It’s funny how I can mention the same thing week after week — “I did a good job with my values,” “We’re waiting on color so we can work on our values,”– and still manage to miss the mark. I’d been admiring the work on Etsy of this amazing Ukrainian pet portrait artist, and wanted to see if I could create a background like his — loose, unstudied, the perfect complement to the (also perfect) subject. Turns out…I couldn’t.
My original thought was that the green bug would be the focal point and the butterfly and blue beetle would be a similar color to the background and therefore less prominent (I’d read that the area with the most contrast draws the eye the most and should therefore be your focal point). And it is true that parts of the butterfly and blue beetle are fairly subdued next to the dark background — their values are fairly similar. But instead of doing what I should’ve done — simplifying and darkening the background beneath the green beetle so that the contrast is greater, perhaps increasing its size — I plopped a very small beetle on top of a busy area of varying values. Perhaps, if you squint, you still notice it first because of the contrast between the bright yellow and the very dark green beside it, but it’s a close toss-up with the butterfly wing (which has the advantage, of course, of being much larger), and that, in my opinion, makes for a pretty unfocused painting.
While I’m glad that I don’t have even more detail in the background, I’m no Ukrainian Etsy artist. It would’ve been helpful to have a horizon, or some depth of field, and certainly the line of the driftwood should’ve been softened to integrate better with the background. As it is, it looks more like a collage than a painted-from-life still life.
In general, though, the entire thing is just way too complex for such a small (6×6) painting.
What?! Way too complex? Who are you, Jennifer Caritas!
(As an aside, if anyone’s curious about my subject matter, I used to make these fancy insect displays, and still have tons of insect inventory. Look for more bugs in future paintings!)
What I did well:
Individual elements are okay — I actually quite like the blue beetle.
I attempted some brushwork of varying directions and colors — a first for me. A for effort!
What I could’ve done better:
Too much going on!
Too much similarity in values — need a more obvious focal point
Better integration with background