Sunday, January 2, 2011

Working out problems in paintings

I seem to have a three step process for fixing a painting. First, I have to figure out what is wrong with it. Often, I don't know what the problem is, but just have a nagging feeling that it isn't quite right.

I usually will leave it for a few days and let it dry while I look at it occasionally to see if it hits me. I can always see what is wrong with other people's paintings! I should be able to see it just as easily on my own. With a few days space between actually painting it and looking at it again, it often does jump out at me. I also find that photographing it makes it more obvious, looking at it on the computer screen. Looking at it in the mirror sometimes does it, but for me, a photograph is better.

Once I realize what the issue is, I have to decide how to fix it. That often takes me time. I am a relative newbie to painting, and still have lots to learn. I often work it out at night, thinking about the painting when I should be sleeping. The problem I had with the painting above is that the mountain goat and the background were the same value, and they blended in with each other. I could have lightened the goat, but on his shady side, he really was quite dark, even though he was white. I could have darkened the grasses around him, but then it wouldn't have looked like the summer tundra he was munching on. I finally realized at about 2am one night that color temperature rather than value was the way to do it. The grasses had been yellow green and I had used an orange toned board so some of the background warmth was coming through. All I needed to do was cool down the green by adding blue to it and suddenly the warmer, sunny side of the mountain goat popped out. Where he was shaded, I had to still keep the green warmer.

This whole painting was an experiment and was just done as a study to see if I could paint an animal and get the drawing right (not my strong point) and it was nice to be able to work out some of the other issues as well. I still wonder if the pile of rocks isn't too strong, but there aren't many darks in this painting, so I left them.


  1. Good post. Made me think a lot. If the sky was bluer, and you know we have very blue skies, would the values have been different enough to work?

  2. good thought Pam! It was primarily the head that blended in, and that is against the grass. I think the head could use another dab of paint or two, just so it doesn't look so flat. I am happy with the way the body turned out and the head could use a little more I think. But you have to stop somewhere too! Knowing where that point is is important....

  3. I have to agree with Pam that this is a good post and makes us think. Don't loose the rocks, I think they are a necessary part of the painting.

  4. Thanks Carol, I need to think more before I paint. I find a do a lot of wiping off, trying to figure out how to get something to work. Put it on, wipe it off, put it on again, wipe off again.....luckily I don't paint in watercolor! I agree, the rocks need to stay in this one.