Monday, January 27, 2014

One Painting: A Year of Tweaking

After meeting with a critique group last Friday, I found myself once again adjusting and adapting Taken Under the Wing in preparation for entering it in yet another competition. As I looked at past images of this painting, I was surprised to see that the first version of Taken Under the Wing was posted on January 22, 2013, just a year ago. I really liked this painting and had so many positive remarks from friends and viewers, that I thought it was pretty much perfect.

Taken Under the Wing - 1/22/2013
I can't remember when I first sent the image off to a competition, but I remember getting a national level juror's critique and suggestions last April. At that time I worked on the bottom of the painting, adding more color and eliminating the gold underpainting. I really thought this painting was my ticket to a show at the national level.

Taken Under the Wing April - October 2013
But it wasn't . . . Another big name in watercolor told me the main reason the painting didn't make it into a big show was that the dark wing on the left led the viewer out of the painting. ( This just leads the judge's eye to the painting on the left of yours!)

After softening the dark edge of the wing, I sent an image into yet another competition and, you guessed it, another rejection.

That led me to conclude that this painting was way to precious to me. I needed to step back and stop looking at it as "this is as good as it gets," but rather, "how can I take this to the level I believe it can be?" So I took it to two different groups this month and asked them to look at it with a really critical eye and help me bump it up. And then I truly listened. 

(A side note: your friends and fellow artists can tell when you aren't open to suggestions. When you have that "too precious" attitude about a piece of work, they aren't going to pick apart a painting.)

Here's the iteration after meeting with group 1. I moved where the wing meets the bird's body in the left hand side heron. I added more true darks and enhanced the birds' details. I also added some lights to the tree's needles.
Taken Under the Wing  1-18-2014

And below you can see the changes I made after meeting with group 2 on this past Friday. I did three things: I lifted some passages on the dark wing to give it variation and bounce from the other wing, I defined the legs a bit more, and (the most dramatic change) I darkened the lower right-hand area of the painting. Now I see that the earlier version has no change in the bottom 1/3 of the painting which makes it pretty uninteresting. As I look at the image below, I see that the painting is much more resolved and my eye is led in the through the painting. What do you think about this painting's evolution?

Taken Under the Wing 1-27-2014
I'm about to enter it in another competition. Wish me luck!


Ruth Armitage said...

Wow, Margaret! Adding the dark to the lower right really makes a big difference in the balance of the painting. Wishing you the confirmation that you deserve after all this hard work.

Paula said...

I found you on Ruth's blog. I am an encaustic artist & friend of hers. I think I would have had to take the same journey as you. I loved the first piece. It seemed worthy of a competition to me as well. And yet, I do see the wonderful intensity and balance that the final painting brings to the table. I think that the interest level with the more defined and bolder color choices really nailed it. It is definitely a winner.

Margaret Godfrey said...

Thank you, Paula, I just sent it off to a competition yesterday. Since I sent off 2 entries, in a way, I'm competing with myself to get a painting in the WSO show! :-))