In My Face . . .

“Confetti and Spears”
watercolor 22 x 30 inches

After posting a non objective piece last week, I immediately ran to the easel to do another. Sketches were already done and I was psyched to hit a home run! I have worked on this piece daily for over a week, putting in three to four hours per day.

It wasn’t until I photographed the piece and brought it up on the computer screen that I saw some glaring errors . . . .and I don’t mean smudges or brush sloppiness. I mean design errors that shocked me. This piece has been in my face for over a week and I never saw the errors until now.
We artists can become so driven and focused on something that we completely miss that which is right in front of us . . . at least I sure do!
I am a bit of a fanatic about composition and design, yet make the same mistakes over and over again. For example, the large light shapes which float through the composition in this painting are, I suddenly realized, centered in the page. That is, the intervals or distances between the bottom of the shapes and the bottom edge of the page are the same intervals as the distances from the tops of the shapes to the top edge of the page. Darn!! Why didn’t I see that?
Then, when laying in the spears and lines I was careful not to make any parallel to each other . . . . . . . . .Or, was I cautious enough? Apparently NOT!! Yikes! How could I have missed that?
I must admit that I spent much time and effort trying to avoid color errors and wasn’t looking carefully at spatial relationships in the piece. I had set a challenge to work up a painting in a red analogous color scheme. I love the colors and textures and much of the movement through the piece. That said and noting the errors made (there are ALWAYS mistakes!) this is a passable painting.
I have a friend who is a Dolphin Fellow in AWS (an extremely high honor which recognizes artistic excellence) who says we have to do 10 or 20 in order to get “a good one.” He does . . .and so to I.
So, like they used to say in the barber shop: “NEXT!”

10 thoughts on “In My Face . . .”

  1. Hi Mike! I'm respectfully disagreeing with you. I believe that the value in the upper left becomes a part of the adjacent shape which in turn takes away the "centered" aspect and creates and overall shape (kind of a hook or laying "C" that has rather nice movement with the supporting spears holding it up. The color is superb. I think this is a very fine painting.

  2. I really enjoyed Stan's comment, and would love to see the work "in the real" to enter fully into this debate.

    I agree with both of you in part. I see what Mike is saying, and tend to go along with his analysis.

    When working with students and artist friends from the other side of the planet I often take their images into photoshop, and, depending on their particular style of course, drop them into greyscale and/or reverse the images. This instantly makes clear the lapses that they can't see. Somewhere between the eye and the brain we see what we think we painted, not what is really there.

    The only time that this doesn't work is when the work plays on colours of equal chroma and the magic of this is lost in photoshop, or when colours are of equal tonal value and are not intended to create perspective.

    And of course there's always the mirror, or putting the work upside down, or simply dropping it onto the floor to view it from a different perspective. In the passion of painting we can forget to check our composition with these very simple methodes.

    Mike, I would love to see you crop this work, with photos to show why you have chosen the crops you might make.

    Respectfully, and with appreciation, Kay

  3. Hello, Stan. You are correct about the laying "C", as I intended that from the outset. However, the way that the 'tail' streams thru the center of the painting is what I am objecting to. I can see one place that I might be able to make a modification. I will, however, consider that possibility long and hard before carrying the idea out. One think I have learned over the years: When a change is made in one part of a painting, that change in variably affects everything else. Thanks for making your comment, though. I always enjoy having knowledgeable artists, such as yourself, stepping up with their thoughts and ideas.

  4. Thanks, Kay! I might play around with it in Photoshop to see what sort of crops might be possible.

    As an aside, I have nearly eliminated cropping from my list of 'possbible solutions" in any painting endeavor. The reason is that it forces me to deeply focus and concentrate on other solutions . . . thus driving me to try to understand design. Cropping would be the very, very last resort in order to 'save' a painting . . . .and even then, I avoid it.

  5. Hi Mike,
    I'm writing here because I'm afraid my emails haven't reached you about the workshop for our plein air group this summer. Could you please contact me (janabouc at as soon as you can? Then delete this comment of course.

  6. Wow, a top notch painter like you and you still do the center of the painting "thing". Thanks for your post, it make me feel better somehow to know that even experienced painters sometimes fall into that trap. I really like the painting, maybe rules are meant to be broken sometimes.

  7. All right, forgive me, I'm nowhere near as experienced as you, but I like it. Rules are made to be broken, and you have broken them with great skill – I love the excitement in the foreground, and the placid background, the contrasting textures that enhance the difference, the interest from all of the directions and shapes, and the color theme which expertly unifies the piece. This belongs on a wall, not relegated to the heap. I can understand what you are saying though. I took something I am working on and didn't like it quite so much when I saw it in a smaller format on the computer screen.

  8. Mike, I love the way the piece travels across the support. It reminds me of some music I have enjoyed – traveling across my mind with central themes and lovely connectedness.
    I know "centered" is considered a compositional "No.No." However, there are times when I have 'centered' and it worked anyway. The idea about not centering is to keep your painting from being boring. Your composition here, therefore, is successful because it is lively and interesting, not boring.

Join in and comment!