Online Critique Example: 

Hello Vanessa.

I appreciate your sending me these two pieces for review. The overall feeling I got from them was a healthy knowledge of color harmony and color mixing. Kudos.  Here are some thoughts to make the pieces more clear, honest in their lighting, and solid.

In the first one, there were hints of directional lighting on the front most, left trees and grass, on patches of snow, and on some of the mountain mass. In order to drive home the idea of where the light was coming from, I created similar directional lighting on other masses as well. First, I slightly darkened the masses directly behind those trees, and slightly lightened the front of the trees themselves. Moving on back toward the next mountain shape, I changed the shape and color of the light to be more pleasing and intentional. My guess is that the light shape of orange on the land mass on the left looked very bright. That is because you were comparing it to the really dark shapes directly behind it. It helped to bring that orange shape down slightly in value and bring a little of the green area down into it as well. This married the shape into an overall feel of light coming around the side of the mountain and grazing the tip of that land mass. Continuing to move across the picture plane, I made slight adjustments to lighten some of the masses in light and keep subtle shifts in where the shadows are. I increased the size slightly of some of that shadow on the snow down low on the mountain and created a shadow shape into the rock portion as well. The snow in shadow takes on a slightly darker tone and is a little cooler than the sky where the snow in light has just a touch of the sky color in it. I adjusted both the snow and the sky so that their colors were a touch more harmonious. The small, dark mountain shape in the middle bottom of the mountain was slightly lightened to give a sense of air between the first mountain shapes and that shape. It also helps it sit into the water. Along those lines, I tweaked the colors on the right side of the canvas to have a closer relationship with those colors on the left. They were very close, but having made some slight adjustments on the left it was needed on the right as well. Even though the triangular tree mass on the right may have been all dark, it was too dark and a straight triangle is sort of boring. I divided it into two shapes instead, forcing some cast shadow on the lower portion and light on the upper portion. Finally, I added cast shadows into the water on the left and broke up the large, flat, water shape with warm and cool. All of these changes pushed the mountain back and brought the foreground forward.

Here is my crudely airbrushed version:

vanessa 1.jpg

Similarly in the following painting, I made changes to better demonstrate the direction of the light. The foreground was a little distracting so I created a shadow shape there to pull it together. I also lightened the shadow you had which allows it to breathe. I changed the colors on the water nearer the mountain behind the clump of trees. I do know that those glacial lakes are very emerald green, but I have observed times when just enough of the purple mountain causes this to happen. In your painting, it helps to push the water back a little by relating the water color to the mountain color.  The colors and values on the back mountain were stunning. I only slightly deepened the shadow just a hair, and reshaped some of the snow masses making them connect so they were less spotty. Again with regard to the snow color, I made sure that it indeed reflected the sky color (both in the shadow but a bit cooler and in the light). The reflection of the small clump of trees wasn’t exactly accurate so I made it more so. The back side and the front side would both have a reflection.  In the original it was just one solid value in the reflection.  The front part of the water now has a design to it (be it made up) that could possibly happen. The thing is that we must first tell no lies. After that, be creative. Vary warms and cools in mid-size shapes to create distance. I brushed a little bit of the water color across the reflection so further emphasize that it is water there.


I sincerely hope that you find this helpful. Your pieces both had good bones, they just needed a bit more truth to them. The more you build your database of truths in your brain (from painting outdoors, small sketches, quickly and accurately with shapes of color) the stronger your work will become both indoors and out. Give yourself a timed assignment with very small, 6x8 canvases, and extra large brushes. Only a few values and 6-8 brushstrokes/shapes. Complete each in 15 minutes. It will greatly decrease the problem of chasing the light or confused light.

Happy painting!