Have you ever scrutinized one of your paintings—at any stage in the process—and after evaluating it for the proper perspective, value, or color still found it wanting?
I certainly have.
And when I’m immersed in one of my longer, more time-consuming paintings it’s all too easy for my eyes to become "normalized" to the artwork as it is , not as it should be —so even though my brain registers some degree of displeasure at what I’m seeing, I can’t really pick up what needs to be changed!
If this is happening to you as well, then you might find the following suggestions useful. They’ve certainly enabled me to better critique my own efforts while letting me know if a painting is truly finished or if there’s still more work to be done.
1. Display the painting around your house
Place your artwork in spots where you’ll occasionally see it throughout the day. Each new viewing offers you a fresh take on the work and plenty of opportunity to find solutions for problem areas.
2. Reflect upon it (literally)
Put your painting in front of a mirror to see if the composition still looks balanced and harmonious when reflected in reverse.
3. Go digital
If the mirror’s not enough, take a photo of the painting and put it up on your computer to examine. Rotate the image on its sides and upside down, flip it horizontally and vertically—look at it in every possible way to see if anything jumps out.
4. Take it up a size or two
Go to a quick-copy store and make an enlarged copy of the painting. I’ve found that a larger version will readily illuminate any areas that need help, especially if your work is in pastels or watercolors. (Be aware, however, that copy machines do not always pick up lighter colors and may darken the darks.)
5. Ask your friends and family
I often ask my husband and son to look at my work—they’re actually my most reliable critics and supporters! But whoever you pick to review your painting, have them at least answer these next two questions for you:
1. When you look at this painting, where do your eyes immediately go?
2. When you look at this painting, what catches your eye in a negative way?
Obviously the first question will tell you if the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the same focal point you intended, and the second question will bring forth any immediate negative reactions and open the door for a more general response to the piece overall.
After combining their feedback with your own analysis, you’ll have a much better idea of where your painting stands—whether it needs a lot more work, just a little bit here and there, or whether you can lay your brush down and call it good.