Oil Critique: "The Butte"

The Butte
2007, oil, 30 x 40.

This is quite a painting. The artist has rendered the scene and added color in a way that creates a rather surreal, or maybe very real, space. The distant cliffs are executed with just the right amount of atmospheric perspective, making them the strongest part of the painting, in my opinion. It's hard to give a thorough critique of this work, though, because subtle shifts of tone can be lost or generalized in a photograph, and tonality is the key to this work. The artist does seem to understand the concept well. I would make sure to pay attention to the edges. The surface rock or sand that is curving away should have a soft edge, and the sharp, straight carved-out surface should have a sharp edge. In this painting, the place where the sand in the foreground meets the water has a sharp edge, which flattens the smooth curved rocks and hurts the sense of a horizontal surface. A soft blurring of those edges would allow the sand or rock to sweep away and over and eventually into the water. When you use sharp edges on curved surfaces, you can get a cut-out effect.


About the Critic
Colin J. Callahan
teaches painting and art history at St. Paul's School, in Concord, New Hampshire, where he also runs the school's gallery. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and he studied painting at Centro Barbieri, in Rome, Italy. Callahan is represented by Anderson-Soule Gallery, in Concord, New Hampshire. To view the artist's work, visit www.colincallahan.com.

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About BrianRiley

Brian Riley is the managing editor for the American Artist family of titles (American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing & Workshop) and has been part of the AA team since 2003. He first became interested in art as a child, specifically drawing, but drifted away from the visual arts as he grew older, gravitating towards writing while in college. His position at AA has offered him the opportunity to reinvigorate his early passion and continue his education.