Saturday, November 21, 2015

What 11 years of Daily Painting Has Taught Me

'Return to Sanibel Island'          8x10       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
purchase $145
 I didn't think it was too bad. In fact I thought it was a good effort. I remember having fun and that  was the most important thing. Painting everyday had quickly become a habit and my preferred subjects were anything related to the beach. Sanibel Island and Wildwood New Jersey were my favorite places to paint. I had been painting for about 8 months when I painted the Sanibel landscape below. It was time  to revisit this scene to see what 11 years of painting had taught me. It was an enlightening exercise. (the redo is the painting at the top of the post)

The original painting done in 2005

Daily Practice has paid off!  I have learned a lot about what makes a good painting....composition, value, color theory, pastel techniques. I have learned about creating the illusion of depth. I have learned to be sensitive to color and light.  Much of what I learned was from books and other artists. We all can gather information and study.......but the true key to growth is putting this information to work.  It takes practice and many many paintings and using this knowledge in order for our paintings to improve and show growth.

I still have a lot more to learn. Maybe I will try this scene again in 10 more years. Actually I think I will revisit it every November!  Below I will break down the things I learned and changed in the remaking of the painting:


  • I have learned that I don't need to copy the reference photo. In fact I never copy a photo anymore. I use it to start the painting but I quickly stop looking at it. It becomes more important to make the painting work and not worrying about being true to the photo. In the older painting I was still very much in the early stage of learning to paint and being very literal to my photos. I copied what I saw rather than make better choices. In the revised version I added more palm trees, changed the direction of the path and changed the shapes and layering of the distant bushes.....all done to create a better composition.
  • I have learned how to create a better sense of depth in a landscape using the principles of aerial perspective. In the older painting I tried to make the distant trees cooler but they are too blue and not believable. They are also all the same color and value and the shapes don't overlap. In the revised painting I used cooler and neutral and lighter greens for the distant trees. I also changed the way the shapes overlap creating more depth. I also changed the colors and marks from the foreground into the background....all designed to give the illusion of depth.
  • I have learned how to create better pathways. The path in the old painting appears to go uphill. I changed the direction of the path and made it get thinner and flatter in the revised painting. I also changed the colors from front to back....all designed to make the path look like it is going back instead of up in the air.
  • I have learned to do better sky holes! This has taken much practice and restraint. I have learned to slow down and pay attention to the negative spaces in trees and other elements of the landscape. These subtle refinements make all the difference in the final painting.

my underpainting on gray canson mi-teintes paper







7 comments:

Colleen Brown said...

Karen, very interesting to see the differences and growth. Thank you for the explanation photo as well.

Unknown said...

This was really helpful to see the side by side, and the self critique you offered. I'm encouraged to try the same re paint

M. J. Joachim said...

It's amazing how much we grow, by practicing what we love, and working at it every day. The advice in your post is good for so many things, and I've always admired your work :)

Renee said...

Thank you for today's blog. What an encouragement to see the progress of daily painting. I have painted more than I ever have since following your blog and PDFs courses. I look forward to every days new blog--such a wealth of information and instruction!

rosjenke said...

I rarely comment but just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts. I'm not a pastel painter but your comments and demonstrations are relevant to all media. Your paintings are an inspiration. Thank you.

Ruthie Mann said...

Wonderful article Karen! This, to me, is a great tip for artists. Not just to look at old work but revisit it by redoing it. I have done this with a couple of pieces and have been pleasantly surprised that the new painting really helps me to see and analyse my progress so far.

robertsloan2art said...

Wow! It's a wonderful feeling to look back and see how much I've grown when I find an older painting, even if I still like it. Your analysis of what you're doing different rocks! I know that sense of satisfaction well, it's one of the reasons I don't throw out fails. Sometimes after enough time I'll understand a fix and go ahead and complete it.