Tips for Improving Your Paintings

Drawing by Rembrandt van Rijn "Reclining Lion" pen and paint brush ca. 1650

Drawing by Rembrandt van Rijn
“Reclining Lion”
pen and paint brush
ca. 1650

Class notes from art camp classes with George Liebert and Dan Gustin, Oxbow, MI, summer 1991.

Make a list of verbs and adjectives about your own work.

When struggling with a work, isolate parts of it and do lots of sketches to come up with a better composition.

What are your personal, specific goals?

Colors: similar vs. somber vs. stronger.

Realism vs. abstraction – both successful, maybe in combination. (one of my teachers, Dan Guston, and a visiting artist got into a discussion about a painting I did of a girl in the landscape – she was wearing a bandana on her head, which I painted as a flat triangle on top of her more realistically rendered figure).

Consider excitement of surfaces vs. complex images. Patterns on blanket, individual parts developed, keep to whole color – add pink, red, clear blue, zingier color.

Keep exciting in earlier stages.

Develop through series of big changes to work out issues.

Series of patterns; sincerity, passion.

Beware of making shadows that are a hole to hell (too dark) – gap in thinking color rather than value.

Take inventory – look at beautiful drawings in museum.

Strange mix of sacred and profane.

Baroque art: look at Poussin, Rubens‘ sketches, Rembrandt, make drawings about what interests you — movement, etc.

Overlap some things.

Check a variety of approaches; work on sense of design.

Look at Eric Fischl – palette in realistic landscape.


Read more class notes from SAIC:

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Treat a work of art like a prince. Let it speak to you first.

— Arthur Schopenhauer
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  • The colours in your painting are some of my favourite to live with. I have had some of those soft greens on various walls for years. Always feels like the sun is shining and the same for your painting.
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