Think and do

Dear Artist, After making my way through the “Dick and Jane” readers (“See Spot run!”) in Grade One, I moved, in Grade Two, to the subtle advance of “Think and Do.” These new books introduced the concepts of free will and self-control. I soon became aware that I could think of things to do, but could not always bring myself to do them.

Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength
February, 2012

More recently, Dr Roy Baumeister of Florida State University has done some valuable research on free will and self-control. It seems self-control is not limited to folks with strong character, or something that develops with practice, but is a diminishing resource that all of us use every day. A person trying to lose weight, for example, will have little trouble turning down a donut in the morning, but later on is liable to cave in because the old self-control bank has been depleted during the day. Baumeister’s findings included the observation that self-control and decision making arise from the same fount of neural energy. If you are practicing a lot of self-control and decision making in your regular life with perhaps problems of food, booze, difficult kids, partner, parents, ex, boss, etc., you may be lessening your abilities by the time you come to your art. In other words, when you get to the easel, your self-control, like the juice in the lithium battery of a plug-in car after a mountainous trip, has been depleted. There are two solutions to this problem. The first is unrelenting forgiveness. Simple avoidance of the vexing issues will only partly clear you. You need to build a private equanimity based on a philosophic understanding of human nature that absolves all and blames none. The second solution is to cave in to sublimated temptations. By sublimated I mean temptations that are at once harmless and progressive. I’m talking about hobbies and pastimes that give their own subtle rewards and satisfactions. In many of us this takes the form of art itself. “I couldn’t live without my art,” is a remark I often hear. With the complex stresses of society these days, it’s not surprising that — not in a negative sense — a lot of our art is flamboyant, permissive, and without self-control. Best regards, Robert PS: “Most of the problems that plague our society — addiction, overeating, crime, domestic violence, prejudice, debt, unwanted pregnancy, educational failure, under-performance at school and work, lack of savings, failure to exercise — are in some degree a failure of self-control.” (Roy F. Baumeister) Esoterica: When artists step into their workspaces they enter a unique and private world of think and do. For some artists, a few minutes are all that is needed to shake off the outside clutter. Others never do and their art may suffer for it. It’s my view that a sense of purity and ego-force, unsullied by guilt or anger, is vital to the free flow of creativity and productive work. The result of this clarity is a steady and almost dreamlike flow of one thing after the other. Think and do. Think and do. Think and do.   Homeschooling and self-control by Gail Nagasako, HI, USA  

watercolour painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Gail Nagasako

We homeschoolers feel that the loss of self-control starts when control by others becomes more important — either through an authoritarian parent (the preacher’s daughter is the wildest kid) or through school, where our behavior is controlled by clocks, bells and people most of our waking hours. Kids learn responsibility and self-control by being given opportunity to use those skills. In homeschooling, our children are more in control of their own lives and futures and thus are more self-directed as adults. In fact, the best universities seek out homeschoolers in part because of this way of being.     Powerful resource by Anonymous  

Joan of Arc, Painting, c. 1485
An artist’s interpretation, since the only known direct portrait has not survived.

I am a former Episcopalian minister who still lives in the city I used to serve. As there are many parishioners here who subscribe to your letter I wish to remain anonymous. The idea of “relentless forgiveness” which you mention is central to many religions including Christianity. While often valuable to people of faith, unfortunately in traditional forms the idea of forgiveness is often tied up with issues of guilt and Original Sin. This takes the edge off pure forgiveness, often reaping the opposite result. Did Joan of Arc receive any forgiveness, or, for that matter, did the hundreds of thousands who were tortured to death during the Spanish Inquisition during Christianity’s darkest age? Pure forgiveness, repeated during the course of a working day by an individual, is a powerful resource that clears the way for your second solution which must surprise some — the free acceptance of (socially acceptable) temptations.   Private equanimity by Lane Hiers, Hopewell, VA, USA   Your incisive article about free will and self-control came at me like a sermon at a sinner. The message caused me to reflect upon decades of consequences, knowing full well free will and agency, thankfully, have limits. Since I began living sober I have practiced the first solution — my own “private equanimity” through Grace and conscious and humble gratitude for much, judging less.”   The value of workshops by Melissa Jean, Kenora, Ontario, Canada  

“Rain Drops and The Red Buoy” acrylic
36 x 12 inches
by Melissa Jean

I think that’s why those “all-inclusive” art workshops are SO successful. All of the little decisions are taken care of… the food preparation, the transportation, the scheduling — leaving the mind free and ready to engage. I will consciously try every day to make my mornings “decision-free” to bring my better game to work, thanks to your letter. Things like making lunches the day before, not checking emails while drinking coffee, etc, etc. Getting up, pouring coffee and getting to the easel sounds easy, but will take some time to get into I’m sure, in a world where everyone is easily accessible. One all-inclusive painting trip per year would be a refreshing, energizing, and probably necessary addition to the routine.       There are 2 comments for The value of workshops by Melissa Jean
From: Anonymous — Sep 13, 2013

Melissa, I love this painting!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Sep 13, 2013

I like this painting, too. It takes the viewer right back to the first sensations that triggered the image. The colors are those of the dragon fight as described in writings about mandalas.

  Undesirable morning stuff by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“View From the Goat Mountain”
acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Your message implied that we all have a good daily supply of restraint unless we splurge it on some undesired morning stuff. So if I (as I often do) give up morning exercise and just sleep in, later in the day, having saved my daily dose of restraint, I will be capable of making great decisions in the studio. If this were true, I would be well on the road to the Guggenheim by now. Unfortunately, I have observed that there are periods of healthy restraint and creative prosperity, and periods of procrastination and slump when restraint is nowhere to be found. I think that I make better art when I am on the wagon. I take that your point was to let go of mulling over unsolvable problems and save the brain for art making. There is 1 comment for Undesirable morning stuff by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Rose — Sep 13, 2013

What a peaceful picture,wish I were there…..

  What do I do now? by Leslie Martin, SC, USA  

“Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician”
by Marguerite Gerard, before 1803

I am a long-time amateur artist and I have always had it in the back of my mind that someday I would put the time into becoming a “professional” artist, like when my child is grown or when I retire from teaching high school. As I get older I am realizing that waiting until “someday” is kind of stupid. I could die tomorrow, so why wait? Even though my time is limited now I want to devote more of it to my art. However, I find the notion of “do more art” kind of vague and overwhelming. With such precious little free time to devote to it I almost get stuck in figuring out what is important to work on because I don’t want to waste any time, but I end up not doing much at all and then thinking, “Well, what’s the use anyway… it’ll probably not amount to anything.” Now I’m thinking that what I need is more short term goals. Instead of “I want to be an artist,” I need something more concrete to work towards that could be achieved in a few months or this year. But I have no idea what that might be. So my question to you is, do you have short term goals that you work on? Is there something I’m overlooking that I could be doing to get me to that easel everyday with a purpose? (RG note) Thanks, Leslie. Great art careers are built by those few who privately and passionately focus their energy on one work at a time. Forget long term. If you can make one relatively unshoddy piece, you can, day by day, produce an ever-improving stream. This is where art careers come from. Every year thousands of long-term idealists sign up at art schools for four years with the idea of having long-term careers as art professionals. If the system worked there would be far fewer art graduates available for the taxi-driver pool. There are 4 comments for What do I do now? by Leslie Martin
From: Cathy Hasty, NC, USA — Sep 13, 2013

Leslie, you captured my resistance so precisely. It helps to over hear it in someone else, and to get the kick in the butt from Robert’s reflection. Thank you,

From: Jennifer Bowman — Sep 13, 2013
From: W.M. Varner — Sep 13, 2013

I am in the same boat as you. After knocking out my first painting I would have to walk away from it for a week. Then really look at it and see what my first short term goal would be. Should I work on composition, tone, color… there are too many short term goals to mention.

From: Joan Breckwoldt — Sep 16, 2013

Hi Leslie, I recently gave myself the short term goal of painting 3 plein air paintings a week. I wanted to improve my landscapes so for 3 months I went out and painted every week. That was my only goal, just to cover 3 canvases each week. At the end of the three months I feel I surely have improved as a landscape artist and some of the paintings are good enough to frame and sell. Now I’ve moved on to my next short term goal. Best of luck to you.

  The big frame-up by Gail Bramer, Mobile, AL, USA  

Framing Conundrum

My gallery owner said I need to put my landscapes in plein air frames? What is a plein air frame? She also likes work to be in similar frames. I think she means a gold, flat frame. I like my work to tell me what frame it needs. Is that the norm? When I do a still life or large flowers, does that need to be framed at all if on a gallery canvas?

Framing to needs of the painting

Money is a concern. Our market here does not warrant huge prices on art so I price my art at what the piece has cost me, what I think it is worth in this market, plus my time and the % the gallery receives. I am just in a place where the framing and getting a piece ready to hang has begun to hold me back. We have a nice frame shop that gives discounts to artists but I have begun to question my ability to pick out the right frame. (RG note) Thanks, Gail. For commercial reasons some framers try to distinguish a type of frame that “works best” for plein air paintings. In our area this can mean black wooden frames that are gold-leafed and then hand-painted with a black wash that reveals hints of the leafing and a “classic Spanish finish often seen in museums.” This baloney varies from one area to another. When artists are framing for themselves or direct sales they need to frame, as you say, to the needs of the painting. Having said that, when working with galleries, consistent framing is all the rage nowadays and often gives shows a feeling of unity and impressiveness. But the main issue is that aware galleries do the framing for the artist, tailor it to the needs of the art or to the tastes of customers or geographic locations. Wise dealers soon learn that frames do not travel well from the artist to the dealer, and that there are two valuable advantages in doing the framing themselves — switchability, and even higher markups to be made in frames than in the art. There is 1 comment for The big frame-up by Gail Bramer
From: Daryl James — Sep 16, 2013

I always like to find a significant and distinct color in the painting other than the color surprise, if there is one, and try to match that somewhere in the frame. Sometimes that requires repainting the liner. I say frame to the painting.

  The Self Beyond Itself by Liese Sadler, Salisbury, NC, USA   To get some thoughtful revelation about free will works, pick up the new The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences and the Myth of Free Will by Heidi Ravven. I’m a third way through some scary, mind blowing material. (RG note) Thanks, Liese. Heidi Ravven’s book looks into modern neuro-scientific research and the brain’s capacity for decision-making — from mirror neurons, self-mapping and neuroplasticity to new understandings of group psychology.

Baruch Spinoza

Her research points to the social and historic influences on moral choices. Ravven shows how a good and ethical society can be created by independently responsible people. Like me, she’s a bit in love with the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), who gave us a philosophy that finds surprising confirmation in modern neuroscience.     There is 1 comment for The Self Beyond Itself by Liese Sadler
From: peter brown — Sep 13, 2013

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Think and do

From: Dennis Thwaite — Sep 09, 2013

Thank you so much for this post and your solutions. Just knowing those has cleared and confirmed a central issue for me. Very, very, valuable.

From: Liese Sadler — Sep 10, 2013
From: Christine Upton — Sep 10, 2013

I liked your post today on ‘Think and Do’, but I am left with a burning question: “How do you, Robert, move from ‘stressful world’ – to – ‘artful inner bliss'”? Do you have a ritual?

From: Becky Laurent — Sep 10, 2013

Bless you, Robert! I’m not painting lately but I need your advice in the rest of my life as well! Thank you so much for your thoughtful words of encouragement and advice. (And for your lovely paintings).

From: Donna Hall — Sep 10, 2013

Treating ourselves with loving kindness and forgiveness for falling off of whichever wagon we were riding, then moving on, a is huge step when taken daily or even from moment to moment.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Sep 10, 2013

I am not really sure about of the psychological aspect of what drives anybody to do things. I think that we are motivated by a strong sense of accomplishment whether in our jobs or in our hobbies. I do believe that we compartmentalize what we value most and try to succeed in them. People who have the talent for art strive to accomplish it by setting goals for themselves but not neglecting other aspects of their lives. There is a time set for each of the aspects of their life. What is important is a mind set to the things planned do whether mowing the lawn or painting. If a plan is made to concentrate on painting then do it and not make excuses for not doing it.

From: Elihu Edelson — Sep 10, 2013

As well as failure of self-control, there’s failure of self-esteem. We must remember our parents, for it is their influence which makes us princes and princesses.

From: Melissa Lackman — Sep 10, 2013

I enter my studio with a cacophony of voices in my head, most of them dark. After an hour or so there are no more voices, only visions of the colors and memory of the process. Spent the day chasing the voices away, so the mind is quiet– maybe too quiet.

From: catherine robertson — Sep 10, 2013

Hi Robert Don’t forget ‘Sally’ and ‘Puff’ !! Oh Oh Oh, poor Sally and Puff can’t be left out ! I’d forgotten the old Think & Do and the only ‘art’ we did in Pauline Johnson Elementary in West Van in the early 40’s was to colour mimeographed pictures of carrots, beets, potatoes etc. that had pre-drawn eyes, noses and smiles !! What fun ! Glad I can Think and Do my art differently now. “>)

From: Jacob Callender — Sep 11, 2013

While Dr Baumneister’s thesis is that too much self control depletes further self control (as in the self control you need when you get to the easel) he does also recommend systems for improving self control through exercises where self control becomes habituated by training in less significant ways–not pigging out on cupcakes, sort of thing.

From: Harrison Daley — Sep 11, 2013

Baumeister’s theory is the opposite to what you might think. Self-control does not beget self control–rather, the frequent use of self-control interferes with the more important needs for it.

From: Iola Benton — Sep 11, 2013

The “Ride, Boldly Ride” Video by Warren Criswell that you featured in the previous clickback is fascinating and the development of the painting is very familiar to me. I find that making sketches before painting restricts one’s creative process. Perhaps making sketches for murals is necessary, but not for a painting. Thank you for sharing this video.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Sep 11, 2013

Working in the sanctuary ambience of my studio diminishes the influence of outside negativity and temptations.

From: Jackie Knott> — Sep 12, 2013

Disciplined, deeply structured people or free spirits who move blithely from one task to another, all seem to get things done. Individual working methods may vary but essentially we will do what we want to do. There is priority in those choices, such as I may decline dessert because I don’t like sugar, but a morbidly obese person must because their life depends on it. Self help strategies, New Years resolutions, our own nagging consciousness, whatever … we see some people produce a ridiculous amount of work while others plod at a snail’s pace. *shrug* Neither is right or wrong and there are so many factors that influence our working routine. Regardless, find your comfort level and press on.

From: Jane Irvine — Sep 12, 2013

I have subscribed to your letter for a number of years and always find something of value in each one. Every once in a while I read one that seems as though it was written just for me. Today’s felt just that way. I have been going through a very difficult time with my daughter who is suffering. Our days are made up of arguing with the school, speaking to police and lawyers. It is taxing and depletes me of all my energy. I feel a huge hole within myself where my art has always been. I feel like I have no energy left for myself and my art. Unrelenting forgiveness is the phrase that caught my attention. I have been beating myself up for months because I have nothing left when it is time to be in the studio. All the “shoulds” are knocking at my door and leaving me filled with guilt and anger. If I can just stop and forgive myself I know I will open up the portal back to myself and my art. Even if it is just a few minutes each week or better, each day. (Glass artist, Long Island)

From: Frank Hornung — Sep 12, 2013

There are some folks who are so constantly depleted they can never apply the self control needed for even the simplest positive tasks.

From: Greg Elias — Sep 12, 2013

As far as I can see art-making is a constant march of caving in to temptations. Taking chances, daring, getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks is the name of the game. Not everybody gets it.

From: Jeri — Sep 12, 2013

Unless it was intentional, for myself I am finding it a bit difficult to visually and comfortably separate the trees from the background. The colors are sweet, so is the composition.

From: Pauline Sager — Sep 12, 2013

Dear Bob, this painting is terrible. Looks like you got angry and threw blobs of paint at it.

From: Bev Beresh — Sep 12, 2013

The painting doesn’t feel balanced, somehow…there is more “weight” in the top half and it feels like it is tilting backwards. I believe this would be alleviated with the addition of a bit of top colour in the bottom…I would go with the warmest tone myself.

From: L. Puckrin — Sep 12, 2013

From what I have seen of your paintings – this one isn’t finished. Unless you are lost for direction (which I can’t believe) shouldn’t you finish it before you get input. Your direction is a personal one and although input can be valuable you should go as far as you can by yourself first – then see about input only if you need it. Everyone has an opinion.

From: Candi Martin Baker — Sep 12, 2013

Obviously not finished as yet. The foreground and mid ground are blending together, needs temp, clarity or value difference. The kitty between the two rocks on right needs to be dealt with. Thank you for subjecting yourself to an uneducated critic. Love your work! CmB

From: Sue Kelly — Sep 12, 2013

Amazing how many faces and animals I found in your painting. Enjoyed them all and am still looking for more!! Did you put them in first and paint around them?

From: Linda Fraser — Sep 12, 2013

I enjoy the feeling of the trees in the foreground. There are echos of The group of Seven. I also enjoy the room given by the artist to let me look around the scene, from foreground to background. I enjoy being in this place the artist shares.

From: Caroline Morse — Sep 12, 2013

Add a little interest to the bottom third of the canvas. Could use bright colors and perhaps some strong light and dark contrasts.

From: sandra kessler — Sep 12, 2013

Well your painting “Patterns” draws one in as your work does. The snow is so cool and inviting and the trees outlined in the background are so serene. I have done a series of about 20 theologically inspired art pieces and recently have done 3 of Joan of Arc, st. George and St. Dymetrius in gouache – all riding white horses. St. Joan is currently exhibited in St. George’s Anglican Church in Westbank. As a result I am spent with all the slaying of dragons. Even to the point of feeling like I am a dragon (lady). I don’t even have a website but would like to send you some images.

From: Ernst Lurker — Sep 12, 2013

I see this as one of your better paintings, primarily because of the unusual and original composition. We have great tension between horizontal and vertical elements; the gray foreground is pleasantly surprising, and it ties in with the grayish rocks in the middle of the format. No critical changes are necessary. The only eye-catching and disturbing parts are the light blue blobs above the lighter horizon line. They look like some helicopters or spaceships have landed there. They are not necessarily expected in this kind of a landscape.

From: Janet Butler — Sep 12, 2013

I love it – love the colors and the almost abstract design. Has a lushness about it I can admire, and also a pervasive calmness.

From: William Smith — Sep 12, 2013

Having seen your other work and liked it quite well, I was surprised at this painting and its abstract feel. Though, compared to your other work, I’m not a fan, the setting and scene are obvious and the color distribution is superb. The title “Pattern” would lead me to believe and hope that his was a pattern painting for something more defined and realistic in the future. This all offered from a novice and infrequent painter.

From: Kat — Sep 12, 2013

On the painting, Pattern: the dark leaf center foreground feels too strong or too centered and the beige/gold area upper left seems to stop the eye as it wants to travel thru that area.

From: Bill and Carol — Sep 12, 2013

Looks good to us. One of your better paintings. ;>)

From: Brigitte Bize — Sep 12, 2013

It feels like 2 different paintings going on at the same time, with the green and orange foliage competing for attention versus the more subdued greyish background…

From: Michelle Mello — Sep 12, 2013

Personally I think it’s spot on. Made me take a second look and when I did, I liked it even more…great job!

From: Merv Brandel — Sep 12, 2013
From: Anne Watson Sorensen — Sep 12, 2013

Beautiful brushwork! I would remove the floating rock in upper left, leaving a triangular pattern on movement with the remaining 3 rocks. Consider a hint of warm glow in the foreground just left of the tree to allow the back glow to ooze forward, again triangulating movement throughout the painting.

From: Denis Callaghan — Sep 12, 2013

Robert “Pattern” is a pleasant landscape with an attractive color scheme. The title suggests I should be finding more than that. I do find myself hunting for the focal interest. What was Robert trying to say here? Denis

From: Sallie P — Sep 12, 2013

The trees are intreeging and I want to stay in them, enjoying the colors and shapes. However, the rocks in the foreground catch my eye, as they are pretty much the same size and shape and are equally distant from each other. My eye keeps bounceing between them…until I see the yellow snow and then my mind goes somewhere else, entirely. Fresh, uncluttered beginning.

From: Gabriella Morrison — Sep 12, 2013

I don’t see the point in critiquing a demonstration piece, as I assume there was limited time in which the work was made, not necessarily the time needed by an individual work to be resolved to your satisfaction. I might suggest solutions which you might reject as unworkable, or not the direction in which you might wish to venture. The hallmarks of your painterly style are there. Can you show us how you resolved it, finally?

From: Lori — Sep 12, 2013
From: Black Jack Daniels — Sep 12, 2013

I see from your “painting” that you truly do enjoy a joke. It takes an experienced artist to incorporate that many “errors” in one painting. BW

From: Russell McCrackin — Sep 13, 2013

“At first (and last) glance” the painting appears to me to be cluttered, and no sense of depth. Painting on a wall. Hard edges everywhere, so no sense of a ‘center of interest.”

From: John Carson — Sep 13, 2013

One of the times you dread as an experienced actor/director is to be invited to the first night of a play by a friend in the cast and to find that the production and or performance are seriously out of kilter which can happen for a multitude of reasons;- direction, miscasting, lighting, you name it. You creep unwillingly to the dressing room after the show, put on your most thoughtful expression and say slowly and with profound conviction, “You know … That was VERY INTERSTING.” Worse still, of course, is when it’s you in the play and you have asked a valued friend for their ‘honest opinion’ ‘cos you know it aint right. What is ‘very interesting’ here is to see the vibrancy of a painting which you describe to be in a half baked condition. Thanks Bob. John

From: Flora Biggs — Sep 13, 2013

At first I did not appreciate the color combination but stepping away I could see the depth and harmony and simplicity also the kitty in the lower right front. Was the kitty designed or accidental?

From: Ruth Leech — Sep 13, 2013

At first I thought it was Henry Isaac, then it reminded me a little of paint by numbers, then I saw a cat peeking from behind a rock but, must say that I do like it

From: sandy johnson — Sep 13, 2013

I think it’s bloody good! I wouldn’t change a thing!

From: Corrine Bongiovanni — Sep 13, 2013

Robert, I’m responding to what struck me as soon as I looked at your piece. The values in the green land area or lawn (?) appear to be in reverse. I find the large center placed tree in the foreground off-putting as it’s too in your face and it splits the scene in half. Corrine Bongiovanni

From: Gayle Cooley — Sep 13, 2013

RE your painting: fire and snow existing as one. In sanskrit ” acintya beda beda tattva” or simultaneously, inconceivable one and different. RE you thought on crits: I am also questioning the value of workshop crits for same reasons. If this be so, could you share the real value you find in workshops for persons not too interested in socializing?

From: Isabel de Anda — Sep 13, 2013

The structure is strong and those trunks give the precise information about the place. Living in the tropics I am not familiar with snow landscapes but I can “read” enough. It is the perfect combination of realism and abstraction. Red spots add joy. I enjoy it just as it is, it might be in the point when adding more is eroding it strength and power. I admire the efficiency of a few strokes: it is a master´s work.

From: Helen Opie — Sep 13, 2013

Interesting in that I’ve never seen something of yours that you hadn’t already resolved. The only things my eyes trip over is the dense grey strip in the foreground, which may only be dense due to the camera’s inability to pick up really subtle colour variations, and the slightly out-of-season (to me) green in the far side of the lake. The green between the trees (which might be the same green) works well, but somehow not when out in the open. Again, this may be due to the limitations of photography, not of the painting. I am not bothered by the divisions the trees make; I like their balanced asymetry.

From: Joan Schessler — Sep 13, 2013

I think the painting is too busy, and the orange should be a little more subtle. Altho I think I could be a better judge if I was present while you were doing the demo! In any case I love your letters and would love to go to a workshop some day.

From: Christin Kleinstreuer — Sep 13, 2013

Delete the foreground up to the rocks. That way the center of interest really shines. I like a reflection of sky I can’t see. Always a pleasure to see your work!

From: Carol Powell — Sep 13, 2013

Bet you caught it for the same-sized rocks in mid and foreground, and that stray cat? Still, has a good feeling; jus85546854t needs to be completed.

From: Barbara Frost — Sep 13, 2013

My immediate reaction was I don’t like the central tree right in the middle of the picture……..otherwise I love the color and texture…it’s just the tree that bothers me.

From: Linda — Sep 13, 2013

I’m just a novice and a very poor one at that, but I can’t tell exactly where light source is. The shadows seem incongruous

From: David Rowe — Sep 13, 2013

Perhaps it is because it isn’t finished yet, but to me it looks like a student in the throes of S. Quiller hero worship. Don’t mend to offend, only my opinion.

From: Jacque Sue — Sep 13, 2013

Hi, Mr Genn, I wish I was smart enough to figure out what it is about your painting that has gotten caught in my brain–I like it and yet I don’t. What a puzzle! Thank you for your letters!

From: Gail bramer — Sep 13, 2013

Oh, are those cute little foxes down by the rocks!? I actually ‘like’ this painting.

From: E Dianne — Sep 13, 2013

I notice orange dots that are dotting the canvas in illogical places. And are those coniferous trees really turning orange just like maples?

From: Ruth Bailey — Sep 13, 2013

Before I commented on this unfinished work, I’d ask you what you like about it and where you intend to go. Hearing you talk about this piece at this point would be instructive. My only caution to you at this point is to point out the two trees in the center foreground which seem to be growing at an unusual angle, which is not bad in itself, but they are parallel to each other and the same height (unless this is a single tree that hasn’t been filled in yet).

From: John Harris — Sep 13, 2013

I find your work colorful with a delightful sensitivity to light: blue snow turning warm (from the setting sun) near the top. I like its simplicity. My only criticism would be its feeling graphic, a bit like a paper collage. John

From: Rosemary Cotnoir — Sep 13, 2013

I don’t like to critique other artists work because I don’t know what their intent is. That being said I will make two observations…one is the snow. When I first looked at the painting (and this may have to do with the small size on the computer screen) I thought it was the sky, then my eye wandered to the area above the sky and I was confused, then when I went back to the “sky” I realized it was snow. That made it interesting. Then I noticed the “cat”…lower right between the rocks. Just sitting there looking at the viewer wondering what the fuss is all about. :-) P.S. I like your trees

From: Nora — Sep 13, 2013

The yellow and white areas seem a bit ambiguous. I am not sure what I am seeing. I do like the patterns of the trees and the background.

From: Monica — Sep 13, 2013

Its DONE, I love it and wish I could afford it. Love the spacial break up, color, subject, everything! Sign it!

From: Mary Jean Mailloux — Sep 13, 2013

This comment is about your work and not on the topic of free will. I don’t know if it will make your day but I appreciate the opportunity to try:) I like the layout of the colours and the perspective. (I don’t see much sky but a line of trees in the distance). To me it is only missing detail both in the foreground and the background. I sort of feel like your more experienced painters, just want to get on with my own stuff.

From: MJ McClave — Sep 13, 2013

My first reaction is that this painting is very Stephen Quiller-ish…….which is great with me as I am a big fan of his……and yours. Wonder what would happen if you pushed the orange through in the background a little, and pepped up the foreground with a color contrast? Think it’s got good bones…….. as all of your work does!

From: Barb — Sep 13, 2013

Robert, What’s the trouble here? If you send it to me I will hang it on my wall immediately ! The lovely cat between the two rocks in the forground is out of character, but charming all the same:) Paint On !!

From: Inger DeCoursey — Sep 13, 2013

Contrived – often seen in demonstration compsitions

From: Tori Kelly — Sep 13, 2013

You should sign it!

From: Joy Halsted — Sep 13, 2013
From: Don Tait — Sep 13, 2013

As I cannot comment on the anonymous letter from the Episcopalian minister in the featured comments above I will do it here. Christian forgiveness has always been sullied by the Biblical idea of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This latter concept has, to this day, impeded interpersonal affairs, politics and the justice system to the detriment of humanity. Mr Genn’s “pure forgiveness,” if ever attainable, would be a great first step in clearing the way for the kind of self control needed to make great art, great individuals, and great societies.

From: Allison Turner — Sep 13, 2013

What did you want to be the center of interest – the larger tree(s) in the foreground or the opening to the background?

From: Monica Beck — Sep 13, 2013

About “Patterns”: it depends on what you aim at, what experience or idea are you trying to bring to light in this particular piece? I feel that this canvas is at that precious undefine moment in which it can tilt in various ways. The few decisions that follow should be pondered upon the philosophical skeleton that should structure any work of art; a certain vision that the artist shares with others. Is it the beauty of light? Is it the expansion of space? Or maybe the eternal quality of the relationship between mountains and water? I, myself, am an ambitious artist with high quality standards in anything I attempt, but high quality render should only be the expression to higher thinking. About “crits”? After more of 30 years of attempting art, I have mixed feelings about “crits”. I have seen, in general, more pain than healing out of critique sessions. I believe that a possible solution to this pedagogical technique is opening the necessary dialogue every artist needs asking more questions and listening more. In the end we don’t need to do what others believe, but we need to help each other find out what each of us believe, and help each artists follow their own unique path. From Valle de Bravo, Mexico, Monica Beck.

From: Revelle Hamilton — Sep 13, 2013

Just keep going, Mr Genn. P. S. I used to date a farmer with no art background. He could pick out the weakest parts of my paintings and ask, “Why did you do…..?” And hit the nail on the head as to what needed some attention from me.

From: Will Enns — Sep 13, 2013

Robert, Putting aside all the things I like, there appear to be two horizons, one near the top just above the two green bands and one near the bottom. I think you don’t make mistakes like that so I am guessing this was intentional on your part, likely as a hook for the critics.

From: Astrid Davidson — Sep 13, 2013

Hate to tell you but this is one I would buy. It is not predictable. I love getting critiqued because I am new. I have had many worthwhile critiques where I’ve been able to do a little tweaking and the painting is much better and I’ve learned from it. When I’m asked to critiqued I don’t always know what is wrong with a picture but I usually can say something is wrong.

From: Lynda Haghan — Sep 13, 2013

Critiques…I struggle with them…not that I mind having my work critiqued but I find, as you said, that you can get numerous different opinions what to do differently. If I submit myself to a critique, I’d want people to ask me what my inspiration was for painting..and whether I thought I had achieved that…and continue the discussion that way. I sometimes think that people rely to much on what others think of their painting…I too find myself not saying much if there is nothing that glaringly stands out. I also found that one week I really like someone’s painting, express that, and the next week, it comes back for another critique and they’ve changed it to the point that I don’t like it. Most importantly, it doesn’t matter whether I like it…they are the ones that need to like it.

From: Patricia Oats — Sep 13, 2013

To my eye, the tree in the foreground is too centered, and I believe if you enlarged one of the rocks, the painting would be improved. It looks too “busy” to me. Patty Oates

From: Sandy Webster — Sep 13, 2013

I think you should finish it and then ask for input.

From: Margot Landels — Sep 13, 2013

The lake seems rather flat and dead. I would like to see the use of more transparent colours. Why isn’t your spell check Canadian instead of American?

From: Ellen Dieter — Sep 13, 2013

My first response was oh wow! And I stick with it. The abstraction of the piece is what attracts me and the ambiguity of what’s happening, what’s where, intrigues me. I have to look at it to get into it. Balance and rhythm are what I see with a splash of excitement.

From: Goetz Schuerholz — Sep 13, 2013

I find the composition and color play extraordinary well done. I remember one of your earlier letters re adding orange. I have tried it on a rain-forest painting I did; astounding effects. Please allow me one other comment: You are a gifted and highly prolific writer. Between all the painting, instructing and writing there appears to be little time left in your life for anything else… I wish I had that much energy

From: mary c — Sep 13, 2013

always love the chance to sharpen critique skills! If this painting was on my easel, I’d consider the two horizontal bands, both cool and of equal size..and the equidistant spacing of the grey boulders….I also would contemplate extending the dark value on center tree down to the bottom of the picture plane. Lastly, the peachy area on left ends within the confines of other elements…I don’t like the coincidence – extend down a bit so that the tree doesn’t corral the color

From: ROSCOE E WALLACE — Sep 13, 2013

Your coverage of the subject “critic ” is usually straight on…..but, I could not help myself to add a thought when it came to your specific painting. The painting is exciting, especially considering that landscape subjects may become excellent paintings but many times are not especially creative or may even dis-regard design pattern. I sometimes prefer a borderline abstract style painting. Your handling of the subject and painting style in an upward motion makes the painting exciting. However, I think the four white strokes at the top of painting draws the eye out of the painting and not back into the design pattern. Would you agree, or am I just being ancient?

From: Theodore J. Nelson — Sep 13, 2013

In bullet point form from someone who couldn’t paint his way out of a wet paper bag: – the horizontal linear grey field in the foreground – doesn’t feel natural – the green and orange tree patterns in the foreground trees – I would continue that patterning through to the bottom of the painting. Perhaps bad composition (although it works in my mind’s eye) I just don’t like the predominately dark tree branches. – the linear greens of the field – it works with the painting but it doesn’t feel finished at the same time. (I am assuming even though this is a demo it is a finished painting)

From: lee williams — Sep 13, 2013

Maybe I don’t love it but I sure like it! sorry…. I liked the straight lines in front and horizon. I feel the depth of the cliff drop off and wouldn’t change a thing. Got to get back to the easel. Wait anxiously for your next newsletter.

From: Dashinerose — Sep 13, 2013

I have been a fan of your art for over thirty years. It is easily recognizable and comforting for me. Therein is the rub……. Get out of your safety zone..try different subject matter and style Take a different journey, forget about the end product which is so predictable..for your fans like me.

From: David Maloney — Sep 13, 2013

Its a pretty nice painting.The only thing that bothers me is that wild cat staring at me in the lower right quarter and that maybe there should be a bit more sky reflection above it by the rock.

From: Anne Swannell — Sep 13, 2013

As you said, it’s “half-baked” and so….not finished, I assume. The snow needs to recede: right now it jumps forward. So….blue shadows to come ? The greens clash, don’t “go with” the trees in the distance, and the orange is clunky and needs some refinement.

From: Geneva Season — Sep 13, 2013

I like it a lot.

From: bill doying — Sep 13, 2013

I’m concerned about the lack of what would seem to be the appropriate reflections in the water of objects above the far shore. The dark evergreens seem too close to the shore not to be shown on the basis of angle-of-incidence, angle-of-reflection considerations. Am I missing something? But as usual I [bleep!] your work!

From: Jeanie Stumbo Zaimes — Sep 13, 2013

I am captivated by the composition. However, if it were me (always the crucial part of a crit) I would make the green strip in the background a little lighter and grayer…it’s the same value as many of the foreground colors. Also, while the orange adds excitement, there’s just a bit too much, again only my opinion, in the center. I’d paint over a little of it. I truly enjoyed your article on crits because I’ve looked at my work from before I’ve spent the last year taking classes and workshops. I think it’s better. The problem I’ve had is the “always and never” crits that are frequently opposites from teacher to teacher, ie “do it my way”. I would think the most valuable crit would be to go with the artist’s style and make a few suggestions to enhance the way they are painting. I’ve decided to simply paint for awhile, ignore opinions until I get my view of the world on a 2 dimensional surface.

From: Pat — Sep 13, 2013

Is there a focal point, light source? I like the patterns, but my eyes are jumping all over the place.

From: Pen Slade — Sep 13, 2013

Your Pattern painting is off to a good start, I think. It’s funny-the 1st look had some opinions like is that a weird lake, which you usually paint, or grass, or just color patterns,& where is the sky-Oh!just cute little sky holes, & love the kitties & the trebuchet coming out to the right of main tree which makes it work bkz the tree is too centered but it leans. Thats pushing it! 2nd look, I see 2 rocks lines up so that needs more asymetry & lite yel. on left looks unfinished-more green grass? Really like the tree colors & shape – very Genn!

From: Kathy Howard — Sep 13, 2013

My 2 cents is too much orange

From: Carole Pitzel — Sep 13, 2013

My eye hit the green paint just to left of centre and then roamed around the rest, but always wanted to settle back at the green.

From: Ken Deveney — Sep 13, 2013

On critiques: My ideal is to first ask the artist what they think they did well and something they’d like help with. Then others can add comments, starting with something they like in the painting.

From: Jan Elman, Comox BC — Sep 13, 2013

I love, love, love light and shadow in landscapes. If this is a landscape I think it needs more of that. If it’s an abstract I think it’s too dull for my taste.

From: jmtrotzie — Sep 13, 2013

Other than the angle of the trees in the foreground, I find your painting very interesting.

From: Jim Stewart — Sep 13, 2013

That is a tough painting for any beginners watching, looking for a path they can follow. The horizontals at rear, if intended to be a reference, really kill the ideas of the foreground. There is a lot of experience in there. Living in Florida I miss the woods. Thanks.

From: Elizabeth Bertoldi — Sep 13, 2013

Bob, I’m mostly a non-objective painter, but I’m always trying to find different ways of composing a painting. So, here’s my attempt at a crit of your demo, “Pattern”. I think this work suffers from too much symmetry, despite the strong diagonals. If this were my painting, I would move the central mass of trees a little more to the left side to create a contrast of full/empty space. The use of orange works well and creates a rhythm that unites the foreground, so I would leave that be. The 4 large rocks in the foreground could be more varied in size; as is, they’re too matchy-matchy. I’d eliminate the white space in the background that seems to fall smack-dab in the middle of the canvas. Also I find that the diagonal lines in the foreground are a little too symmetrical and could be more varied. Finally, the foreground could be cleaned up a little. How did I do? Did others find the same issues? Liz

From: — Sep 13, 2013

Robert, Try covering the top third of the painting. Get rid of it. Then the leaves at bottom (center right) become a village in the distance. I like it better that way! This is my Try New Eyes System. Like it? Would enjoy a response from you. All Best, Bonnie

From: Linda Bean — Sep 13, 2013

Dear Bob Genn I’m thinking your painting is a bit of a spoof. Any design, color, value, etc., “mistakes” are done purposely to elicit crits. I’ve long wanted to enjoy having one of your paintings and would like to purchase this one when it’s finished. It would be an extra pleasure having the story behind it. I understand the price would be the same as your gallery price. Continued thanks for all your insightful letters. Linda Bean

From: Linda Roth — Sep 13, 2013

Regarding your painting “Pattern.” I think the lower left corner of the painting needs to be darker. It’s part of the foreground, I assume, yet doesn’t have the same strength as the tree that divides the canvas. A couple of shades down would do it for my sense of order.

From: Diana Wakely — Sep 13, 2013

Well not sure about the layout – the trees right in the centre (don’t like the orange) block your view into the painting – you can’t get past those trees at all

From: Ann Hardy — Sep 13, 2013

Since I can’t say “love, like, good, fine, etc”, I will say “positive” and “negative”. My positives are the interesting and varied shapes of value, color. Negative would be a softening of some edges for more variety, especially as painting recedes. What I find positive about you is–You are so emotionally and mentally healthy and I truly positive you. (Annabanana)

From: Mabrie Ormes — Sep 13, 2013

I’d drop the bottom grey horizontal, windowledge,sidewalk, who cares. I find the rest compelling. I think the dialogue of crits can be a good thing. I like talking about the best work, with the caveat that ‘best’ is a judgment and therefore conditional. Presumably ‘best’ can travel among the students, under the watch of a careful instructor, so everybody gets a chance to hear what others’ reactions are. We all work in such isolation, and as much as we seek and like our isolation, it still is enlightening and a good practice to check in once in a while to see as others see.

From: Jane welsh — Sep 13, 2013

My eye keeps going to, and stopping at, the rock lower center right. It’s rectangular, toolbox shape doesn’t lead me on into the middle and background areas.

From: annomus — Sep 13, 2013

The painting needs to be blended better to make a more realistic picture, it looks like a paint by number painting.

From: Laurel R — Sep 13, 2013

CRIT of Unfinished “Pattern” painting: I want to look around the foreground tree to figure out why the mid-ground (snow?) is yellow toward the background. Perhaps the foreground/blue snow needs more shadow/shape, and whatever sun/cloud combo has warmed the mid-ground snow could also reflect off the water/green-stripe below the distant trees. Right now it’s like 3 separate flat layers. Grey foreground is too plain; rough it up a little, so it won’t look like pavement going over a cliff.

From: Melodie Herbert — Sep 13, 2013

Your demo painting, Mr. Genn, is perfect, of course. Your colour palette accurately represents the natural B.C. environment. The trees are powerful, but some lean as the wind can be more powerful. The water is often grey. The touches of orange provide excitement, and great beauty. Bravo.

From: Herb Kelly — Sep 13, 2013

Dislikes: Center of interest is almost dead center. Green stripes in background—ugh. No interest. Too much mid values. Angles of tree trunks too similar. Likes: Yellow dapples. Orange in trees like a cockeyed L. Lower left hand corner is interesting.

From: Jan Thompson — Sep 13, 2013

A couple of things come to mind. I tend to like paintings that aren’t too detailed so I am liking this. Only two things kind of bother me. The mid foreground – too much white. And maybe the green in the background. But I imagine you could do one of your famous glazes over it all and that might just tie it all together. Thanks for asking. This is fun.

From: Jane Alexander Ford — Sep 13, 2013

Gorgeous subtle colours, the edges shimmer. I would like a few more tiny orange dabs. Also would you bring the green to a lighter tone?

From: Janet Kruskamp — Sep 13, 2013

Well! I do enjoy the patterns you have created in this piece and although I have mainly reverted to more realism (do to publisher’s requests) I do, very much admire your free spirit and colors. In the lower right quadrant of your painting, I imagine I see two wolves! Am I right? Kindest regards, Janet Kruskamp

From: Jean Stromnes — Sep 13, 2013

Everything is wonky and backwards. The painting is cleanly divided into 2 equal sections – a “no,no.” The foreground is greyed down, when it should be poppin’. The strong midline plus the greys at the bottom pull the eye right out of the painting.The greens in the mid/upper are cleanly and evenly divided, unlike nature, and far too strong. I agree with Black Jack Daniels that you must like a joke. You’re puttin’ us on.

From: Elizabeth Seltzer — Sep 13, 2013

looks like a paint by number

From: Carolina De Medina — Sep 13, 2013
From: Verna Linney — Sep 14, 2013

Methinks you have a frustrated abstractionist inside trying to get out!

From: Lena Medin-Russell — Sep 14, 2013

Looking at Robert’s demo, I envision the sun setting, caressing the snow which is the intensive focal point for me. The snow seems to be surrounded by protecting trees, embracing this particularly precious patch of snow which might not remain until morning. It could melt away, as time, but through these brushstrokes it stays and with it, its serenity and, yes, clarity as well as warmth. I wish for a gentle horizon and sky. The snow and its embracing “protectors”, your trees – kind and strong – stand alone, as a visual sanctuary I would always want to “walk into”. That defines an infinite piece of art to me, personally. And, too many mountains are, even visually, impossible for me to climb. This painting is very “near”, and within reach. And, I love warm snow! Thanks for that and everything else you keep giving to your flock!

From: Sue — Sep 14, 2013

This painting almost hurts my eyes. I think the slashing forms and strokes combined with the charged palette of the same values almost feel violent and there is no place to rest.

From: Mary Cogswell — Sep 14, 2013

The oranges need to be deleted on the sides. The whole painting seems too fractured. The style of painting is great.

From: Meg Koziar — Sep 14, 2013

The comments are hilarious! Everything from perfect to you made all these mistakes on purpose. Thanks for the fun.

From: Timothy G. Hill — Sep 14, 2013

Great topic Robert! Critiquing is something I have given a lot of thought to over my many, many years of being part of the art world, both commercial and fine art. As a student I noticed at the end of the school year that all the art of my class mates hanging on our classroom walls looked like the work of Vince McGill. He was an excellent teacher however, I came to the realization that as he critiqued our work, one on one, that we were not learning to be individualy creative, we were turning into cookie cutter copies of Vince. I struggled with and waged war on this for the rest of my school years and graphic arts career. Then I took on a few art students myself and after much thinking on how I would manage the teaching of them I decided that one of the most important tool I could impart was to teach the skill of self critiquing. A commonly asked question was “what’s wrong with this painting and how do I fix it?” I do my best to help my student find the answers the self. Rather than say well you need to do thus and so, I do my best to lead them to the solution by asking questions that will help them discover the missing elements. Telling them what to do may remove the present road block but what happens at the next turn in the road. If they can learn a technique of analyzing their art with an eye to truly seeing whether they have met their objective then it is my belief that they’ll have learned how to solve future problems a little more easily. It is my goal as a teacher to mentor a strong creative individual rather than a weak copy of myself. Thank you for this opportunity to drag out my soap box. Respectfully, Tim

From: jutta woodland — Sep 14, 2013

Hi Robert I don’t know what the yellow patch on the left side depicts. I would have painted the lake right through behind the trees. Always your fan! Jutta

From: Maureen O’Keefe West — Sep 14, 2013

Hi Robert As I am sitting here in Prague, Czech Republic at the Internet station in my hotel after downing a couple of glasses of wine I find myself to be somewhat of an expert on critiquing your painting!! So here goes – I admire your painting but wonder if the two green stripes could be advanced upon making the background more palatable. Otherwise, nothing more to add except are you related to Tom Thompson in some remote way? Maureen

From: Celeste Johnston — Sep 14, 2013

Why would you wnt to change anything? I see balance, unity, rhythm and perspective. Celeste

From: Tommi Whitfield — Sep 14, 2013

Like, I RULLY “love” this “nice” painting, Mr. Genn. A “good” example of focused spontaneity (take THAT Clem Greenberg). I feel the chill wind and the hopeful left over autumn leaves…sense the quivering nose of the little fox. The two dimensional poster-like quality of the observation is immediate and appropriate for me…wouldn’t change a thing.

From: ArtDereka — Sep 14, 2013

I love your painting Robert. The only thing I would query is why you have a dark green right at the back which brings it forward when it should be the opposite.’Dereka

From: Mishcka — Sep 14, 2013

So. . . you’re inviting us to crit your painting? OK. Your values are perfect but I find the flatness of each area of color makes your painting look like a poster. Otherwise I think it works okay.

From: Hannah N. Dring — Sep 14, 2013

Hi there, as I usually work in pastels, the approach is a bit different then that of acrylics, so I wonder if this will be a snow scene with shadowy foreground, and ice on the near area with open blue water beyond, or if it will be a fall scene with a dark shadow on the lake/river. The tree placement is pleasing but could have more variety in trunk sizing. Hope to see the finished product soon.

From: Dyane Brown — Sep 14, 2013

I would like to see the light source more defined and the central tree mass less central, the rocks more randomly spaced, the water more reflective.

From: Frank Divona — Sep 15, 2013

A lot of flatness. Reminds me of Bonnard.

From: david martin — Sep 15, 2013

Don’t touch it. Leave it as is. ‘Love it’ ‘Like it’ ‘it’s good’…….

From: Louann Corrado — Sep 15, 2013

Your painting, “Patterns”, looked good from 10 ft. away and good for the initial block-in – excellent values. However, this is not my style and I don’t feel qualified to properly crit it.

From: Karen Lockhart — Sep 15, 2013

Ok, ….. Bring some orange down into the lower right corner?Can’t travel down. OR>>Center orange spot keeps my eyes there-looks like the foreground tree is on par with middleground trees. Change color of orange to darker hue. Background really pulls me into that far range of mountains. Good.

From: Bonnie Dean Doty — Sep 15, 2013

A striking painting with attractive positive & negative shapes. Don’t touch it, Robert.

From: mccluskey — Sep 15, 2013

Hard to critique someone who is a success, does the job well most of the time, we all fall down at times but for me who is relatively new at this, it’s always about growth and not so successful even 50 percent of the time. I always find inspiration in your work and like a friend told me a while back sometimes we overlook the not so great details in a painting, because something about it captured us.

From: joanne Sibley — Sep 15, 2013

It looks brilliant to me!

From: Ellen — Sep 15, 2013

My first impression was the way the trees were tipped look like a device to draw my focus to the green patch in the middle–the lighter green in front of the darker which could be playing with atmospheric perception, but leaves me wondering about that focal point. Almost immediately, my eye went to what I do like–blocking in large shapes. At that point, I stopped looking for what was wrong and focused on colors and shapes, their relationships to each other, not at the objects in the painting. I could like or not like this painting. It doesn’t matter. In a classroom situation, I would be more interested in what you are demonstrating or talking about. BTW, I took a week-long class from an artist I admire and bought her demo piece at the end of the class because it helped me remember what we learned. I have another piece of her artwork. That is the one hanging on my wall.

From: Lily — Sep 16, 2013

Maybe I missed your point, but I wouldn’t call your painting “half baked”, I’d call it half finished. I’m sure it has potential and when you have signed the piece, please allow us to crit it again. Otherwise, I try to be mindful of the fact that a “half baked” cake is not as delicious as one fully decorated… just sayin’.

From: Floyd Calverley — Sep 16, 2013

Strong composition, good patterning, lots of movement and drama (love the use of reds and greens) with quiet spaces that mean something in the composition, interesting colour forms and control of relationships, excellent unity of shape and edge throughout. The only area I would ask about is the quiet nature of the foreground. It seems remote and uninvolved – maybe more than you intended. Wouldn’t take much, maybe adding some of the local colour, softly, over it to bring it into the painting without disturbing its quiet attitude?. Maybe use the same stroke as nearby?

From: John Burk — Sep 16, 2013

Robert, I love (Oops! Forbidden) your painterly quality–just the way you put paint down. And you are a brilliant colorist. The snow in it’s various color temperatures makes a great mid ground for the trees. And the red, greens and violets of the trees are beautiful. I feel the composition is somewhat scattered to my eye, in spite of the central foreground tree grouping. I think it’s because the background doesn’t ‘contain’ the composition. Maybe seeing the tops of some of those distant pine against bright sky would have helped keep my eye on the more loosely composed foreground. And a little more something or other on the lake. Bear in mind, I would wither if you offered to crit one of mine, though I hope I could finally act more grown up about it.

From: — Sep 17, 2013
From: Kit Mahoney — Sep 17, 2013

I find the only issue to be compositional with the trees being dead center in the composition. No other negative issues to my thinking, and the painting has great colors and contrasts and values. Thanks for all your great writing and thoughts

From: Ret Smith — Sep 19, 2013

The title is quite appropriate. Did you think of it while painting it or after the critiques? Surpringly, the most obvious pattern (that of the rocks) was not the most obvious to me at first. I am aware of many more each time I view it. I’m curiously drawn into the calm, tranquil background, but feel “thrust back” by the fluid calligraphy and forceful strokes within the trees. You’ve created a sense of opposites, or complements within one dynamic setting…yin and yang perhaps? Interesting!

From: Sarah — Sep 19, 2013

The warm rust shapes create a central band that holds the eye and prevents an appreciation of the whole. Using warm tones from foreground and beyond would create a path for our eyes to appreciate the whole.

From: Robyn Eastgate-Manning — Sep 20, 2013

Dear Robert, I am glad you called this painting ‘pattern’ as that is exactly what it is. I notice patterns in nature too and often paint them . If this had been a realist painting I would have suggested one improvement… blur or fuzz out the edges and leave the focus more sharply outlined, however in a pattern the focus is constant so the repetition of the shapes is the focus….well done.

From: Delilah — Sep 26, 2013

I like the boldness of this work and would not change a thing.

From: HollyB — Sep 30, 2013

Too much symmetry, but i’m one of those novices you mentioned. Your work is cool but i love your wk’ly letters, O wise one.

From: Donna C. Veeder — Oct 26, 2013

I looked at your demo from your workshop. You did a whole lot better than I did at a recent portrait class! The class siad it was wonderful! I thought: Oh no! It is not! I cannot talk and paint at the same time. Better to do demos first and then teach, for me. As to yours. I think it is a beginning and know you would, if you had the time and inclination, make it a lot more complicated since that is the way you paint. This is a first step and not a bad one at that. I say, Needs more deatil. I like it. I know that is off limits. But I cannot tell you how to make it better…yet. Work some more. Love, DCVeeder

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Susans Tipi

oil painting, 12 x 9 inches by Carol Jenkins, CO, USA

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