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Monday, February 1, 2010

Self Critique

You have no doubt read or heard about many approaches to critiquing your own work. Some include looking at the painting in a mirror, standing at a distance, putting the piece away and looking at it in a few weeks. All of these are attempts to have you look at your art in a more objective fashion. They can also force you to stop painting to assess, which may save you from overworking, a big danger for those of us who work in watercolor.

I have found that photographing my work as I go is a tremendous help to me. I generally photograph after each painting session on larger works. Writing down your thoughts about what you see in the photograph is also very helpful in forcing you to be objective. I note what I like and what is not quite working. This approach seems to help me see where I need to increase or decrease value changes or adjust the color. I am always surprised when I look at my photographed work, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes not. Either way I know I end up with a better painting in the end. This approach may help you; give it a try.

Here is a sample self-critique: Heading to Market (Comalaca, Guatemala)
I loved the soft shading I had achieved in the photograph taken in Comalaca. Because I was not feeling
well and wanted to rest, I had stayed on the bus while everyone else went into the market. After I
started to feel better I spent some time photographing Guatemalans as the went to and returned from
the market. I was sitting in the bus taking photos through the windows, but I was interested in natural
gestures and body shapes in these photographs, not posed vacation photos. This photo, like many of the
others I took that day, were rather out of focus and distorted because of the bus windows, which were
far from clean, but I found this actually helped me be more creative in my painting.
I wanted to achieve a soft edged painting, which meant I had to work very wet‐into‐wet to allow edges
to blend into the next shape. Although I spent a moderate amount of time deciding how to place
the woman in the frame of the painting to make an interesting scene, I also decided to play with new pigments that I thought would granulate and make interesting soft textures. 
I had just gotten some paint from Daniel Smith, including free tubes I had never tried before, so I had to
experiment to see how each behaved. I tested which granulated and which were opaque. The colors I
chose to use in the watercolor painting are listed here. The colors I used the most were:
  • DS French Ochre
  • DS Roasted French Ochre
  • Holbein Manganese Blue
  • DS Cobalt Blue
  • DS French Ultramarine
  • DS Ultramarine Turquoise( in the sweater)
For her face I used:
  • DS Deep Scarlet (the very lights skin tones (like in her hand – I used only this pigment with great deal of water to make it very light)
  • Holbein Manganese Blue (in the most shaded areas where I wanted the blue granulation)
  • DS Rich Green Gold (in the highlights on her cheek and chin)
  • A very small amount of the following colors were used as very pale washes to add pale tints of color.
  • Rose of Ultramarine 
  • Phthalo Blue
In the far background I used some Vivianite Genuine, however I felt I got better grays mixing my own so I did not use this in the balance of the painting. This is a lot more pigments than I normally use, but I felt they allowed me to get some great variations that I wanted in this painting.

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I look forward to hearing from you. - April

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