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Questions to ask a painting

January 26, 2013

Questions to ask a painting

By Diane Overmyer

I have paintings propped up at various key places where I know I will be able to see them as

I am doing my normal day to day living. I know some paintings are finished and don’t need another thing done with them… those I prop up and enjoy while they are drying… others, like you talked about in your letter, I am unsure about. It was nice to read that I just need to wait for the painting to speak to me. This is good advice… some may not make it into my show, if they don’t speak up soon! On the other hand, I have found that if I run through a quick list of questions, sometimes the answer comes in a timely fashion.

1. Where is or what is the focal point? (My plein air paintings sometimes get overly busy and end up with no clear direction.) If I don’t have a clearly stated point of interest, I work to figure out what it will be and what I need to do to communicate that in the painting.

2. Did the canvas get covered well enough in the key areas of my painting? Are the understated areas strong enough, without being distracting from the focal point?

3. Are there any drawing issues?

4. Do I need to up the contrast between the shadows and high lights? (This often is the one bit of touch up that I end up doing, since it is often rather bright while I am painting outside…) With this I also do a value check of the foreground, middle ground and back ground.

5. Are the color harmonies working or is there color on the canvas that is needs to be pumped up or toned down? …all depends on the mood I am trying to create also…

6. What areas would benefit from a little cleaning up of the edges? (This is another area that often is all I need to do to finish the painting.) Since I work in oils, occasionally the horizon or edges of the sky can get muddy so sometimes, if that is distracting, I will go back in and touch those up.

7. Are my shapes varied enough without creating too much disorder? I do a lot of garden and nature painting, so this is a real balancing act. When I am out in the field I am often in such a hurry that I don’t think enough in an abstract way about the composition in terms of how minor components interplay with one another. Example: Trees that all take on the form of round balls are a death sentence, unless of course they are intentionally painted that way …such as in folk-art paintings.

8. Lastly I ask one or two people I know, who have a good sense of art and my work, for their feedback.

Submitted by Janet S.

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