Online Painting Class: Week Two

I'm back this week with another review for the Premium Painting Track offered by Art Prof. We just finished up week two, and I want to share my experience in an on-going format. So for the next few weeks, I'll be posting about my experience with the class, how I'm tackling each assignment, and any feedback I've received. If you missed week one, you can catch up here!

One of the changes this week was that we all got to post real-time feedback during everyone's critiques. When someone was presenting their work to the group, we all posted our thoughts about what was successful in their piece as well as what areas we felt could be stronger. And in case you've never done a critique, it's not about attacking or belittling someone's work. It's about providing honest and useful feedback that the artist can use to keep improving. Most importantly, it's critical to remember that anything said about your work is not a slight against you, the artist; it's an objective observation about your work from professional eyes meant to guide your journey and help you improve. I always go into critique with that mindset, and it keeps me from feeling bad afterwards.

For week two, the Painting Track had an assignment to create a painting based on the sky. I'm not going to lie, I struggled with this one. For starters, I hadn't ever actually painted a piece where the sky was the main focus. When I looked back through older work, I found that when I included a sky in my landscapes, it was always a soft, neutral sky without a lot of detail. So this assignment was a huge challenge for me!

One of the issues I've often encountered when painting skies (and water), is that my eye gets lost very easily. It's difficult for me to keep track of what I'm painting when working from a reference photo. And I'd probably have the same problem if I ever painted plein air. I also struggled in getting enough energy into my first attempt. It ended up feeling quite static, and I found myself sticking too closely to my reference image.

I created all the pieces featured here with Liquitex Heavy Body Acyrlic paint, Golden Light Molding Paste, and Liquitex Matte Medium. I also used my trusty palette knife and a couple filbert brushes. The first image is on canvas, and the second two paintings are on Arches Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper.

The first painting I worked on started in the same way as my other paintings: blocking in colors and shapes. I do this so I can get the composition right without getting bogged down in the details.

Then I moved into incorporating some of the details. Like I mentioned, I was having a hard time keeping track of my place in the sky, and I kept getting tripped up with the values. You can see I also started defining the foreground, as well.

After this stage, I posted a work in progress photo to the Art Prof Discord. Teaching Artist, Cat, gave me the nudge I needed to add in some more texture and energy. She suggested I layer in some thicker paint. I grabbed my Golden Light Molding Paste and started adding in some much needed texture.

This is what my piece looked like by the time Tuesday Night's critique rolled around (photo above). I wasn't very happy with it, because I knew it was missing something - I just couldn't figure out what it was. For feedback, Prof Lieu and Jordan pointed out that there wasn't a clear focal point to this piece. They also helped me see that the colors were a little too separate between the sky and the foreground. It was also noted that this painting didn't have very much depth. I got a lot of encouragement from both the teachers and my peers that the textured parts of the sky were a really good touch. They gave more interest and energy when compared to just flat paint.

The next day, I went back and tried to make a clearer focal point. I also worked on making a more cohesive color palette.

I was pleased with the changes well enough, but I still wasn't executing the piece the way I wanted to. It felt too rigid and structured. That's when I decided to make a couple experimental studies just for practice.

With the first study (above), I picked something with bright, vibrant colors. I started by blocking in some basic shapes. Then I grabbed my palette knife and the light molding paste, and I went to town! I wasn't thinking, "How do I copy this photo?" Instead, I was deciding what information to bring from the photo to my piece. My new focus was, "How do I communicate the energy within this photo?"

Another somewhat interesting note, is that I was in the midst of a multi-day migraine attack while I worked on all of these pieces. For those that don't know, confusion and inability to focus are two common symptoms of migraine. So while I tried fighting against it in the first piece, I decided to go with it for the second two paintings. I just let my brain be foggy, and I depicted the paintings how I saw them in that moment. It was a much fuzzier, blurry version of what I had been trying to do with the first piece.

This last piece feels much closer to what I was trying to accomplish the first go around. (Which just goes to show you, sometimes it takes multiple iterations to get something right.) This painting has so much more energy and liveliness to it when compared to my first attempt. Again, I painted in some basic shapes, and then I went back and loaded up my palette knife with tinted light molding paste.

On Thursday, we had our second meeting of the week along with another round of critique. I posted my finished version of the first painting along with these two studies. I got some great feedback regarding the energy of the marks and colors in these studies. The one thing I was encouraged to look at is variation within my palette marks, especially in the pink study. Prof Lieu also said I should start studying and practicing different edges (hard vs. soft) in my paintings, and she posted some resources from Caravaggio, a true master of varied edges.

I feel like I had a very successful second week in the Premium Painting Track! I didn't produce the world's most beautiful sky paintings, but I learned a lot about my painting process, how my work is perceived by others, and how important experimentation is for any artistic practice. All in all, I'm really enjoying this class, and I'm so thankful for this opportunity to continue to develop my work and my artistic voice.


That's it for week two! I'll be back next Monday with a review for week three. Next week's assignment is to paint a still life comprised of white objects. It might sound simple, but I'm sure there will be plenty of challenges along the way.

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!