Is My Painting Working? | Artists Network

Janice K. Johnson


You’ve worked hard, put in many hours, taken a slew of classes and therefore should have the necessary tools to determine whether or not your artwork has merit. When it comes to critiquing our own work, however, we can be especially severe. Before you release a painting into the world, take a step back and—with emotional detachment—use Karin Richter’s handy checklist to evaluate it.

by Karin Richter

Questions for a Self-Critique

When a painting is nearing the finish, take time to assess your success with the following questions. Rotate your painting and check it from all angles. You may be surprised by what you might have oth-erwise missed.

  • What is my painting about? Have I made my intentions clear?
  • Does the composition include a variety of shapes—big, medium and small? Are they arranged in an interesting fashion?
  • Does the piece have good distribution of values with light, medium and dark passages? Are the darks leading my eye through the picture?
  • Is there a focal point? (See thumbanils above.) Does that area have the highest contrast and the most detail? Is there dis-tinguished edge handling to attract attention?
  • Are my color choices—perhaps an analogous, complementary or triadic scheme—working?
  • Is the light source consistent?
  • Are all objects lit from the same side?
Concerning Style

Many aspiring artists are worried about developing a style and may take classes from artists whom they admire with the hope of learning theirs. Typically, however, one’s personal style evolves over time. The more you paint and practice, the more your own artistic voice will emerge. Your art is a reflection of you. When you create, be yourself. Express and paint what moves you. Often, a bit of constructive critique from someone you trust or admire can help you improve, but ultimately, trust your own instincts. Take in as much art as you can. Study the work of other artists. Attend art shows. Visit galleries and museums. This helps you to distinguish what makes a painting special and to see how your own work fits in.

Canadian artist Karin Richter ( is an Eminent Pastelist with and author of the book, Make Your Mark in Pastels.


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