Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Work in Progress--Dune, Ocean, and Sea Oats Painting

This North Florida dune painting has been difficult for me to assess and complete. The reference photos were taken in dim conditions, so I am trying to recreate the brighter glow of some late afternoons at the beach just from my memory and from more recent walks on our Atlantic Ocean beaches. However, none of the days I have gone recently have had the atmospheric and light conditions I remember from a certain summer day. Late day photos I have taken in other locations along the shore have been some help, but haven't solved all the problems.
As many of us who make any sort of thing (art work, cake, cabinet, poem, garden, scrapbook, tin whistle, song, quilt, . . . ) know, some creations are more satisfying than others. I always struggle with each painting, but some really please me when they are finished. Others, less so. I have learned from experience that a piece I do not like as well as others may still appeal to someone else. In a previous post, I described how a painting delighted a client of the Trends Home Decor shop (although I did not mention that I had never liked that piece much and once considered painting something else over it!). She ignored all the other pieces I had in the shop and bought my least favorite. Viva la difference, n'est pas?
So, here's the thing. I have this particular work in progress (a 12" x 16" acrylic painting on gallery wrapped canvas) hanging on the wall and feel strongly that it needs further revision. I also know that it will probably never be a favorite among my creations, so have to resist overworking it and ruining any good qualities it might have. Interestingly, when I photographed it, looking at the photo gave me a bit of distance, and the piece didn't seem quite so bad.
The more distant beach line still needs work. It has been very hard to get the right perspective, to show how the dune slopes down onto the beach in the near right corner compared to the glimpse of the shoreline farther away, past the edge of the dune. I also may have made the sky too blue and bright for a late afternoon, although it sometimes looks this way, and I really don't want to grey it down much. Finally, this stretch of dune had a much thicker stand of sea oats, which would be an unattractive visual mess if exactly duplicated on canvas. I'd like to add a few more stalks, smaller and less prominent than those featured here, but don't want to overdo it.
Any suggestions you might have would be very welcome. Please don't just flatter the piece (you readers are all so sweet and kind); it does need some revision. What do you think?
Question of the day: How critical are you of your own creations and production? To what extent does your self-criticism work in your favor, and when does it hinder you?


  1. I am extremely critical of myself always, Mary. Doesn't matter what I do, it never seems good enough. I won't give you history on that mindset, but its there.

    I do think this is beautiful and quite honestly (and I hate to say anything negative at all), the only thing that I see that is even slight amiss is the color of the ocean itself. Just seems a bit too powdery blue instead of the deeper greenish blue and bottle greens you can see in the water of the sea. I love the oat grasses and the bit of dune itself cropping closer to the water here. Makes for an interestingly beautiful seascape!

  2. I think this is beautiful - love the soft pastel shades. I am also very critical of my projects but have learned, like you, that someone else may think it's the best thing ever. So I never tell anyone that I don't like what I've created.

  3. I think your self-criticism is leading you where you should go. Late in the day the sky and the sea would likely be less blue. I don't know the image in your head, but I almost wonder if a tad more light in the lightest area of the dune would create a stronger center of interest. On the other hand, would you see the light late in the day in your part of the country?

    Now take all I said with a grain of salt as you are a far better painter than I am. My first reaction to this piece was very positive. I will continue to visit you here.

  4. Wow--these are all such interesting, helpful responses! Thank you very much.

    Sherry, you have reminded me of an aspect of the piece that I was neglecting to go back to. I really appreciate that insight. Yes, the ocean is absolutely in need of more color variation and depth (although we are not as prone to see the bottle greens you mention in this area as in some). By the way, this photo is not quite color-true; some of the actual colors are a bit deeper and more intense than they appear here. Since I have commented before on my feeling that you are usually WAY too hard on yourself, I won't go on about it again. But, I'm just sayin' . . . :>)

    Great to hear from you, Anne! It's good to hear the wisdom you have gained and to know you handle this issue similarly. But it is hard sometimes, isn't it, to put a piece we don't like much ourselves out there for others to see?

    Mary, your suggestions on the sky and sea colors are valuable to me; it helps to know that you concur with my misgivings about the way they are now. Definitely worth revisiting--and maybe gradually toning down with washes rather then making a bigger change all at once (and then regretting it :>). Thank you, too, for telling me that your first reaction was very positive; that will buoy my spirits as I make a few changes and then let this one go.

  5. This is a beautiful scene, I too liked it right away. I always feel more warmth in the front pushes the background back. It looks like you have warmth, but the photo seems to wash it out a little. I would love to sit there and contemplate the day! I am anxious to see your work in person. Maybe late spring we will come back east.

  6. Wow, Jo, my favorite part of your comment is the suggestion that we might meet in person sometime--that would be awesome! Just give me some advance notice of when you will be around this area. You are right that the photo washes this painting out; the actual tones are deeper and more intense. Thank you for your helpful observation about foreground warmth. This is the sort of thing that I don't always know because of lacking art school training, but continue to learn by doing and by hearing comments from other artists. All my best to you.