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Old 08-12-2008, 11:16 PM   #11
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Okay, final parting thought #2.

The background values are very close to the those of the portrait subjects. I'd take everything but the mother and daughter down a half-step in value at least. This will bring focus to bear upon the subjects, and create depth in your painting.
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Old 08-15-2008, 06:34 PM   #12
Allan Rahbek Allan Rahbek is offline
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Amanda,
I like this latest version but I feel that the lamp is out of sync with the rest of the elements. If you let the lamp go you will have a nice diagonal flow with the flower and the figures.
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Old 08-15-2008, 11:19 PM   #13
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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I was prepared to lodge (and indeed drafted) a defense of the lamp, as I thought its compositional weight important. But I Photoshopped it out to "prove" my point, and when I uploaded the thumbnail, I found that I rather liked it, and that suddenly the lamp -- not the lamp so much, but the weight and edge of its shadow -- was some busyness that my eye didn't favor, as being in visual competition with the portrait subjects. Without the lamp (or even with it), I still think the value of the orchids has to be ever so slightly subdued. That the orchids and the mother's head are bowed in different directions has a cancelling effect that tends to make peace with them being in the same diagonal with the girl's head. I have to admit that, without the lamp, the table corner above the girl's head, which is to say, the fact that 2/3 of the table is empty and the flowers are pushed over to the opposite edge, bothers me a little. It's rather making the table "look" like a prop. (Daniel Greene gave me a bit of a hard critique about that on a portfolio review once, and I'm still somewhat sensitive to it. Which is not to say he wasn't right.) But that effect might still be addressed by minimizing chroma and softening lines.

The strong vertical of the mother's white blouse seems important in this composition and I think it's why I'm willing to give up the lamp, as long as the focus remains on the child.

But this is now all for the artist to decide. Once a number of possible compositional options present themselves, the artist's aesthetic prerogatives rule. I'll paste in here a side-by-side of what I was looking at, if it happens to be of any assistance.

What continues to strike me as THE focal point of this painting in the child's head and face. Keep the value of the facial tones higher than those of the mother's, and I think this will turn out well.

[Later: Every time I return to these images, I miss the lamp less. Allan made a bold call here, and it's worth serious consideration.]
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Old 08-16-2008, 11:35 AM   #14
Amanda Grosjean Amanda Grosjean is offline
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Well, you've both given me something to think about. And might I add, I am really enjoying this discussion.

I have been examining the version of my image where the lamp was photo-shopped out all morning. I agree that having it removed leaves the vase and flowers too close to the edge, leaving it feeling a little too staged. The space just feels a little too vast in comparison to what is going on in the lower left diagonal. I do think that the lamp offers some counter balance and after playing with it in photoshop I feel that fading it a bit (the shadow of the lamp even more so) will make it less distracting.

I am going to site a Mary Cassatt painting (The Bath) in my defense of this position.
http://www.artic.edu/aic/aboutus/wip...cassatt_lg.jpg
Obviously she was a master of making the child the star no matter who, or what, was in the painting. In this example the child sitting on the mom's lap is the most dominant element. Your eyes sweep back and forth between the eyes, slide down the body, and travel back up via the arm. Now the only thing that is more intense than the little girl's flesh (that isn't part of this circle) is the pitcher in the right hand corner. Like my lamp, it was used for counterbalance. Yes, your eyes are drawn to it but your eyes only drift there temporarily then it is back to the figure. It is the human element that will always be the trump. Psychologically the viewer cares about the little girl more and that pitcher is just an extra element of the story. When you start to eliminate too many objects in the background you sometimes take away from the intimacy of "the moment" and it becomes a little too posed. But, I certainly have noticed how even though there are patterns and bold colors, she certainly subdued them beautifully in value and detail. I will certainly strive to mimic the glow of her figures. But if we could all so easily just paint like the artist of our choosing we wouldn't have need for this forum, right?

Thanks again for taking the time to contemplate this issue.

-Amanda
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Old 08-16-2008, 06:52 PM   #15
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Yes, reduce the contrast between the lamp's shadow and the backdrop, and then don't make too much of the lamp itself, and you'll do fine. Even a subdued lamp will pull some weight away from that diagonal, and also balance the orchids horizontally.

I cut my finger badly today while sailing (How is that possible, you would be justified in wondering) and so this is the extent of my typing for the night. Karma settles everything, eventually.

Good luck. Have fun.
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Old 08-16-2008, 08:22 PM   #16
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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I think the background is extremely distracting. The elements seem rather randomly chosen and placed. The table line cutting the mother's head is particularly distracting. I think you'd be better off placing the figures against a simple textured gradated tone. I'd also crop in on the figures more. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid, is always my choice for compositional philosophy.
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Old 08-16-2008, 08:43 PM   #17
SB Wang SB Wang is offline
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Yes, Seek-sick-(finally) KISS...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Cassatt_the_bath.jpg
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Old 08-16-2008, 10:29 PM   #18
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Which is why it became easy to dispense with the lamp, but then less easy to stick with the orchids, and even more problematic to explain the "table" -- which of course isn't table height, and is otherwise an object difficult to explain in this conception.

What I finally had to do in my own compositions is go to a sort of VGR test -- what is the Very Good Reason that I've included an object in my Composition? The question has to be asked and has to be answered in terms of composition, which in turn has to play into theme. There could be a hole in the composition and you could fill it with a railroad clock, but that has to have something to do with the focal subject(s), or else it's just a prop, which was the lesson Daniel Greene was teaching me.

Amanda, you've at least twice expressed a desire to include the lamp, so I've tried to figure out how you can do that. But there remain myriad alternatives. The figures could be moved up, with a small round presentation table bearing the orchids somewhere in the lower part of the piece, taking the point of a triangle with the other two being the heads of the subjects. And so on. All my observations are in the nature of "think about this," rather than "do this."

Mother-Child is your painting. Everything else should be subordinate to that theme.

By the way, I cleaned and dressed the wound, which is why I'm still typing. Plus -- I think the potential for this piece is enormous, and I'm very impressed with your engagement in the feedback.
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:40 AM   #19
Amanda Grosjean Amanda Grosjean is offline
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I had no idea sailing was such a violent sport. Glad to hear all of your digits are still intact.

I can't help but think back to the second grade when the teachers began to drill me with the question," Why is your head floating, where is the background?"
I think that that piece of advice has stuck with me. Of course, as you grow as an artist, you learn that it can work with the right technique.
I wouldn't say that the items were randomly placed but the quick move to soothe her child (I had touched her barney that was sitting next to me, apparently, a big no-no) initiated such a lovely pose that the elements in the background changed as I scrambled to move my camera. But the principles of keeping that diagonal composition with the counterbalance of the lamp was intentional, if perhaps it wasn't the best items to use. I suppose they are a little strange considering the height of the table but artists often use things that frankly, make no sense. Why would there be big swooping drapes behind a figure, ever? Anyway, how often would you really see two 3/4 length figures seated with nothing behind them? I tried taking it out through Photoshop and it just looked unnatural to me. And if that second grade teacher had a problem with floating heads, floating bodies was an even bigger crime. I do appreciate the idea of keeping it simple.

Well, I think I am going to stop talking about it and just paint it. I have an extra large pre-made canvas that I am going to work on so I can crop it to whatever way I please in the end. Perhaps the problems will work themselves out once I am working with it.

Thanks for all the comments everyone, they were much appreciated.
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:58 AM   #20
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amanda Grosjean
Why would there be big swooping drapes behind a figure, ever?
That's one of the things Daniel Greene said he didn't like. My only excuse was that I, younger then, had draped the cloth in that way, in part because I'd seen others do it, and in part simply to see if I could paint drapery. It happened to be a still life in which I'd also included a plaster cast, a violin (my grandfather's), a pocket watch (the other grandfather's), some grapes, a couple of books, a copper pitcher -- I threw in every type of object, just to see if I could paint those different materials. As it turns out, I could, but it wasn't much of a painting. More of an etude in oils. But Greene disliked only the staginess or "prop" look of the draped cloth in the background. (I'm sure that drapery effects where they belonged -- in clothing, say, or the corner of a tablecloth -- were not objectionable.)
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