Just Another Autumn Painting

Our weather has turned quite cold here, and we’ve already had quite a bit of snow falling in the area, along with icy drizzles. It’s not my favorite time of year. Winter will officially arrive later this month, and as the season changes, so, too, will the paintings on my easel. For months I’ve been painting autumn scenes — mostly practice paintings — and I’ve enjoyed using bright, warm colors.

Over the next few months, I’ll draw inspiration from the wintry scenes around me, but first, it’s time to finish up the autumn-themed canvases I’ve been working on.

This one is very similar to my Autumn Lake painting.

Another Autumn Scene Framed

Am I satisfied with this painting? No, I’m not, although I do sense a somewhat gentle, restful feeling about it. There are things I like and things I don’t like in this painting.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my oil painting studies — and in all of art, in fact — is that an honest self-evaluation of a painting can be invaluable in helping us improve.

So, today I want to go through the critique process and take from it ideas that will make be a better artist.

  • Step away from the work.

I’ve done this. I actually completed the painting — if, indeed, it is completed — some time ago. It’s been sitting near my easel, slowly drying as I’ve worked on other autumn scenes.

  • Come back to the painting with a fresh eye.

This is a fun part of the process for me. It’s a moment of objectivity, a time to ask myself quite honestly if I’m drawn to the work in any way. If I saw it hanging in a gallery, would I step closer, wanting to see more?

For this particular painting that answer is probably “No, not really.” I think it’s one I’d be content to view from afar as I strolled on to other paintings.

  • What do I feel from this painting?

I feel restful, peaceful emotions. I feel calm and quiet. I feel a bit of that reflective quality that I hope to convey in my landscape art.

  • What provokes the thoughts and emotions I’m experiencing?

Mostly my feelings come from the colors of the sky, I think.

  • What was my original intention for this painting?

I have to admit, I didn’t have a strong, specific intention for this painting. It was simply another autumn painting, another opportunity to work with a palette of warm colors, another chance to practice painting a familiar wooded scene.

  • What one thing do I like about the painting?

Again, it’s the sky that appeals most to me. In fact, as I’ve sat here looking at the painting, going over the questions, and giving thought to what I see, I’ve come to like the painting less and less. I’m seeing more flaws, more things I really don’t like. Still, I do like the sky and the variations in color I achieved with it.

  • Is there anything distracting?

Yes! Lately I’ve been making firmer, thicker brushstrokes, and I’m carelessly leaving behind more texture — largely unintentional — than I’d like. There are little blobs and globs of paint. I find them very distracting, and this is something I need to be more aware of as I’m painting.

  • How could this painting be improved?

Oh, so many ways! The reflection in the water needs work. The trees — well, they’re just there. They’re not interesting or appealing in any way. Nothing is too attractive or eye-catching about the painting. It’s just another humdrum, seen-it-before autumn scene. Overall, I don’t think the composition is too bad; it’s just the lackluster execution that spoils the painting.

  • Should I make changes?

This is another good question, and for me, for this painting, my answer is “No, it’s not worth bothering with.” No doubt the painting — to be a successful work of art — needs changes. Lots of changes. But I’m not going to go back to this painting. Fixing it would mean repainting almost the entire scene, and even then, it would never be more than just another autumn painting. 

So what can I take away from this critique?

Going through this process has shown me — again — the importance of being intentional in my art. I had no clear vision for this painting, nothing meaningful I wanted to express on the canvas. From the start, it was just another autumn painting, and as a result that’s what it became. I put no real emotion into the painting, and so it has nothing to give back.

Maybe it happened because it was one of many autumn scenes I’ve painted in recent months. Maybe at this point my eyes had grown tired of autumn colors. Maybe I was already feeling the first chill of winter in the air and knew it was time to move on.

It’s definitely time for a change. As winter moves in, the colors on my palette are now changing, and I’m glad to see the fiery colors of autumn fading into the cool blues and grays of winter.

I think I’ve learned a lot from autumn, and I’m looking forward to all that winter will teach me.


      1. I agree it is hard to evaluate one’s own art. Many historical artists had a hard time judging the true value of their own work, take Vincent van Gogh for example. At the same time, art will always be subjective. The artist’s opinion will ultimately have little influence on what future generations think and experience when they see the art. It is exceedingly difficult to make predictions about how works of art will be received by future generations, or even the current one. I find art a fascinating topic to talk about. What is the value of a work of art? This is hard to answer just like the following question: What is the value of a language?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s a difficult question, indeed. In fact, we can look even deeper and ask who decides what is art and what is not? There are many interesting questions to ask regarding both art and languages. Of course, both are means of expression.


  1. The most important questions for me would be whether or not I accomplished what I set out to do. That would refer to your original intention, and the other would be if I enjoyed the process. The first is if the painting conveyed the ‘story’, mood, had a focus point or focus area that could be recognized by the artist and viewer. It seems to me that your work meets what I see as good reasons to paint for any artist. For me, the results are sometimes happy accidents, but results are not my purpose for getting out brushes, paints and canvas. Did you read ‘Why I Paint’ on my site? http://artwithaloha.wordpress.com

    I have friends who struggle with this subject and it really is important to ‘hash it out’ in our minds. I may continue share this on my site, if I get around to it. CHEERS!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found the blog post. Very inspiring! I like all of the reasons you’ve given for painting. I can agree with your reasons, and I have to add one more for myself. I paint because I want to get better. I’m still learning basic techniques, still trying to figure out how to best approach painting, so many of my paintings aren’t really “inspired” in the usual sense. As a musician, I may love to play beautiful pieces of music, but in order to do that (and do it well) I also have to spend many hours practicing scales and arpeggios. With this particular painting, I was really just “going through the motions”, painting the scene not because it inspired me or because I wanted to express any deep emotion. And when I look at the painting now, I can see that my lack of real intention is clearly reflected in the work. My only intention was to paint another landscape scene, so in that sense, I suppose I did accomplish what I set out to do. Do I wish it had turned out better? Of course, but this painting experience has helped me see the importance of having a definite intention in painting. I have learned from it.


  2. That painting came out beautiful! When I was a young chick in art school the critiques were harsh. Then when I got older and went to a critique group the critiques seemed weak and as if afraid to hurt the fellow artist’s feelings. So I think critiques are unnecessary. As far as I could tell, the critiques in art school were for the purpose of either weeding out the overly sensitive artists or maybe to toughen them up for the art world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Critiques can be helpful… or not. In my experience it depends on the group. I’ve never been part of any “art critique” groups, but as a writer, I’ve taken part in critique groups. I think a large part of the problem for many people is that they don’t understand what a “critique” really is. People associate it with the word “critical” and think it’s all about finding fault — which isn’t true. It might be better if we referred to the process as an “evaluation” or an “assessment”. It’s as important to see what’s good, strong, and right in our work as to know what areas need improvement. For me, developing the ability to objectively review my own work is probably the most valuable sort of critique I can get in my art at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a member of two art clubs now, but I don’t paint during our meetings, mostly because it’s so awkward (for me, at least) to get oil paints, brushes, and everything else together to conveniently take them to our meeting room. And now, with one of the clubs, we’ve moved to a new location and no toxic substances are allowed. We can bring watercolors, but no oils or acrylics. I haven’t yet gone out on any of the plein air painting events or the group sketching days. Now that cold weather is here, there won’t be too many of those activities going on for a while. I’m still quite self-conscious about drawing and painting around other artists, but I’m gradually getting a little more confortable with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The group I paint with is more of a therapy group and most of us are not ‘painters’; we come for the meditative nature of painting. And fortunately all the materials are supplied for us! I love your work and so glad I found your site for inspiration.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I would enjoy a group like that. We have so many talented professional artists in our group that I do feel a little out of place at times. As I get to know the others in the group more, I’m feeling more comfortable, at least where drawing is concerned. With painting, I’m still trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m glad my experiences are meaningful to you. Thank you!

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