We present online exclusive student critiques by Jim Wilcox, one of the featured artists in the spring 2008 issue of Workshop magazine.
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by Bob Bahr
liked this artist's color choices, but felt the big sweep of the stream
was "a little too mechanical." He also felt the artist should have more
closely adhered to the actual shapes and placement of the snow fields
on the mountains, and that the line of trees at the bottom should be
broken up and varied. "That orange in the right corner is pulling the
viewer out of the painting," Wilcox added. "And on the right, you might
add more rocks and bushes along the stream."
has walls," Wilcox said. "The artist has painted three walls and no way
for the viewer to get into the painting. The yellow line needs to be
broken up instead of going clear across the canvas--I would add a dark
in the water to take you from the water through the yellow weeds. The
distant weeds should be grayed away from their bright yellow. Also, it
sort of bothers me that the darkest tree is in the middle. Some of the
greens are a little acidic--one should always mix some reds into the
greens. The water seems a little wobbly--water on the far side of a
lake is usually pretty close to exactly horizontal and is not too
animated. Some of the trees in the actual scene are dead--adding some
of these would enhance the painting." Wilcox also noticed that the
preponderance of slanting brushstrokes suggests that the artist is
letting his right-handedness affect his paint application.
trees are a beautiful color but some darks would help," said Wilcox.
"That hint of a dark in the lower middle should be used elsewhere. The
artist has two powder puffs in the sky for clouds--that should be
broken up. That hook on the left side of the painting is good but it
should be darker and further emphasized so the viewer doesn't slide
right out of the painting."
delighted with the colors in this painting, although some of the value
changes in the distance seem a little extreme," Wilcox commented. "The
sky could be lighter blue, and the trees are a little on the dark side,
but the shapes are better than most efforts we've seen today. Good snow
patterns." Wilcox liked the restraint shown by the artist in the
foreground but added that even very agitated water shows some influence
of the trees' reflections. "The area where the gravel meets the water
is very nice," he added.
acknowledged that this painting, like most others he critiqued that
day, was unfinished, but he pointed out that it is wise to paint en
plein air on a smaller canvas so you can capture the experience in one
session. He noted that in this piece the water moved back into the
trees in an unconvincing way. "The viewpoint necessary to make that
logical would put us up in a tree," said the instructor. "The water
needs to be much more horizontal--not so vertical." Wilcox also
reminded the artist that trees rarely stay in such tidy groups--a few
inevitably "wander outside the pattern."
a lot of sky in this painting," Wilcox remarked. "If it's going to be
that important there needs to be something more interesting going on in
it. Adjust the water on the right hand side; it is too close to the
edge so it pinches it and leads the viewer off the canvas. You have
triplets in the foreground trees--you need different ages for the
siblings, different sizes. The grassy area should be lighter because it
is influenced by the sky. Some of the color and value in the mountains
are very nice--the grays have a nice color to them."
favorite part of this painting is the bottom," said Wilcox. "The beaver
dam was handled successfully--not too busy, but still recognizable. The
value of the sky and the mountains are very much the same, so the
shadows spell out what is happening. The dark values in the trees are a
little too evenly spaced--paint the patterns, not the individual trees.
If you get the patterns right, the trees will appear." Wilcox admired
the reflections in the water and the colors used in the shallows.
grays in the mountains are luscious," Wilcox enthused about this
painting. "The dark shapes in the trees are the nicest I've seen today,
but they could use a little more variety. More gradation in the meadow
would be good to feel the distance. The artist could have gone darker
in the shadows on the mountains but his restraint is admirable. He
should have been more careful with the pattern of trees at the bottom
of the mountains, but again, his restraint in terms of value is
color and value differences in the mountains are handled very well, and
as a result, everything is staying on the same plane," said Wilcox,
"but more care in regard to the shapes nature made would make a better painting. For example, the shape of the treeline on the mountains is
more interesting than they are depicted here. The foreground greens
should be lighter--right now they are too similar to the distant trees
across the way. The grass has a nice feel (color and simplicity) and it
feels grassy--but it's maybe a bit too dark. The mountain peak is too
close to the top of the canvas."
artist did a wonderful job on the mountains," the instructor said. "The
dark pattern is good and is going to be better as he develops the
painting further--as will the clouds. Negative shapes in a painting
should be as interesting as the positive shapes, and he has paid
attention to that. Nice distribution of darks."