I want to talk to you today about how critiques can sometimes be a bad thing. When we are in art school, or if you take a painting class, at the end of the session everyone will put up their completed pieces. As your classmates wander around the room viewing the varied pieces, there is an open invitation to criticize each others work. People express what they like and dislike – mostly what they don’t like. I find that this can be very damaging to the art spirit, especially when you are a new painter that might not have complete control of the paint and the brushes yet. It again, can be damaging to the spirit to have negative feedback when you are essentially just trying to have fun. It is important for you to guard your art motivation and not let anyone bring that down. And, the main problem with art critiques is that they pre-suppose that there is some sort of universal truth in art. The thought that there is any truth in the belief that one painting is better than another. When you compare Bouguereau to Alice Neal, both are so different in approach but are both, in their own right, great masters. Imagine if Vincent Van Gogh had experienced some of the art critiques of today – imagine the damage unnecessary criticism could have done. You cannot compare Rembrandt to Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones but again, both produced wonderful paintings that are unique to their style.
How do we deal with the critique issue? First and foremost, I would say no to all group critiques unless it is a very unusual group with everyone on the same plane, if you will. Have you noticed that when you participate in a group critique, and put your painting up, you immediately get a sick feeling in your stomach out of fear of what is coming next? And, there are always a couple of people in the group that seem to monopolize the conversation with the idea that their way is better than everyone else’s. This is like saying poodles are better than great Danes – they’re all just dogs but everyone has a personal opinion. You need to protect and nurture your idea.
So, let’s discuss how you are supposed to go about getting a critique. First and foremost, you need to let the critic know exactly what you want to get out of the critique. If you have a particular style you want to bring about, like painting like Rembrandt, or David Leffel, or Richard Schmidt or any other contemporary artist. This establishes criteria that can be judged. Ask in terms of color, value, edges, lines, color harmony and how your painting compares to a master you like. Don’t use this time to fish for compliments, be constructive. Use this time to find out something important about your painting.
As the reviewer, ask the painter what he/she considers. Ask about goals and style of this particular artist. Answer only in the terms you have established for clarity. Examine your own personal motivation as well when giving advice. Pay attention to your tone and only respond to specific questions. Make sure you phrase the critique in such a way that it will only motivate the painter. You always want to encourage a painter to paint more paintings.
Find a small group or a teacher that will help you get where you want to go. Avoid the casual right and wrong approach because you are more than likely better than you think. Guard your art motivation and be careful not to let anyone undermine that motivation.Read More
Here is a clever way to select a frame for your oil paintings:
I want to talk today about canvas or panels – what we call color support or what you know as the material that you apply paint to. There are some pretty good reasons to have certain types of supports and I’m going to try and cover those right now. First, I want to talk about the canvas type then I’ll discuss panels.
What I see as a really huge re-occurring issue for artists is painting on store bought canvas. The reason that this is generally bad is two fold; first is that its super absorbent and second is that the weave is really strong due to a lot of grain/texture. If you are a seasoned painter that uses a lot of paint when you paint you can get away with a store bought canvas. But most newbie painters don’t understand why a store bought canvas can be a challenge so I will explain why.
Let’s say you’ve got a paint brush and you are going to make a brush stroke, for example near the top of your canvas. What happens when make a brush stroke is the paint sits right on the top. Then, as the paint starts to dry the oil gets sucked down into the little valley’s created by the rough canvas. Imagine a zigzag stroke of paint to which you recently placed a new stroke of paint on. All of that beautiful paint gets pushed down and flattened out. This happens for two reasons; first is because the canvas is very absorbent, which is typical with acrylic gesso, and second because the weave is so strong. Another negative aspect of this canvas type happens when you “lick the canvas”. Licking is the process by which a painter applies the same brush stroke over and over. When you do this, all you are doing is pushing the paint down into these valleys. When the paint dries, all of the oil is absorbed into the gesso and instead of looking like a painting it looks like a colored canvas where you see very few or no brush strokes at all. It looks like someone colored the canvas very similarly to airbrushing.
So if you apply a couple of coats of acrylic gesso these gaps get filled. For example, by adding another layer of gesso on that spot that was mentioned above we will fill in those gaps and holes and when you come back in with another layer of paint it will have more of a tendency to stay on the surface. What does that mean on the final painting? It means that the paint is going to sit on top of the surface and the integrity of the brush stroke will be maintained. It will look like more of a painting and less like a colored canvas.
Now, unless you like the look of a colored canvas with no brush strokes, if you use store bought canvas, I suggest you apply three or four coats of gesso. When all layers are dry, sand it kind of smooth. Your paintings are going to look so much richer because the paint will sit up on the surface and you’ll see the brush strokes. If you have a tendency to lick the painting as discussed above, it will be less noticeable when working on the smoother surface.
If you like to work on panels the same process works. Take some masonite panels or mdf board and paint two to three coats of gesso on them. When dry, sand those to get the same kind of surface. An even smoother panel works well to keep the paint on the surface.
Tip of the week on how to get unstuck:
This is a great tip.