View Full Version : pastel portrait critique

04-05-2000, 11:02 AM

This pastel portrait (commission piece)was done a while back, but as a different kind of placing a child for a portrait, I thought I would get your thoughts on it. I photographed her outdoors, removing her shoes was her idea..she was very active and could not sit still for even a few seconds! I played with the background and color somewhat as it did not set the mood I wanted, simplifying the extraneous and concentrating on the figure and its support. It was done on ersta sanded paper and mostly executed with Sennelier pastels.

04-05-2000, 11:25 AM
I think it's beautiful. You did a great job and managed to not make the feet dominating as they are closer to the viewer. The only thing negative to my eye is the bow in the hair. I think it is distracting. But little girls are little girls. She reminds me of my grandaughterver active also.

04-05-2000, 11:35 AM
When you do a commission piece, you are working with another person's aesthetics as well as your own. the dress detail and the bow were the mother's deal..I would have chosen something simpler, so the focus would be on the child's face..alas, I lost that argument..the dress was given by the grandmother for this painting..yada, yada.//so it is art by committee! thanks for the comment.

[This message has been edited by sandyartist (edited April 05, 2000).]

04-05-2000, 11:44 AM

Lovely piece. I like the bottom of the feet showing and a little dirty - balances the effect of the dress and bow and makes her look impish! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

04-05-2000, 03:14 PM
Sigh....I can only hope that one day I can paint like you Sandy. You are too much!!! Thanks for sharing this with us. Now...where did you say those lessons were? Oh... you are getting them ready for Scott? I see...well I will run out and get me some pastels so I will be ready. What kind do I need. What kind of paper? Oh...I am so excited. We are going to have such fun. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-05-2000, 05:03 PM
Sandy I love your style. The detail in the dress is extraordinary. I also love the rendering in the wood on the bench. You captured the essence of this little girl. Splendid!! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-05-2000, 05:58 PM
Sorry if I don't have comments along the lines of critique..(I have not jumped into critiquing work here)...but...I WILL say...you have a wonderful command of pastels Sandy!!!!!! Fabric..hair..very very nice!!!
A VERY beautiful portrait!!
(I wouldn't be able to offer ANY helpful comments on a piece this good)

Phyllis Rennie
04-05-2000, 08:36 PM
Love it! She really looks like she couldn't sit still! You did a great job of making her face stand out among all those details. Phyl

04-05-2000, 09:00 PM
You did a fantastic job Sandy. You can see the mischief in her eyes. I'm not sure I want to know what she's planning! Keep up the good work!

04-05-2000, 09:59 PM
What is there to critique? Outstanding !! I
simply do not know how you can get those pastels to work like that !!! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-05-2000, 10:28 PM
she reminds me of little nellie from little house on the prarie..



04-05-2000, 11:04 PM
ohmygosh km - exactly!

04-06-2000, 12:10 AM
She looks like she's ready to jump up and get that dress full of mud. It's a wonderful job and I think you captured her beautifully.

04-06-2000, 12:13 AM
Sandy, I am sold...
Do you need more work? I have three daughters...

04-06-2000, 12:17 AM
It is a wonderful portrait. How do you do IT!!!?????
I love the colors...and the background.

Can't wait to see more.


04-06-2000, 12:27 AM
Jeez Guys! I do remember the subject as critique...that is what I asked of you..an''whatever your take on the subject..an' whatver your take on the presentation..thank you..I am still lookin' for critique here..so have at me..Milt? out there? Let it fly...this piece was a commission, an' there must be some criticsm in the works..I know where the weakneses are an' I expect you to turn a critical eye. that is how I grow as well...there is no plateau so high that it cannot be breached, my art friends..I am immune, except in the interest of better work..so input is required...thanks one an' all..



04-06-2000, 12:37 AM
Well, if you must know......The area where the background intersects the back of the dress bothers me. It melts together. Also it really really is too bad the mother insisted on that bow. The lips look too adult to me. Too red. Was she wearing lipstick? The hair coming over the shoulder on the viewers left looks disjoined, like a puppy crawled up behind the neck and only the tail is sticking out. Nevertheless, it still amazes me when artists get such crisp details with pastels.

04-06-2000, 01:40 AM
sometimes, i think we're our own worst critic. i never hang my own work in my house for that reason. i can always find things in every piece I do that doesn't work for me, or should be changed. at some point though, you have to say, i'm done.
as long as it holds together as a piece, why pick it apart? if you know what you don't like then you won't do it again.
i look at this work and say it's beautiful and she did such a wonderful job of capturing the little girl. I WON'T PICK IT APART. I just want to enjoy it. Only G-d is perfect.

www.artdebut.com (http://www.artdebut.com)

04-06-2000, 01:49 AM
sandy,,,this is a very good portrait. if you want a critique, this one will take time to search out. quickly,,,,,,there are things in form, but they are unimportant here. for, as in any painting, the artist must make the elements read,,,,,, you did this wonderfully......so give me time,,,milt

04-06-2000, 09:52 AM
Thanks all! Seems as though I succeeded in givin' this child a sense of personality, for you saw her exactly as she was...a very bright only child of 2 lawyers..spoiled beyond belief and constantly getting into trouble with the adults...lol!!! Msue..the soft edges of hair and dress were intentional..it is a trademark of my pastels and one of the reasons I get commissions like this one..a style decision. The child had very florid coloring for a blonde 'n her mouth was that red..could have been toned down, but then would not have been true to the subject..you are right, however...it does look quite red on this screen! The hair was ethereal..a place to emphasize and I like the effect...my area of weakness? The lighted edge (right) of the face should have been softer, less edgy...but the parents wanted it this way. Another area that was a real bugaboo was the foreshortening of the figure...in the photo I used, the feet, bein' close to the camera were very large, so I had to compensate for that and reduce them in size and emphasis, then guess at the figure changes underneath the dress. I did several drawings of what I thought the figure looked like underneath, then settled on this proportion, to me, it reads right, so the portrait was done this way. If I could find the photo, I would post it, so you could see the changes, but to date, have not found it. You are right Arlene..we DO pick our own things to death, but that is how we improve...I, too, do not have my own work in my house...prefer to see the work of artists I admire..they inspire me and with a cup of tea, I often sit and look at them before goin' to the studio..sort of a pinnacle I want to reach...unfortunately, I do not have a Milt hangin' there, shouldda bought that canvas in Taos! Milt..any offering would be appreciated! Thank you one and all!

04-06-2000, 10:05 AM
Sandy, if you dont mind me asking, how much did you get for this piece? Also what size was it?

04-06-2000, 10:18 AM
Bryan...don't mind at all...the pastel was 22x28 and they paid $2,500 for the portrait...not bad for a work on paper, although it was as much work as an oil that I would have received considerably more for...however, I LOVE pastel and delight in the work.

04-06-2000, 10:37 AM
Wow! Breathtaking. I can understand why they paid that amount for it. Did you do any live studies of her or only use photo for reference? Curious.

04-06-2000, 05:07 PM
sandy,,,First,,let's talk about what you did right……………well,,,,,,,,,everything. Not only well drawn, but keenly observed. everything seems right. And kids are hard to draw. Values are on the nuts. Anything I would add here would be totally of personal taste. So, if you want, I'll get REEEEEALLY picky. I'd say , maybe, the cluster of flowers on the left are very structured,,, in vertical columns. Hmmmm, I think that's it.

So now,,,, let's talk about painting light. Not light molding form,,,,LIGHT. Here's what I would've added. I added some very hot lights to the image . I'm using a touchpad so ignore the crudeness. On the redo I hit the bench arm with a hot sliver of light. It looks thick but I couldn't contril the cursor. I hit the bench by her feet with the same light. I hit her dress near the edge of the bech with lightand let it fall over the edge of the bench a bit. I hit a fold in her dress just below the knees with the same lightness. I hit bits of strands of hair with that light. As well as her right shoulder catching some light. What is the effect of all this. I have given the source light a personality. Personality, because it is no longer some source light emitting from some vague place outside the picture plane . by hitting these random, well almost random, areas I gave it intensity and a way to measure this real thing called light. It hits the girl's head and a few inches away it hits strands of hair. Another foot away and it hits her shoulder. And a foot away from that ,,,the bench arm. it hits the bench and dress by her feet way over there….and also her dress just above,,,it picks out a fold. We have given this light real measured dimensions. It is now a real thing. It is alive. And in doing all this I have given the painting DISTANCE. This is not distance perceived with linear perspective or overlapping elements. This is real distance. Ever notice in some portraits how the artist will pick a bit of collar out of the shadows with some light. Or show the far ear, even though the ear can't necessarily be seen. This is giving the painting distance. You can measure a distance from the light hitting the main form to that SAME light hitting a far form. In your painting I think it also pops the figure.

This kind of light,,,this harsh concentrated light. There's a way to paint it. You've heard of the term "the light HITTING something". Well,,in a way, it really does that. It HITS something. So that's how you paint these accents. A bold slash of brushwork. No feathering, no form molding. It is a light that slaps the form. Like sargent venetian interiors, where the light HITS the floor in a room of semi-darkness.

I did a few more things. I added a bit of dark shadow under the sleeve where the light hits the bench arm. It emphasizes the light(giving it contrast,,,where there is light light, there is dark dark) I gave the bow in the girl's hair an edge that is different from the edge of her hair. You gave it the same edge. They are two different things. Do it differently of course. I just slopped it in. I darkened the bench arm support to pop it against the background……. milt
ps...i got sloppy, but you get the idea
pps..you always have to be selective with accents or they lose their meaning


"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

[This message has been edited by bruin70 (edited April 06, 2000).]

04-07-2000, 09:54 AM
Milt...thanks so much for taking the time to look and critique the pastel..you are dead on with the treatise on light..I do understand the concept and the references! You are right about light hitting "hard", I know more about that now than when I did this piece about 5-6 years ago..there are several changes I would make today, some of which you hit on. I have posted a still life for critique..an oil..done recently, and tried to get that hard light concept in it..if you have the time..critique it and let me know if what you said about this one showed up in the second post..if not, tell me where it failed..I truly want to be able to capture that!! Sandy

04-07-2000, 03:07 PM
Just came here to gawk, not to criticize. You already know what I think of your pastels....bob

04-07-2000, 05:38 PM
Since you are asking for critique Sandy...
It takes some time to find ANY problems in your work Sandy, but I have one thing for you on this.

I think the girls bow and the plant to the left look too much the same in shape - like she is wearing one of them ! The leaf/flower clusters to the right also have a tendency to get into this "play" as well. The result is some unecessary 'interference' between the three; plant on left/bow/leafs. Do you see it?