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Scott Brown
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Critique Your Painting


From the moment you decide on a subject to paint until the final painting is matted and framed, you make a series of decisions. In this dynamic process, each decision influences all those that follow. A critique of your painting involves an evaluation of those decisions and how well those decisions were executed.

Appreciate your own best efforts. Don't compare yourself with others.

After a painting is complete, it is critical to evaluate your work against your own criteria. It is equally important that you "turn off" your internal critic while you are in the middle of the creative process.

Sometimes it helps to delay critiquing your work for a few days. Put it on the mantle and let it grow on you.

Remember, every painting, good or bad, is a lesson. A successful work is judged by what you have learned from it, not by the accolades it may earn you.

Did I accomplish my purpose?

What is this painting about? What was my purpose when I decided to paint this picture? Did I want to learn a new technique? capture an image that has personal significance to me? stretch myself? Did I want to paint just because it feels good to paint? Consider my purpose, whatever it was, and ask myself, "Did I accomplish what I set out to do?"

Is my painting an authentic expression of me and the way I see the world?

Did I express my unique way of seeing the world, or did I copy someone else's vision? Does the painting contain an element of my uniqueness? Does it convey my interests, ideas and feelings sincerely? Did the painting come from me? Did it come from my personal human experience? Did it come from things I have seen, felt, thought, remembered, imagined?

Does the painting work together as a unified whole?

Does it have a sense of harmony. Does it have a sense of balance. Is the viewer's eye attracted to the painting from across the room? After attracting the viewer, does the painting maintain the viewer's interest by engaging and entertaining? Is there repetition with variation? Does one element dominate all others? Are the shapes designed to be entertaining? Do the parts look like they belong? Are the colors harmonious? Does the painting look fresh or overworked?

Did I select the best format for the subject matter?

Does the shape of the format suit the subject matter?

Did I divide the format in a way that supports my purpose?

Did I divide the format into a design motif that creates an invisible, underlying, and controlling structure for the painting?

Did I avoid dividing the format into equal divisions?

Did I include the necessary elements and omit the unnecessary ones?

Have I told too much? Did I leave enough mystery? Have I left room for the viewer to fill in the blanks, to make their own interpretation?

Did I simplify the major shapes?

Did I eliminate unnecessary parts? Did I combine light shapes to make one larger shape? Did I combine dark shapes? Did I combine shadow shapes with the objects casting the shadows?

Did I place the major shapes in a way that accomplishes my purpose?

Have I avoided placing shapes where they will create tangents, kissing each other or the edges of the format?

Did I design the major shapes to engage or entertain the viewer?

Are there shapes that function as arrows, carrying the viewer out of the composition? Are there shapes that look alike. Are there boring shapes? Did I take as much care designing the negative shapes as the positive shapes?

Did I apply the principles of Repetition, Variety and Dominance

Did I include a variety of lines -- thick and thin, straight and curved-- with one type dominating? Did I include a variety of edges -- lost and found, hard and soft -- with one type dominating? Did I include a variety of sizes? a variety of tonal values?

Did I choose the point of view that best supports my purpose?

If I had to do the painting over, would I choose the same point of view?

Did I create a well-designed area of interest?

Does the area of interest contain the sharpest edges, the brighest colors, the highest contrast, and the most detail? Does the area of interest contain a color that exists nowhere else in the painting. Is the area of interest placed in the right location?

Did I create a light path that creates movement through the painting and toward the area of interest?

Did I connect shapes with similar value so that the eye can move easily from one to the other?

Did I create a value pattern that guides the eye through the composition, distinguishes each plane, and unifies the painting into a meaningful whole?

Are light and dark shapes interlocked? Are light shapes connected? Are dark shapes connected? Did I use light against dark and dark against light?

Did I choose a color scheme that helps accomplish my purpose?

Did I use warm against cool and cool against warm? Did I drop in a few "jewels" of bright color? Are the darks deep, rich and full of color? Do my colors sing? Are they transparent and glowing or opaque and dull?

Did I choose a value key that helps communicate my purpose to the viewer.

Does the tonal value key "work"? Would a different key work better?

Does the painting contain emotional content?

Does the painting generate an emotional response in me? Does it excite me, move me, engage me.What is the overall mood of the painting? Do the elements of the visual composition communicate the emotional content? Is there enough tension or energy in the painting?

Does the painting demonstrate a mastery of technical skills?

Are techniques well-integrated or just surface tricks? Do the techniques draw attention to themselves rather support the whole?

Did I quit before the painting began to look "over-worked"?

Did I stop when I accomplished my purpose, or did I continue to fiddle and tweak?

Did I choose an appropriate name for the painting?

Does the title reveal something about the painting? Does the title guide the viewer's interpretation? How would the painting have been interpreted if it had been named something else? Would it be better to leave the painting untitled?

Does my signature add to or detract from the composition?

Is my signature an integral part of the painting? Does my signature draw too much attention to itself? Did I sign too close to the edge so that it is partially hidden by the mat?

Do the mat and the frame complement the painting or draw attention away from it?

Is the painting framed in a manner that is unobtrusive to the painting? Has the frame or mat been used as a crutch to enhance the painting, or can the painting stand on its own merits?

What would I do differently next time I paint this subject?

What do I like about the painting? What did I learn from it? What would I change next time? Is there one section of the painting that I enjoy more than any others? Would that section stand on its own as a painting?

© 2009 Scott Brown. Website design by Clarion Design.