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Critiquing the circulous route behind the reeds

I met a woman this week who is stuck with her art – not in a can’t get it off the sole of her foot sort of way, but in a *I know I can be better, but I don’t know how to do it* sort of way. Without even seeing her work, I confidently told her I could help her. Did that sound arrogant? Nah, I  just know that I have so many skills in me, I knew that I could analyse her work at whatever level she was at…..

So this week she came along to my weekly art class, armed with bulging bags and propped them against the wall whilst I introduced her to the rest of the class, and quickly did a demo of a fox cub (awwww, so cute)  in pastels so that the other students could get on with that, while I looked through her work and gave them a critique.

Fortunately she’d brought a good selection of work with her – about a dozen pieces – mostly of landscapes, and as she unwrapped each one,  I could see instantaneously what her problem was.

On the whole her pictures were two-thirds ok. As I happily pointed out to her, she could paint a sky, although usually they needed a little more definition in the clouds to give them more form. She’d even painted a rainbow well, and they are notoriously difficult. But on the whole it was her foregrounds that were her main problem. She had a moorland scene, with distant hills and forbidding clouds, but the marshy grasses in the foreground weren’t defined enough. You couldn’t see them against the clumps of grass and rocks behind. She also had a painting of ducks in water where the reeds were lost against the water they stood in, it needed more negative shapes painted around them to define them to make it look like there was something beyond. She also needs to pay more attention to the shapes of trees against sky. Instead of a muddled mess of watercolour blurred over the paper, she needs to concentrate on making the leaves look like they’re growing on the branches, and are crisply painted against the sky behind them.

 (I’m illustrating my point with one of my watercolour paintings “Tiger spotted” – showing the negative shapes through the grasses in the front of the picture, showing the skin of the tiger behind.  And the darker shapes of the greenery behind the main tiger which has the paler green of the background behind showing through. It all adds to the sense of depth in the painting)

And the surprising thing about this artist woman, is that she has a grown-up son who paints, and her husband is also an accomplished artist as well, she tells me. Which begs the question of why they haven’t been able to help her with her wanting to improve her art. But, either way, I’m just glad to help, and look forward to seeing her improve, and make better pictures under my tutelage. And that I can help her improve, like the others are improving in my class.  And that I wasn’t wrong in my assertive “I can help you!” comment!