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Old Self Portrait, critique?

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Becca Desty
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Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Becca Desty » Sat Oct 08, 2011 6:49 am

This was a painting (acrylic) I did back when I was in a painting class, I don't usually do figures but I wanted to challenge myself.

It's gone through a lot of changes and it's a lot better now than it was. The hand in the back still needs to be fixed. Other than that I'm just wanting to get some extra opinions on the rest of the portrait.

Stripes despeckled small.jpg
self portrait acrylic
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captainduh
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby captainduh » Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:40 am

Hi Becca,

It's a nice piece of art. To critique this however depends on what you are going for. Is this supposed to be on the realism side ,or the slightly animated, or impressionist, or what?

I will comment on the composition however. The stripes of the sheet need to be toned down a level. They are two harsh and because this is a portrait; it should not be pulling attention from the face. I suggest dulling the color of the stripes a bit. There is also some shadow work to be done here as the sheet lacks form.

The body form is good. The arm seems a bit too dark compared to the skin tone of the face. If light is hitting her face from the left, then the light should also be hitting her right arm.

If you want to bring out her face a bit more, tone down that white wall behind her.

I like the portrait. Thanks for sharing. 8)
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Carson Collins
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Carson Collins » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:38 am

The head lacks gravity; by this I mean that it does not appear to be resting on the pillow (or floating, either), but somehow held up by a painful tension which has no discernible source. Which brings me to my second point: The anatomy of the exposed body between the head and the elbow is incorrect. The collarbone (clavicle) has gone missing and the big neck muscle (strapedius) is in the wrong place and attaches to nothing. Less importantly, but perhaps more obviously, the hair likewise fails to obey the law of gravity. It looks as if the head had been painted in an upright position and then turned on its side.

One way to overcome these sorts of difficulties, the best way, is to spend at least a hundred hours drawing with charcoal on paper from a live, nude model.

A short cut is to buy an anatomy book and study the musculo-skeletal system very thoroughly.

"Modern" artists do, of course, take all kinds of liberties with anatomy - they distort it for expressive purposes, paint symbols that only refer to it, break it up (Cubism), etc., but I don't think that's what you've tried to do here, and anyway an artist should master anatomy first before taking liberties with it.

Don't be discouraged; the human body is arguably the most difficult of all common motifs to paint. I'm not particularly good at it even though I took two semesters of Life Drawing in college and a year of Gross Anatomy in medical school.
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Becca Desty
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Becca Desty » Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:03 pm

Carson Collins wrote:The head lacks gravity; by this I mean that it does not appear to be resting on the pillow (or floating, either), but somehow held up by a painful tension which has no discernible source.

Thank you! I've been looking at it for awhile and haven't been able to figure out what felt wrong about it but that's exactly it. Thanks for pointing that out.
Carson Collins wrote: the hair likewise fails to obey the law of gravity. It looks as if the head had been painted in an upright position and then turned on its side.

This is actually how my hair is. lol. I painted this from a pic and my hair really does defy gravity, I wanted to change it so that it looked more realistic but I didn't want to betray the actual reality. It was one of those tough times when I had to chose between being true to the photo or being true to the way it seemed reality should be.

I agree completely that an artist should master anatomy before messing with it. I still haven't mastered it (obviously) but I'm working on it! thanks for the tips.

captainduh wrote: Is this supposed to be on the realism side ,or the slightly animated, or impressionist, or what?

This is one those times where it's hard to say exactly. I was going for realism. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way but I usually aim for realism in a painting like this because it makes me work harder to achieve it. I could just claim that it's impressionist and I did it on purpose but really I was aiming for something more realistic than what it turned out to be. In fact I was trying to copy Philip Pearlstein's style (as was the assignment) which brings me to my next point:

captainduh wrote:I will comment on the composition however. The stripes of the sheet need to be toned down a level. They are two harsh and because this is a portrait; it should not be pulling attention from the face. I suggest dulling the color of the stripes a bit.

Philip Pearlstein (while I failed capturing his style in the figure) used a lot of patterns in his portraits. In fact, the main focus of all his portraits was the patterns around the figures and not the figure itself so this was done on purpose.

thank both of you very much for your ctitique both were very helpful! You guys are great :D
I'll keep practicing!
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Becca Desty
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Becca Desty » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:47 am

I may go back and do some work on this one, I dunno but I think I'm going to start a new self portrait. Thank you all for your advice!
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby veronica » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:58 pm

Hi, I have not read all the critiques for lack of time, but here is my evaluation: I like the actual composition of the painting and the colours, however the models right arm looks like it’s made of wood or plastic, like a mannequin’s, especially the shoulder (that looks like it’s screwed in, and the hand looks like a wooden marionettes hand). Her right breasts defies gravity, i.e. does not look natural, it should droop a little, and her left breast has disappeared somewhere, it is not really there (not even in the pillow). The shadow above her collar bone is too dark and wide, making it look like she has a big cavity there. The neck, her left side of the neck especially, looks wrong. It does not really look like she is resting on the pillow, (but I think that was the intention) or it looks like the pillow is made of hard foam. She is not supporting her head with her left arm either. The hand on the left arm looks strange and so does the forearm; it looks like it does not belong to her, like it’s not coming from her left shoulder. Her torso is too short; she does not have a waist. The very right stripe does not follow the fold of the fabric (and neither do a few other stripes) it looks like a separate red ribbon laid there and not a part of the cloth. The colour of the stripes seem ok to me, they do not distract me from the face but form an integral part of the whole painting. I like the face but the ear looks like it has a very big hole. The hair and jeans are good. Well that’s it! I hope you have not found my assessment too harsh, I know you say you have done this a long time ago. I hope to submit some of my art too, so I am ready for some tough critique as well!
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Becca Desty
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Becca Desty » Sun Oct 23, 2011 7:24 am

veronica wrote:I hope you have not found my assessment too harsh,

Not at all! It's not really a critique if you're not honest and I knew a lot was wrong with the anatomy so it wasn't really surprising. I agree with you about the arm looking plasticy. I painted and repainted that art trying to make it look more natural but I just couldn't get it to work. Now that I look at it, I think I need more curves in the arm and perhaps an indication of hair... of perhaps my shadows are just too smooth...
Taking into account everyone's critique about the anatomy I have realized the main problem. I painted from a foreshortened photo and but it doesn't really show in the painting. That's why certain parts seem to defy gravity: in the photo the figure moves back in space while mine appears to be more like she's laying on the side.

So I can see now that the head is much too large, the legs don't take up enough of the canvas to look like they are closer to the viewer.

I think I'm gonna repaint it.
Thank you all for your helpful advice
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby anthony » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:43 am

A self portrait like this would have difficult for me to pull off. I am inspired by your courage and your obvious talent. The composition and colour is pleasing to my eye. I like the serenity; humility in this piece. It is simple and striking. There is nothing technical in this painting that bothers me. It appears that you painted this from your heart. Thanks for sharing! Tony
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Becca Desty
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby Becca Desty » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:55 am

anthony wrote:A self portrait like this would have difficult for me to pull off. I am inspired by your courage and your obvious talent. The composition and colour is pleasing to my eye. I like the serenity; humility in this piece. It is simple and striking. There is nothing technical in this painting that bothers me. It appears that you painted this from your heart. Thanks for sharing! Tony

>//< Thank you very much for your kind words!
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Re: Old Self Portrait, critique?

Postby veronica » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:53 pm

Becca don't lose heart. If only you knew how many times I repainted until I got things to look like I wanted. One word of advice though. Be careful when painting from photos. When you have a nice photo, it will not automatically mean it will make a nice painting. This is especially true of portraits and not necessarily landscapes. In a photo, a certain angle and placement of an arm will look ok in a photo, because we know we are looking at the real
(100) (Copy) (Copy).JPG
thing, but when the same angle is painted, it might not look right, and the viewer will think it has been painted wrong. It is best to not paint exactly what is in the photo sometimes (I an not talking about shading etc. but the angles). To illustrate, look at the attached photo. It is the arm of a little girl who is sitting in a car seat and she is about to hitch up her dress so she can put the seat belt between her legs and fasten herself in. This is why the hand (fist) looks like it is at an awkward angle, but we accept it is real, because it is a photo. However if painted, the whole arm could end up looking like a prosthesis. To paint this, it would be best to straighten the hand, so it is not at such a sharp angle, and perhaps open it up a little so that it still looks like she is holding her dress, but not trying to pull it up (paint her hand with three fingers holding the dress and the rest of her fingers more straight and put a little bit more creases in the dress where she is holding it, or you could open her hand up completely, just resting on her dress). So that you know what the hand looks like open, photograph the open hand of a child and then paint it attached to the rest of the arm. You have to be careful of course to get the size and proportion right.

I hope this helps.
Keep on painting!

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