2019 Workshop Schedule coming this week!
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction. New Paint-Along Videos coming!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Take a Painting From Blah to Wow

'Dancing under the Summer Sun'          11x14        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It was just a Blah painting. It had decent bones. The composition was interesting enough and the colors were soft and pleasing. But there was nothing special about it. The painting had no punch. It was blah. So there it sat in the great pile of discards.

I was feeling up for a challenge so I pulled out the painting and tried to figure out what went wrong and how to take the painting from blah to wow....or at least 'hey not too bad!'

The original blah painting
So why was the painting Blah? Here is what I decided:
  • The painting seemed a bit flat. All of the big flowers were all on the same plane. There was some depth created by the cooler blue mountain shape in the distance but the flowers looked flat.
  • The values seemed a bit spotty. There were too many spots of dark in the grasses. These spots were disjointed. 
  • The colors were washed out and dull. It is good to have dull or neutral colors in a landscape but  this painting was a little too neutral and boring.....there was no punch!
  • There was an overall lack of CONTRAST. The darks were not dark and rich enough in addition to them being spotty. There was no contrast in color....no pure color or intense 'spicy' colors.

Darkening the grass and adding texture with clear gesso
 So What did I do to correct these problems? Read on!

  • I decided to darken and add texture to the grassy part of the painting. This would increase the contrast between dark and light and add interest to the boring flat grass. I used clear gesso and brushed it over the grass. This liquified the pastel creating a dark green area of interesting texture.
  • I then built up the layers of grass over the dry gesso. The pastel skipped over the texture creating the illusion of grass.
  • I reintroduced the pink clover flowers this time giving them a larger role. I wanted to make them thick and juicy with color and texture. I also wanted some of  them to be in front of the Queen Anne's Lace to give more depth to this area. I used very soft pastels and pressed hard!
  • I brightened the sky and mountain bringing some of the mountain color down into the grass.
  • I refined the Queen Anne's Lace with chunkier marks to add more texture.
  • Finally I added more individual blades of grass using pure intense colors to contrast with the dull colors already there. I made sure to pull some grass blades over the flowers to create more depth.

Now scroll up and view the 'before' painting and then the revised painting. The differences are clear and bright. That was so much fun!!


Beth Kaylor Brunner said...

I really enjoyed how you went through your critique and problem solving.


Anonymous said...

Karen, I used to get discouraged about the "oops" paintings and discard them -
now I not only save them, I look forward to rescuing them!

sarah vincent said...

Karen I just wish all my 'Blah' paintings were as good as your original! I am addicted to your blogs. So instructive and inspirational.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found this post, as I am trying to rescue a painting right now. This is so helpful. Love how your painting turned out.