Oil on Canvas Board, 16x12 ins.

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Comment by Thomas J Hoy on September 18, 2011 at 2:39
Great painting. I love the detail in the branches.
Comment by marilyn Bonnett on September 13, 2011 at 22:42

Hi Mike, I love the crispness of your painting, good job to me.

Comment by Richard Robinson on September 12, 2011 at 10:20
Thanks Mike.
Comment by Mike Oliver on September 12, 2011 at 10:17

Hello Richard,

You've picked up on my biggest weaknesses, i.e. using a brush that is too small. It comes from being trained in graphic design and later, as a natural history and scientific illustrator. I just can't get out of the habit of reaching for a small brush, (although they are not as small as they once were!), and getting stuck into details.

The point you made of my understanding of the tree structure and actual tree structure is well made, as are the other points you make.

It looks like I'll have to make my first excursion out of the spare bedroom I use as a studio and get painting outside. I think that would help improve my painting more than anything else.

Thanks very much for the critique. It's really appreciated and it is good of you to spend the time.



Comment by Richard Robinson on September 12, 2011 at 9:54

Hi Mike thanks for your painting. Here's a wee critique for you:



It's a good solid design, not much different from the photograph itself which is already a fairly nice design. In my opinion the photo is a bit better balanced with the dark mass on the left being a counterpoint to the long branches stretching out to the right. Three things that might improve your design a little is to mix up the spacing and size of your foreground grasses to add more variety, increase the size of your fenceposts a bit and stop that big wedge of a hill from pointing out of the picture. 


Illusion of Realism

All those fine branches are a very tricky thing to paint and you've done a valiant job with a small brush trying to get them all in one by one. Nice to see that sort of dedication to doing a good job. I can tell you would be a carpenter who sands the underneath of the drawers too. All that hard work has paid off in a way because it's created a tapestry of texture which from a distance gives the illusion of fine branches. On closer inspection though the fine branches appear a bit too ordered - which demonstrates the  gap between your understanding of the tree structure and the actual tree structure. It's not a big gap, but to me it's plain you had trouble seeing the tree clearly and relied a lot on your 'symbol' of a tree rather than spending more time really looking and coming to grips with it. All artists are guilty of that to some degree and it's just where you are at the moment. With all that patience at your disposal I thought it was interesting you didn't put the same detail into the depiction of the trees shadows on the snow, but it is good to contrast detail with obscurity. Throughout the painting you've kept a keen eye on the direction of the light source which is good to see and adds to the illusion of depth.   



Nice to see you playing with warm and cool colors like this and pushing the warms as many of us like to do. It looks like an intense warm light on the trees but that hasn't followed through into the green grasses. Put an orange light on green and it turns quite ruddy. See in the photo how the color of the grass and tree are really quite close? When you change the light in the scene you need to keep that same close relationship. You've done that with the snow a little by adding yellow into the lights which is good to see. You might have grayed down the distant oranges and lightened them too to allow for atmospheric perspective. Keeping them high chroma like that brings them forward - see how they are the same color as the oranges in your foreground? Not so good.



You are seeing values quite well except for those distant trees and have attempted some 3 value structure (dark, middle, light) in the foreground snow which is nice to see although again you haven't quite seen the shapes as clearly as you could have. 



There are some nice areas of interesting brushwork, but you have painted with a small brush the whole time which, without seriously thick paint or serious skill, tends to a labored look in paintings in my opinion. I'd personally like to see you get some big brushes out and use your patience skills to figure out how you can say more with one bold stroke than what you have tried here to say with 20. It's nice to see you using some quite thick paint in your lights however.


Hope that helps.


Comment by Natasha Nashadka on September 10, 2011 at 3:40

Nice job.  This is a bit different from I normally like, but I am impressed with the visual impact.  The tree reminds me of something out of a Tolkien novel.  


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