Jim Wilcox: More Student Critiques

7 Apr 2008

We present online exclusive student critiques by Jim Wilcox, one of the featured artists in the spring 2008 issue of Workshop magazine.

To read more critiques of student work, subscribe to Workshop today!

by Bob Bahr

0802wilcoecrit1_600x469_2Wilcox 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."

 

"He has wal0802wilcoecrit2_600x470_2ls," 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.

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"The 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."

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"I'm 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.

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Wilcox 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."

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"There's 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."

0802wilcoecrit7_448x600"My 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.

 

 

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"The 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 commendable."

 

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"The 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."

0802wilcoecrit10_600x389"The 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."



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