What Makes A Good Painting?

At first I thought that a good photo and a good painting subject were one and the same but for me there is something different about a painting. With a photo it’s the subject and the lighting. That’s true with a painting too but there is more; with a painting I try to look for a subject that I can interpret rather than try to produce a photo realistic rendition. Water is a great subject because there is so much detail in the reflections and they are so abstract. Right now I’m getting lost in logs in my present painting so I’m making the details up as I go along. I try to stay focused on what the logs really look like but I get lost in them so I make mistakes and end up incorporating the mistakes into the finished product. So people might look at the finished work and think “My god he made that up. What a great artist”; If they only knew. I suspect many artists work this way. Of course a master actually can make it up. I watched one of my teachers do a painting in about 4 hours without a picture to refer to. He just made it up as he went along and it was beautiful.

I like to paint a subject with some foreground so that I can add detail to it. I’ve learned that detail does not make the painting look real but a little bit of detail in the right spot can make the whole painting look real. I pick spots in the foreground very early when I’m laying out the painting, where I will add detail. I now consider a painting good when it has an abundance of reality illusion.

I consider this one of my best. Although I’m not actually happy with it and I can’t honestly say that I like it, the painting surprises me each time I look at it because parts of it have an illusion of reality that I never planned for.