Sunday, January 22, 2012


One of the secrets of growing as an artist is to be able to criticize your own work, to be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a painting. Friday I produced the painting below and blogged about the process step-by-step.

"Canyon Shadows" 18" x 36'' oil/linen

As is my custom I took the painting off my easel, turned it around so I couldn't see it and leaned it against the wall. This morning I put the painting back on the easel and took a fresh look at it.

I immediately saw areas of concern that needed changing. It took about an hour to make the changes. Below is the result.

To the casual observer the changes are subtle, probably not even recognizable, but to me they are huge and they can make or break the painting. Here let me show you in more detail.

On the top is Friday's version and on the bottom is today's revision. This is my center of interest so if this fails the whole painting fails. I started off by redesigning the smaller horseshoe canyon on the right. Notice that I shortened the left wall and I made the canyon more horseshoe shaped instead of rectangular and I added a cast shadow. Next I felt the shot of pale yellow where the back wall of the canyon meets the right wall was too cool so I mixed a mustard colored pile of paint and put it there. Now I had to change every single canyon wall in the painting to match. The top painting has warm shadows so I cooled them with some pinks and teals.

The other big change is in the design of the cap on the main horseshoe. Notice I redesigned the cap. I might add that all of this is being done without my photo reference. Now it is about making a painting, not copying the structure of the Grand Canyon.

Now for changes to the lead-in (top is Friday's painting and bottom is my revision). The first thing that struck me was the cast shadow (shown with red arrow) is the same shape as the bluff to its immediate left. How can I be so stupid? So I changed that and then all I did was brighten up the bushes where the light is hitting them, put a few more sky holes in the trees and and more tree trunks and branches. And there you have it. Now I will put this puppy away for a week or two then take it back out and go through the process again. When I look at it and don't see a need for change the painting is done.


Scott Ruthven said...

Hi Rusty,
I'm so happy to have found your blog. You do nice work and I appreciate the step-by-step details.
Fort Collins, CO

AnnG said...

Hi Rusty,
It's been great to follow your progress on this particular piece. When you go back and refine and/or change certain areas, is it difficult to maintain a sense of freshness, such as what you would expect with a painting done alla prima on location? I was curious if it is difficult to make revisions at a later stage. Thanks.

Rusty Jones said...

Thanks Scott and Ann. To answer your question Ann, I would say no. It is easy to overwork a painting and believe me, I have done my share, but like a long distance runner I paint at a certain pace when doing alla prima and if I slow down, I know I am tightening up. Doing the large paintings with a timer has helped keep my large paintings fresh.

Sadeu said...

your paints is the very beautiful colours, Rusty : )