stepped off a cliff like this, hundreds of feet down to the roadway...yes ones heart does tend to skip a beat...thanks for the memory!


12-19-2008, 04:54 PM
Wow Corby, what a lesson. I see what you mean about the distration of the left side of the painting. I agree with waht you did to make it fit better, but I still like the lone bird, and yeah, the other ones in the air were an attempt to add some life. Not well done I admit.

Thank you for your input, but I am not sure I get teh bit about the red and yellow lines.


12-19-2008, 06:20 PM
If you look at your painting you will see that the form or image of a box is quite plain where I have marked it in red. The box even has an interior in which there seems to be folds of cloth draped over. What happens with the inappropriate placement of values is that we come up with a 'hollow box' look instead of a large squarish bolder...

12-21-2008, 02:37 AM
I continue to learn Corby. I am still having issues with my brain getting my hands to do what they are told. I need lots more practice and experience.

12-22-2008, 01:22 AM
The problem I have with the birds is twofold. The first is scale; even condors should look small against a cliff. The second is that the birds seem like stamps of grade-school silhouettes. My recommendation is to omit the birds, and tighten the focus on the cliff.