Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning and Growing--Critique Service Results on Dune Painting

On February 1, when I posted this 12" x 16" painting as a work in progress (the small photo), it was ready for comments from my painting mentor, Linda Blondheim. You can scroll down to that post for more information about Linda's teaching services and a link to her website. I had signed up for her e-critique service for the month of February and have found it immensely valuable in the development of five paintings. I was aware of several changes this piece needed, and Linda suggested other modifications--most of which I included in the revision. By the way, I photographed the earlier version in much brighter light, so please don't think that the whole painting is darker now. If you'd like to see more detail, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.
The work seems about finished to me, but you will notice that it is not yet signed. That means it will rest for awhile so that I can live with it and decide if any further tweaking is desirable. As I have mentioned before, knowing when to stop revising is both crucial and difficult in any art form. The piece is based on reference photos from a June visit to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean over the dunes. All along Jacksonville's offshore islands, the dunes are protected so that natural vegetation and critters can thrive; beach visitors may cross to the beach only on boardwalks.
For those of you who are interested, here are the main details of the revision. Probably the most noticeable change is the stronger, darker fence. Since it is the focal point, it needed more drama in size and tonal value. Even those of you who paint may not guess what gave me the most trouble in this piece--it's the top half of the dune on the right. In the earlier version, the tall grasses drew attention to themselves and distracted both from the fence and from the bright wildflowers that I considered a secondary focal area. As Linda and I considered various possible fixes, I first painted the grass out completely but did not like the look of the dune completely bare either. My final solution was to cover more of that dune with grasses, carefully keeping them soft, nearly uniform, and neutral in tone so that they would blend with the dune and not pull attention away from more important areas. Other changes in tonal balance (degrees of dark and light) on the horizon line, on the sunlit left dune top, and in the foreground increased the interest and drama of the scene. The ocean is deliberately kept as a quiet area, somewhere for the viewer's eye to rest, as one looks out toward an interesting, but not overly dramatic, sky. The painting now captures my impression of that lovely June day.
Question of the day: In your creative projects, do you enjoy the ups and downs of the process, or do you feel impatient for completion?


  1. This is amazing! very well painted...The colors, shadows are so beautiful!!:)

  2. Hi Mary, I too think that Linda is an excellent tutor, her certainty about what she does is something one can appreciate! She is honest and ignores the popularity ladder where one doles out flattery.

    I love this choice of subject. It is timeless in its appeal. Lovely end result!

  3. I love the darkened fence, Mary. Marie's comment on the timelessness of this piece is spot on. As to your question of the day, you may well know my answer...I am impatient. Impatient impatient and impatient. As soon as I make the first wrong move, which I always see but do not know how to fix, I am ready to be done with it. It is an exercise in patience that pushes me to complete them once I err in rendering.

    I have to admit that when reading Marie's comment, I just prefer honesty to flattery. Or at least just finding the good to any thing I've eked out. In that light, I must confess that I did like the original right dune better...I think the additional patch of dune grasses block that access to the beach. I know it isn't where you are supposed to enter, but with the opening in the fence there, I would bet money that people do it anyway! LOLOL

  4. Megha, I very much appreciate your encouragement because you are a fine artist and because I trust your sincerity. I truly value your response to this piece.

    Marie, how wonderful to receive your visit and your helpful, lovely comments on the painting. Thank you for your genuinely touching evaluation. Your description of Linda as a tutor is spot on--well said.

    Autumn, I love your impatience and your priceless sense of humor about yourself--as long as you don't sell your creative and talented self short. Your exercises in patience, as you call them, have resulted in fine work--especially some of your recent character-filled portraits.

    How good of you to echo Marie's comment. And it is really fun to hear that you like the original right dune better--and why. You have me chuckling here. You also have me very pleased as an artist because your comment on that aspect of the painting reflects (I hope) you imagining yourself in the scene--which is a viewer response I try for in every land (or sea) scape.

  5. I do enjoy reading about your creative process and for a non-artist it is opening my eyes to enjoy painting in a new and more critical way. Thank you! My creative process, as it were, is coming up with several posts a week on my two blogs. I do it early in the morning, edit it and think of my wife and mom and blogging friends. If I think it might bring a smile even a chuckle or a new insight I push the post button. Of course a painting lasts a long time. Blogging is a passing glowworm in the night.

  6. Oh Mary, I'm so glad you visited my blog and brought me here! Your dune painting is lovely - and I appreciate the heads up re Linda B.'s on line critiques. I've long been a fan of her art and her methods. I sort of agree with Sherry (AutumnLeaves)about the tall grass and the path. Of course you had to choose a focal point, and the fence is wonderful. The tall grass and shadow patterns must have been difficult to paint over!!

    So glad you visited and enjoyed Punta Gorda! I live just across the river in Port Charlotte Hopefully you had a chance to see the breathtaking National Art Exhibition at the Visual Art Center across from Fisherman's Village? Artists from 31 states, Canada and Puerto Rico entered. It's fabulous!

    I will be coming back to visit your blog often!

  7. TB, your creative process is interesting and obviously leads to fascinating blog posts for all of us who visit. You are brilliant to think about your family members and other readers while you compose and choose some of your fine photos. I think it accounts for the easy, conversational, friendly tone of your posts and their appeal to readers.

    I appreciate your patience with and interest in my painting process. I know not everyone will want to read all the details, but include an account for those who might enjoy hearing about the process.

    It's great to hear back from you, Rosemary--thank you for visiting and commenting. When I visited your wonderful blog, I forgot to mention that we had recently visited your area.

    Yes, I did spend an inspiring afternoon at the current exhibition at the Visual Art Center. You're right; the exhibition is fabulous and so is that amazing arts center!.. All us artists from somewhere else envy you in having such a supportive, creative gathering & learning place nearby.

    Thank you for your comments on this painting. Regarding painting over the unwanted elements: since I use acrylics, it is usually not too hard, but in this case, I actually painted over with a thin coat of gesso. Although it did not completely cover (I didn't want it to get too thick), it made overpainting much simpler. The harder part was blending the new with what was already there.

    Wow! It is delightful to share thoughts, ideas, and experiences this way--the blogging community is smart and generous. Thank you again for sharing, tourtbirder and Rosemary, and all y'all.

  8. Reminds me of the Florida dunes where my Grandma lives. Love it!!

  9. Hi LIsa, How nice of you to visit and comment! I'm glad you like this painting and can relate it to a place you have seen. Wow, you are far from your Grandma--hope you are able to see each other sometimes.