The most important five minutes of plein air painting

Lucille Ball Plein Air Painting

Even Lucy painted in plein air! American actress Lucille Ball (1911 – 1989) painting in the garden of her home, circa 1960. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

I’m a relatively new plein air painter (about eight months).  Typically, I paint in the studio in the cozy comfort of my home or cabin. Coffee is a mere 5 steps away. My dogs lay by my side. I blare my music, ranging from Henri Mancini to Vivaldi’s Winter. Last spring, I was asked to teach a plein air workshop in September at our local arts center. I’ve painted outside once or twice before, but definitely did not consider myself a plein air painter. With fall on the horizon, I ought to see what the hype was about.

A good artist and teacher prepares. I ventured out to a local park. The first painting I did was a muddy mess. What was I doing wrong? I stumbled on a video called “Outside the Lines,” an easy to watch documentary about the history and how-to of plein air painting. The host mentioned Asher B. Durand painting in the Adirondack area of Schroon Lake  in 1837. The town is about 10 minutes from my cabin. I took it as a sign; I should paint plein air! I then watched every possible video, listened to every podcast and read many books. I went out practically every day last summer trying new techniques, palettes, brushes and subjects. It was like the movie Groundhog Day, with each day presenting new challenges. Once I forgot a canvas to paint on. I have forgotten medium, turpentine (“turps”, which I only use outside), and once, I even spilled all my turps. Pine needles have fallen into my paintings, along with bugs I attempted to get out of sticky paint. My easel has collapsed, and if I am not remote enough, a family will photo bomb my painting.  Despite the uncertainty and unpredictability, I love it! I can’t get enough.  It’s an adventure each time I pull out of the driveway (with my coffee!). What I have learned, I am realizing, is that most critical work happens in the first five minutes, even before I touch a brush.

Here’s a snapshot into my current routine. I am sure plein air painters are always trying to streamline their process, as time and cargo are precious. Finding a spot to paint is an art form in itself. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But let’s assume you have found the spot and lugged your gear to that ideal location. Here’s 5 tips to help you have a good start to your painting:

Beaver in stream

Be ready for anything! This beaver swam into my painting!

  1. Consider what the sun will do in the time you have. I once set up in front of a birch tree that was beautifully lit. Two minutes later, the clouds rolled in and I had to adjust.
  2. Take a picture as soon as you get there. Some people will say not to, but I want to record what it looked like the second I decided this was the place to paint.
  3. Look. Before you touch a brush, just look.  Your adrenaline will be high and for me, it helps me to just SLOW DOWN and take in my subject.  I typically pray/meditate and thank God for providing me the opportunity.  I want to make a deeper connection with my subject. I think about it in history, and what it has seen over the years.  Think about WHY the place caught your heart, not just your eye. What was it that appealed to you?
  4. Make a few thumbnails with your horizon line in mind. I like to use a viewfinder (View Catcher).
  5. Breath, relax and paint. Oh, and savor every second; this is the good stuff!

PS. As I write this, my Dad, a guide-boat builder and woodworker, is building me a lighter weight set up. I’m finding my current Guerilla Campaign Box, easel and supplies are too heavy. Thanks, Dad!

An honest critique

When is the last time you had an  honest critique with real people looking at your actual work? It’s been a while for me. My biggest critic is my husband. I’ll walk a painting out to him, and he’ll usually say ah hmm m.  That means it’s OK. The longer he pauses, the worse the critique will be.  I love my husband, but he knows nothing about art. He does have a good eye, though.  And that’s great. Periodically, it’s good to get specific, targeted feedback in an honest, informed setting. What specifically do you want feedback about? Being specific and targeted, in my opinion, is a great way to advance your skills. Maybe you want to improve your compositions or edges, or have been working on specific subject matter, like trees, water or rocks.

 

As an art teacher, I bring my students through a four-step approach to looking at art. It’s a systematic approach. It is how I was taught way back in college. It’s actually simple. First, you describe the art.  “I see…” just the facts, as if you were on the phone and describing the art to someone who can’t see it. Next, you analyze it, getting into how the artist used the elements and principles. This will make you sound artsy and smart. “I like how the artist created a sense of rhythm with repeating the trees” or “Notice the variety of textures the artist used” Thirdly, you interpret the piece. “I think the artist is trying to say wilderness is a formidable, lonely place, but you can find peace”. It’s a juxtaposition of sorts “blah, blah!” And lastly, you evaluate or judge it. Is the piece successful, to you? Do you “like it”? That’s the basic approach.  It works in a general sense and is a great method for discussing artwork you are unfamiliar with, especially in the academic sense.  But in the practical “what do I need to improve” sense, it is lacking a bit.

One of my goals for this year is to get my art properly critiqued. In order to do that, I and my art must get in front of people. Plein air events and paint outs are wonderful. Lots of knowledge there. Ideally, you want a critique from someone who you admire. Someone who has proven themselves. Climbed the art ladder. I am suggesting you organize a critique. Find a public venue to display your art. Invite about a dozen people to participate. Encourage participants to pick a topic to discuss when critiquing. In school, we tend to steer away from negative comments (it’s school, after all), but there are ways to suggest an artist try something without sending them sobbing into a corner..  Posting your art online is another option. There are a few sites where you can post either works in progress (WIP) or finished works and seek criticism, as opposed to just thumbs up and likes. Wetcanvas is a site I regularly use.

Lisa David, The Chase

Lisa David, The Chase, 16″ x 20″. Remember chasing the ice cream man with your dollar?

 

True Story: I entered a show locally and received a modest award. The juror went around and gave feedback on each specific work. My work really resonated with him. Yay, I thought. Until he started giving some criticism. Shhhh people gabbing- I wanted to hear every word. I had been so immersed in the making of the art, I overdid it. I added detail to the details! Rather, he suggested the work would have been stronger if I didn’t have so many sharp edges. That night, I went home and read all I could about edges. Now, it’s something I work to improve in each painting.

 

 

Do you pick favorites?

Remember having a favorite everything as a kid? Favorite TV show, favorite cereal, favorite game, and the quintessential favorite color. As an adult, it may seem silly to have a favorite color. But as an artist, I must admit, I have a favorite color. I know, I am breaking all the rules. But there is one color I sneak into practically every painting. I don’t even do it to create color harmony.  I just use it because I have a great association with it, and it makes me happy.  My secret color? Winsor Newton’s Cobalt Turquoise Light. I even like the word turquoise.  To me, the color dances! It’s light, peppy, optimistic, cheerful yet doesn’t demand too much attention when used sparingly.

I have not seen this color on any recommended color palette by any artist. It is a color you can mix using variations of cerulean, but there is something about seeing the tube and the tiny squirt on my palette that makes me happy! It’s ready to get mixed, ready to do its job. My palette feels naked without it!

I remember as a kid, going to Lake George Village in the Adirondacks in New York State.  My sister and I would go into souvenir shops and handle all the merchandise. We would smell the insides of the cedar boxes. We would pick out patches for our jeans and would buy a piece of turquoise jewelry. I never knew where it came from or how the gems were made, I just loved the color and besides, cool people had turquoise. Stevie Nicks wore turquoise.  I have seen turquoise waters off the island of Puerto Rico, Culebra. I have swum in the turquoise waters off Key West & Miami. They are as pleasing to be in as a preheated bed.

Flaminco Beach, Puerto Rico

While Cobalt Turquoise Light takes the spotlight, the real star is light!  Our colors get all the fame and attention “oh, the colors!”, but the reason we love color is because of light.  Light shines on color. Light gives us memories. Light gives us feelings, emotions. It gives us life and miraculous possibilities. Light gives us rich reds and bright blues. It reveals the crimson of a rich ripe strawberry or the cerulean blue of the sky on a dry summer’s day. Light is what makes the waters blue. Without light, colors would just be bumping into each other fumbling in the dark. Thank you, light, for giving me my favorite color. Okay, I must ask, what’s your favorite color?

Never too old to start painting!

Katherine Hepburn making a list of painting supplies.

Katherine Hepburn making a list of painting supplies.

Thursdays are my favorite day of the week. Yup! The sheer anticipation of the weekend gives Thursday that extra special feeling. Thursdays are busy days. We cram all our errands like shopping for the weekend, getting hair done and washing the car. We are so productive on Thursdays because the reward is close. Thursdays are “weekend eve.” You made it through the sludge of the week and the promise of something big is right around the corner, even if it is just relaxing.

Life is a bit like days of the week. By the time Thursday comes, we are over 50. We are feeling the pressure and excitement of our older years. We cram in as much as possible. Being over 50 is freeing. We stop caring what people think. Perhaps we’ve raised a family. Now, it’s time for you! Over 50 is a great time to learn new things. It will keep you younger, more engaged, meet new people and how great is it when you lay your head on the pillow knowing that you made the most of your day?

The benefits of making art are worthy of a blog post on their own; suffice it to say, there are many. You will have art to decorate your walls, or give as gifts, leave a legacy or maybe even make some money! There is even a thriving gallery in New York City that only shows art from those over 60! Learning to paint in your older years may seem daunting. You will have so many decisions to make that you may feel overwhelmed. But the good news is, there are limitless resources to help you along the way. It’s easy to go down a worm hole Googling how to start, so here’s a bit of advice from someone who has taken up painting on the “Thursday” of their life. I was 47 when I really started to paint, and this is what I found:

lisa david painting brush with paint

Primary Colors of oil paint

  1. Keep it simple. Go to a local art store and get a beginner set of whatever medium (watercolor, acrylic or oil paint) you want to try. Michaels, Hobby Lobby or better yet, shop small and visit an independent art store. If cost is an issue, watercolor is the least expensive. Just be sure to get watercolor paper. Acrylic paints dry fast so they are nice for a beginner, however, the fast drying can cause issues if you don’t wash your brushes immediately after using. You may also want to buy a drying retarder to help slow drying time. You can paint acrylic on almost any surface, but a canvas always feels more substantial. Oils are my preferred medium for a variety of reasons, but you will need a few extra supplies. Winsor Newton Winton paints are great for beginners. Get a few brushes. They should be for oil or acrylic. Next, get a canvas or panel that is primed with gesso, so the paint doesn’t absorb. You will need a medium to help the paint flow a little. Liquin is great for a beginner. You will also need a solvent to clean your brushes. I use Gamsol or Turpenoid. Keep your oil paints in the freezer between painting sessions so they won’t dry out. I use a sheet of glass as a palette. Get a palette knife to mix your colors and a straight edge razor blade to clean your palette after each session. You may also want baby wipes and olive oil soap (or Murphy’s Oil soap) to wash hands and give brushes a final wash.
  2. Decide the style, either abstract or realistic. I am a realist painter, so I won’t attempt to talk about abstract art.
  3. You will basically paint still lifes, landscapes or people. Painting people or figurative art realistically requires understanding how to draw people. Painting realistically also means some drawing skills, but don’t worry, there are easy ways to work around that if your goal is to just paint something, anything! You can paint from a photo or off a computer monitor, but whatever you paint should be your image, your photography. Using other people’s art or photography is frowned upon and may infringe on copyrights. Copying master’s art like Joaquin Sorolla is admirable; just don’t sell it as your own.
    lisa david painting vintage maxwell house coffee can with brushes

    Must have: fun container for your brushes. When in doubt, go vintage!

    Once you determine what you want to paint, you decide if you want to paint from imagination, memory or observation. I paint from observation. Ideally, painting from life. If you want to paint a landscape, going outside and painting plein air is a great goal. It’s good to get familiar inside before venturing outside to paint, though.
  4. So now it’s time to paint! What to paint? For ease, let’s say an apple. Wait- do you have an apple? Any piece of fruit or a vegetable is a great thing to start. They are an organic shape and there is a lot of latitude if it doesn’t look just perfect. When you start painting (or drawing) you will find that you will constantly compare one thing to another. For example, how long is the stem compared to how thick it is.
  5. Set aside a few hours when you have energy and begin. You don’t have to show anyone what you are doing. Relax and enjoy this process. Play music that inspires you! Relish the moment that you are creating something. You are doing it! Keep this first painting, because after you have done 10 or 100 you will learn so much that this first little treasure will be priceless.
    lisa david painting blog tubes of paint

    Tubes of oil paint

     

 

Are you getting better?

Lisa David oil painting blog plein air photos

Looking through my work, deciding what is working, and what is not!

I played the viola in the 5th grade. I probably ended up with the viola because I returned the permission slip late. I remember the screeching as the bow scraped across the strings. I could play Hot Cross Buns. The red velvet case, with the block of rosin, was all mine. I loved the smell of rosin. I was so cool. I was not so good. But I remember my Mom saying “Lee, you’re getting better!” As a high school drawing and painting teacher, I rarely say “you’re so good” because what is “good” anyway? I want my students to improve, to get better. As hard as we try to “get good” at something, the bar keeps moving and who determines what good is, anyway? Good is an arbitrary, subjective term. It’s a preference. My dog George is good. Pizza is good. Why not try to get better? Be better?
piles of paintings

Piles of “Never minds” painting.

I lined up my art in chronological order. After getting past my giant pile of “neverminds,” it was time to get serious. There are countless areas of improvements I could tackle. Composition, value structure, brushwork, color, edges, to name a few. I realized I am making the same error over and over. I decided deliberate brushwork is something I want to be better at. I tend to over-work and over-paint. I lay in too many colors (that sounds weird, but you know what I mean!) In order to improve, I need knowledge. We artists are nuts for information, googling everything until we are experts. So, I have started to read selected books, blog posts, articles about brushwork and actual paint application. I am watching videos, looking at details of master’s art on Google Art Project. With each painting, I am attempting to be more deliberate and focus on this one area of improvement. Why does it matter? Couldn’t I just keep on painting, throwing caution to the wind, content in the pieces I paint? Sure, I guess. It’s not like the painting police will take away my brushes. But I want to get better. And if you’re reading this, you want to get better, too. True story: Today, after two weeks of intense figure drawing lessons, I overheard my students say they finally “get it”. They said how after a few years of drawing people, they finally understand the steps. As they were filing out of my classroom, one student left her drawing face up on the pile. For a second, she just looked at it, pausing. In that moment, she was on top of the world. It’s a tiny gesture, but as a teacher, it meant the world to me. She was proud; confident. A minute later, another student asked for charcoal for more practice. Is she “good” at drawing? It doesn’t matter. She is better. She is on the path to improvement, where proud moments happen along the way.

Don’t wait for the lights to change!

Plein air painter in winter
Norwegian artist Frits Thaulow painting “En plein air” circa 1900

Last summer, I caught the bug. Bad. Everything changed for me. I was asked to teach a plein air workshop in our town. How hard can it be, I thought? I’m a studio painter and art teacher so I felt pretty good in my ability to teach a handful of adults. The workshop was in September. In June, I thought I should see what plein air painting was all about. I had painted outside once or twice before. I even owned a French easel. So, I packed up my supplies and headed out. The first painting I did was a hot mess. Working alla prima (all at once) in the studio was hard enough, but outdoors is an entirely different mindset. Changing weather, bugs, people and remembering everything were only a few of the challenges. But soon, I became addicted. I caught the plein air bug. It’s going around! More and more artists are finding painting from life is exhilarating and adrenaline-making. Fast forward to today, just a few months later. I now struggle painting from a photograph. While the numbers decrease, many hardcore plein air painters paint outside in winter.

Lisa David painting plein air outside in snow. I brought WAY too much.
The lovely birch tree in the sun with amber and violet tones.

Yesterday, I ventured outside to paint. It was about 25 degrees in upstate NY. I live near the Saratoga Spa State Park. The sun was out. I schlepped my gear (including hot chocolate) and found an old gnarly birch tree. It was blackened in a few areas and its shadow provided a strong compositional element. Two minutes after setting up, clouds rolled in and I lost the sun. It was almost immediate. My colorful violet shadows turned to drab shades of gray. The tree with its lovely highlights turned gray. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry sees his girlfriend in bad lighting and realizes she’s not that attractive! I stuck it out and did my best to paint the tree. I really wanted to use color and there just wasn’t much. Believe me, I looked. My hands started to get really cold despite using hand warmers in my mittens and boots. You may be asking, so why? Why do I feel compelled to paint outside in winter? Unless you have tried it, it’s hard to understand. Being outside, drawing, seeing and recording is supremely satisfying. It improves my skills and while yesterday’s painting is definitely not a favorite it will serve as a memory and a reminder. Lesson learned? Be ready because the lights sometimes change.

Best I could pull color from tree after grey clouds rolled in. Not much to see here….move on…..!

What’s your story?… and why it matters!

leisuretime

Leisure Time. 6″ x 6″ Oil on panel. Fond memories in this camper circa 1971.

Recently, I have noticed books, websites and podcasts for creative people about finding your authentic self – your true self.  Reason being, if you can tap into that, your art-making will be inspired from within, thus you’ll create more authentic and genuine pieces.  Why is this an important and necessary process?  Your art needs to have integrity. For you to defend your art as the “real thing” it needs your truth. When the art you make comes from within, you will see it on the canvas.  It has a ring of truth.  Your art will stand out and bring you peace. You will look forward to creating and sharing.

So how do know how to find your truth? Your story? We all have a story, a point of view. I wanted to find my truth. Should I read books, take personality tests, Google and listen to podcasts? My discovery of my story was relatively simple. I stopped looking outside to find out who I am.  No one knows me better than myself. My experiences, likes, dislikes, memories, ideas are only mine. I thought about it for a bit and looked at the work I most enjoy making and sharing. Then my story revealed itself. I’ll share it with you!

I’m a girl who loves the 60’s who was raised by a genius scientist and an alcoholic mother with a heart of gold. While she attempted domestic life, our suburban development house overwhelmed my mother. Four kids kept her busy. Erma Bombeck was her idol and voice of sanity. Someday, I’ll share the whole story. For now, let’s just say I watched a lot of TV to show me what normal life was. I yearned to live in the Brady Bunch house.  One fond memory I had growing up was camping at state campsites in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. We were all crammed in a popup camper. It felt so great to be with other kids and families doing this “normal” activity.  So, camping has a strong hold on me. I have a log cabin in the Adirondack mountains which I use as a studio for summer painting.  I love pine trees and the color of pine needles. That’s who I am. I love vintage and the Adirondack landscapes. A lot has happened in my life along the way, but I can honestly say my love for life in the 60’s and the mountains pretty much consumes my thoughts. Simple? Sure.  And for now, that’s just fine for me. What’s your story? Listen to your inner voice….shhhhhh. Hear it?

Michne Family in our Leisure Time Camper

Staying cozy in the Leisure Time Camper, 1972. I’m the happy one in the back.

P.S. Timing is everything. I just started reading Larry Moore’s book, Fishing for Elephants. If you are struggling with finding your authentic self and your inner voice isn’t screaming at you to get your attention, Larry can do it for you! It’s a great read so far. Good luck in your journey, may you be at peace with your story.

Stop Painting! For a little while, anyway.

Stop painting…for a little while, anyway!

Plein Air Painting by artist Lisa David

Saturday in the Park, 8″ x 10″ Oil on Panel Plein air painting by Lisa David. Painted outside on a cold (18 degrees) day in Saratoga State Park, upstate, New York.

Do a painting, post a painting, do a painting, post a painting, update website, send emails, order supplies, look through photo references, paint another painting, post another painting. See the problem? I do. I’m not stopping for reflection and honest critique. No learning, no reading. My rhythm is all about making. I mistakenly think, if I don’t paint, I will get out of the groove. Does this sound familiar?

I am realizing it’s okay to stop.  Artists need to pause and reflect. The paint will be there waiting. We need to evaluate what we did so we don’t keep making the same mistakes. This may mean reading a book. I have about a dozen that have been waiting for me. It may mean spending money on a workshop or a class. It might mean sitting and watching videos. Or it might mean getting a mentor. If all we do is paint and post, there may not be growth. Mistakes are good. Honest criticism is healthy. Learning feels good. As an art teacher, after every project, my students have a critique. We talk about what worked, what didn’t. We discuss what they would do differently next time? I need to apply this critique to my own work. SLOW DOWN. It’s okay to spend time relaxing with a good book about composition or color.  So instead of going into my studio, I’m going to critique a painting I just finished. Here it is. A plein air painting I did in a park. It was a mere 18 degrees. Speed was necessary. I did not work on it back in the studio.

Plein Air Painting by artist Lisa David

Saturday in the Park, 8″ x 10″ Oil on Panel Plein air painting by Lisa David. Painted outside on a cold (18 degrees) day in Saratoga State Park, upstate, New York.

I like the looseness. Trees in the back are a bit boring- too much the same. Figures are good, lose- a bit clumsy. Tone of yellow seems too green. Texture of weeds could have more tooth. Birch trees okay- like that there are 3. Next time, vary tree line, work on the yellow tones, etc. What did I learn? Maybe premix colors when it’s too cold. Also, stop while painting and clean palette at each interval (foreground, middle ground and background). I’m sure there is much more I could learn and improve on this plein air study, but I’ll spare you, you get the point. Now, to go read!

Selecting a format: Square or horizontal

Lisa David Art square paintings

Four square paintings. Each with their own compositional challenges, but when 4 small squares make a new square, it’s kinda fun!

 

Square panel paintings have become all the rage.  I started a few years ago when I was doing daily paintings.  Art history is filled with horizontal rectangular landscapes.  It’s the most popular format when painting a landscape.  Oddly, most windows in houses are vertical!  Portrait painters will typically use a vertical rectangle, as a body when sitting is typically taller than it is wide.  And now, with computers, we select landscape format for horizontal and portrait format for vertical. But what if you decide a square? Will you be a square? No, quite the opposite because as Huey Lewis says, “It’s hip to be square”! All kidding aside, let’s consider the square format, pros and cons.

Cons: There are composition challenges to a square format. It is tempting to put your subject right in the middle of a square. Often, people who work from photos use the 3:2 format as that is what a traditional 35 mm ratio is.  Apple phones provides the photographer a few options. If you know you will be painting from a photo (although not recommended), then select the format first. It will eliminate decision making and get you comfortable with the format.

Frames are sometimes difficult to find. We live in a rectangular world where walls and windows are usually rectangular.  I needed a 6″ x 6″ frame quickly and had a really hard time finding one, except online.

A square painting hung alone alone sometimes begs to have a partner. Paired paintings or groupings of square paintings create a nice decor element.

Pros: Personally, I like how the eye travels through a square format. Almost like a Pac-man hitting one side, traveling up to the other and down again. The square feels tight, visually. For still lifes, I think it is almost easier to create a sense of balance in a square format.

Decorators seem to love squares. It is a very common motif used in home design. A single square painting seems to bring a calmness and stability to a place.

I once read that the square is a man-made shape, that not much in nature is square. That’s pretty true. Squares combine to make bigger squares. They have a sense of order and completeness.  How about painting on a square format?  I usually employ the rule of thirds, keeping my focal point at one of the intersections if we drew a tic-tac-toe inside the square. Or, I will keep sky or land in upper or lower third. Unless, I don’t! Sometimes, an image lends itself to a square, like the grouping of trees above. They create a vignette aided by the square format, forcing the viewers eye up to the sky.

Apparently, social media LOVES squares! Instagram-square. Apple icons-square.  We like squares. Squares seem to be very hip at the moment! Who knows what’s next? Circle, get ready…..!

What are your thoughts? Are you a square painter?

Pulp FIction

5 Steps to finishing a painting… Am I done yet?

Parisian Artist

Classic Plein Air Painter finishing a painting

How do you know when you are done with a painting? Every artist must deal with this. Starting a painting has its own challenges but finishing takes finesse.  Like a hairdresser spinning you around in the chair! Voila! Even the masters struggled with finishing their work. Before you can finish a painting, it helps to clarify what your intention or motive is with the work. What were you trying to say? An outdoor plein air painting may be finished in a matter of hours because you have hit your intention. You may also be freezing, sweating or hungry and just plain tired!  But a studio painting may have a different intention. Perhaps you want to create a tighter painting with refined brushwork and the rendering requires accuracy.  For me, it’s harder to know when a larger studio painting is finished. It seems to have a slower transition from easel to varnishing.

As a drawing and painting teacher, I have had countless students hold their work 3 feet from my face and ask if they are done. And there it is. They may be done, but the work may not be. Sometimes, we just hit our limit. Our interest in the work is gone. Kaput.  Is there a rule? A checklist for when the work is done? Well, yes and no.

Frozen Milk

Frozen Milk Oil Painting, 12″ x 16″ by Lisa David

Here are a few things I do before I spin that hairdresser chair around and present my painting to the world. These things are concrete, technical aspects – not the emotional, subjective reasons a work may be done.

1. Step back and look at your work at viewing distance of 5-8 feet back depending on size. This will tell you a lot. Look at the piece as a whole. Is it unified?  Do you have repeating elements? Is there a focal point?

2. Hold your work upside down to make sure shapes read properly, especially ellipses.

3. Give it a left to right, top to bottom once over ensuring your brushwork is consistent.

4. Squint. Theoretically, you are not supposed to squint when you look at your art, but I find this helps me periodically while I work. Squinting reduces the detail information and allows you to read shapes and values.

5. Look at your painting through your phone or take a picture. Things look different through a new lens or through the glass. Did you catch anything wonky or awkward?

All these things assume that you have a solid composition, pleasing colors and a worthy subject. When all that is done, don’t forget to sign your work and share it with the world!

Voila!