Fortunately, I got a little bit of feedback from the jurors.
Two of my paintings - the fox squirrel and the Springer Spaniel - they liked but felt the work was uneven. I agree with the "work being uneven" comment. In the fox squirrel, I felt that the roses were not as well done as they should be although I was quite pleased with the squirrel herself. For Sunny, I felt that the body was not well formed and that the background was a little amateurish. I don't find fault with the background for being minimal, but the sky should have been painted better.
One painting - the face of the kitten - they had no comment on. This is a painting that I really like. But I like it for reasons that may not be important in this context. For example, I like the decorative quality of the background and the expression on this kitten's face. This painting won an award in a show recently - the Sierra Pastel Society's International juried competition. The judge commented that he "didn't ordinarily do cute" but that he couldn't help himself because it was so well done - especially the surface treatment in the background. But I can see why this piece wouldn't get comment one way or another from the Society of Animal Artists jurors.
The jurors commented that the anatomy was quetionable in two of the other paintings, the three rabbits and the black bear cub. I would have to agree with this comment. In the rabbits, the entire body of the forward rabbit is pretty undefined. In the bear cub, the paws are rather crudely done and there is too little definition in the body.
So the juror's comments give me some hints on where I need to concentrate. This, of course, is assuming that the juries are consistent, at least in their guidelines, from session to session. And what other conclusion can I work with?
Here's what I need to do:
- Pick subjects where the anatomy is clear and make my rendering excellent - no guessing.
- Don't be overly ambitious on backgrounds - choose backgrounds that I know I can do well.
- Don't combine subjects from different photos without very careful thought. This type of combination can lead to spatial and lightint problems which need to be overcome. I should only take on this type of challenge with a clear purpose.
- Pay attention to every square inch of the painting. It's not that everything has to be detailed, but everything has to be right.
- Don't ever be lazy - this has to be my best work. Nothing is "good enough."
Here are some things that may help me:
- Do value sketches and use value to add drama and interest.
- Study the anatomy of the subject separate from the pose I'm using.
- Check my paintings in progress frequently in a mirror to be sure that I catch problems early.
- Crop my photos of my paintings to get the best possible presentation.
- Of the paintings that were more successful, one was an oil and one was a pastel. The same is true of the paintings that were least successful. I now conclude that a variety of media does not add anything significant to my presentation, so it may be a good idea to focus on one medium for these five paintings. Oil is probably my best best because it gives me the most control.
- Both of my more successful paintings were images of a single animal. In my opinion, one of my strengths is portraying interaction among multiple subjects. But I think for this purpose, single animals are not a drawback.
- In various critiques I have attended I have asked if there are any special considerations for painting animals and the answer that I consistently get is "no" - all the standard stuff (value, composition, etc.) applies equally to any subject. Although I think this is generally true, I also conclude that in this context there is a difference. Correct and compelling drawing of the subject is the most important thing - the "sine qua non."
So I now embark on my quest - wish me luck!