I show my paintings to my wife and daughters. One of my daughters is an artist so I ask her to look at the painting first as I’m working on it. It’s not that I value her comments more but, being an artist, she sees things a little differently so I can show her the partially finished painting. My wife and younger daughter are actually more critical but their viewpoint is different. Between the three of them I get some very good feedback. I find it’s very easy to lose sight of the direction of a painting that I’ve worked on for months. A little well placed critique can completely change my view of an image. I always have the right to not listen but usually I do and I find it very helpful.
Paintings that I do almost never follow a photo exactly. At the moment I’m doing a still life and I took the photo, so the photo is very close to how I perceive the image. If I use a photo that I’ve found on the internet, or several. I invariably change a few things. I often use multiple images and put them together. I almost always find something that I would like to be different. I did a painting of Siwash Rock in Stanley Park, and I must have looked at 20 photos of the rock until I found one that I thought worked. I’ve taken many pictures of Siwash Rock but none of them had what I needed.
My wife and youngest daughter want to compare the painting to a photo but my oldest daughter doesn’t usually care. Sometimes I don’t have a photo to compare the painting to, but I still get good feedback. I recommend this to other artists, show your work to someone else. It may be as simple as a new set of eyes looking at the image. They may often see something useful.