Need opinions (genuine critique) on a painting

As background, this is an assignment to do a self portrait (shoulders & up) that incorporates “the inner you” in a surreal way. The other criteria is the canvas must be 5’ x 5’ so this painting is almost as tall as I am. (I’m 5’2"). I’ve never worked this big and I’m a bit intimidated. Anyway, I’m at a point now where I have some decisions to make and I’d like some input other than my own.

Ok first off, not to sound all pretentious or whatever, I hope, but I’m going to put most of this post in a spoiler box and ask that if you are going to participate, that you first click here and look at/analyze the painting (understanding that it is unfinished, still in progress) with no preconceptions about what I am going to ask about, so that it won’t affect your opinion.

Ok, did you decide what you thought of it? Ok, so then please help me with this stuff:

[spoiler]First off, does anything stand out in a bad way? Like is anything drastically “off”? If so, please tell me what.

Next, I think I want to lighten the background surface in the upper right corner… I think it goes too dark compared to the lighter stuff below. yea or nea?

Third, and most importantly: My teacher thinks that the hair “needs more work” because he “isn’t sure if he’s buying it” (??whatever that means) but I think that it’s kind of at the point where if I do much more to it, I’ll over-work it and it will end up looking worse. Please tell me what you think of the hair. (See, I don’t always agree with my teacher’s opinions in general*, and his idea and my idea of what looks good are very, very divergent, so I don’t just want to take his opinion as gold and run with it.)

Lastly, I am not sure how much paint I want in the hair (the blue/purple/pink paint, not the actual painted hair) so I’d like an opinion… enough as it is? Needs a little more? Needs a lot more? Entirely stupid to have done it at all? Details if possible.

Note that there are some areas that are still quite rough and unfinished, such as the razor blades and the hand in the upper left–I’m aware of those and am getting there. Slowly. Oh God so slowly. Big painting = very slow :frowning:

*by way of example, his opinion of >>this<< painting was that I need to add some lines to “break up” or “interrupt” the circular flow of the image. The circular flow being, of course, the main focus of the painting, and interrupting it would destroy it, IMHO. It’s stuff like that that makes me not automatically take his suggestions to heart. [/spoiler]

Thanks again. This is due for final semester critique next Monday (4/28) and I just want to make sure that I get it looking as good as I can by then. I’m horrible at being objective about my own stuff (aren’t we all?).

I’ll jump in first…

It’s very striking & well-composed. I take the ‘theme’ to be: rather than reveal “the inner you”, you’d rather use art to construct a beautiful mask.

My criticism would be that there is a serenity to the facial expression which is contradicted by the razor blades which imply some kind of violence or danger (to me). So conflicting moods.

That’s intentional; I’m bipolar.

I will spoiler my answers so as not to influence others opinions. But I do like it.

EDIT: Post #3 explains the second part of my response to #1 so ignore that part.

[spoiler]1. The nose seems to big for the face to me but if it is proportional to your real life nose then ignore this opinion. Also I don’t get the razor blades and they seem out of place to me. Are they used as some sort of painting technique? If so then I can understand why they are there but if not then the meaning is lost on me.

  1. Yea. I think it would make the hair stand out more.

  2. Hair looks good to me but I am not a painter or have any formal training. The “circular” painting looks good and I agree with you about lines breaking up the circle.

  3. I think it might look good if you took the exising colored strands of hair and extend the color further out towards the tips. Not a lot though but I think a little more color would look good.[/spoiler]

Hi Opal! Okay, first, it’s good. I like it. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is quite good.

I agree that the top could be brighter. It would punch up the hair to help separate it from the background. Assuming that’s what you want.

The hair itself looks fine to me. I wouldn’t work it too much. If you wanted to add some more highlights that might be enough.

As for the paint in the hair, it’s just about right, but again, a little more would help. Not much, maybe 10% more than is already there.

I’m not sure about the razor blade in the middle. It’s a bit jarring. Maybe if a couple of locks of hair were being severed by it?

Anyway, I hope this helps. Good luck in the class.

Actually there used to be a few locks of hair clipped off by it, but I didn’t like how they looked so I am re-doing them. I’ve painted over the old ones and in another day or so (when that paint is dry enough) I will paint them back in again.

I saw this in another thread, and I think I like it even better now.

Opal, I can only give you my honest opinion. I absolutely love it. I love the hair. I love the eyes. I love the can. The hand print. The hand(s). Those eyes. The nose. Did I mention the eyes?

I realize my taste may not be trustworthy, but I just disagree with your teacher about almost everything. Let me put it this way. If I saw your painting in a gallery and could afford it, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. It’s really beautiful.

I think it’s pretty cool and I’d be tickled pink to have a fraction of that artistic ability.

To me (an untrained eye) the only thing that I’m not wild about is the handprint of paint on your shoulderblade. Everything else is so detailed and three dimensional, and there’s something about that part that just looks…off. I mean, it looks like you actually messed up and put a handprint on the portrait.

(which is probably what you were going for, so what do I know?)

I agree about the nose. Looking at it I think that it has gotten a little bigger every time I “fix” it. (I hate doing noses–they’re hard!)

My mother always hated doing lips. She said they were hard for her to do well. :slight_smile:

For me it’s noses and feet. Gah! Cursed noses and feet!

Firstly, Kudos to you! this is by far the best work I’ve seen from you, and it has that professional look.

The nose is a little off to me. It muddies up around the outer edge, and the nostril appears too prominent. A little definition will go a long way there. The hair does look a bit fuzzy to me, but that is easily remedied. Leave the paint as is, imho you do not need any more. I like the shadowing where it is, unless you are planning to go serious with the contrast, I’d leave it.

I know nothing about compositional rules, etc. I like looking at paintings though and trying to figure out what makes them work or not for me. That said, I LOVE this!

So as not to influence others before they view it…


I like that the face is not the most brightly-lit part. Being subdued makes it more interesting and mysterious, pulling me in.

The painted face gives me multiple associations.

  1. This is the artist’s view of beautification—a non-artist would use makeup, so why not paint for a painter?
  2. A mask. This is the artist hiding herself behind her art.
  3. War paint. She does battle with the world from inside her art.

The wild profusion of hair brings energy but doesn’t make it wild because the eyes are clear, calm, and in control. That’s a great juxtaposition.

The hands…

I like the two that seem to belong to the artist. They suggest immersion, perhaps a self-makeover.

The third one probably put the print on the shoulder. That is is the same color as the other three makes me think it may not be another person at all. It seems to caution the subject from going too far.

I’m not sure yet what to think about the razor blades. Maybe the artist cuts herself, literally or figuratively.[/SPOILER]
Hope it helps!

Ohhhhh - me loves art!

I agree with the teacher on not buying the hair part… imo, the tube of paint throws it off balance.

When i see the use of colors:
Blue - emotional. The lighter blues are calm, easy going, a little hint of what’s inside. The darker blues are unpredictable (think storm-like), uninviting but mesmerizing/fascinating and dangerous.

The eyes are sad, but wide open and seeing much (sorry, couldnt blowup to actual see what you see). The expression says: I have a story - a sad story of violence & heartache (per the pinkish-red color you used a little in the face, a bit in the hair (which reminds me of blood-soaked hair from a trauma to the back of the head), and darker red on the throat.

Because of the dark blue handprint on the shoulder matching your left hand (which, btw, looks like is grabbing your legs in pic 4) but I am uncertain if it is a reassuring “I’m there for you” cup on the shoulder or a print from a shove which would then, imo, indicate that you are your own enemy & because of the unpredictable actions of your left hand it leaves its mark on you. I lean more toward it being an unfriendly hand because of it’s pose - like when someone throws up a hand in attitude.

The minimal use of purple may be a lack of knowing one’s own self worth.

The first thing thing the portrait reminded me of was a friend from long ago who was sad, intelligent, artistic, self-destroying (drugs & alcohol), and hungered for love so bad she was needy. She was a Gemini and had 2 faces and many masks. She was beautiful and tragic.
She was not to be trusted, but you trusted her anyways.

The blade really threw me off to the point that I want to paint over it. It doesnt seem to belong - even if I knew you were a cutter or a coke addict… just doesnt seem to flow.

By all means, I am not a professional art-reviewer/appraiser or whatever they’re called. I called it as a potential buyer/admirer/hater.
**My post wouldve been #2 if I wouldve been quicker to type the review so I was unaware of the intential bi-polar. I do not think you need the blades to give the onlooker that impression.

Literally, in the past tense. I’m on better medication now.

Pixelated: I’ll take your comment about the hair as your opinion (thank you), but clarify that that isn’t what my teacher was talking about when he said “not buying it”. He was talking about the hair that is painted not looking good enough or real enough, not about any sort of compositional thing.

If this weren’t an assignment (IOW if it was purely an aesthetic decision) I probably wouldn’t have put the razor blades in. However, he was really insistent about this having <capital letters>Deep Meaning</capital letters> about our inner selves, yadda yadda, and the whole bipolar thing is a pretty huge part of who I am.

It’s interesting to read the different interpretations of the third hand. I my mind it’s more of a magician/orchestra director type of thing, drawing out the “whatever” of the rest of the painting. Possibly with an accompanying “poof!” sound effect and some glitter. Or not. I actually have several different views/meanings inside for different parts of this painting.

I forgotten to mention that the use of colours is appealing to me, and with me being on the emo/watery side of things I love most of what the picture says to me (with the two exception I mentioned above)!

Someone (Gauguin, maybe?) was quoted at marveling how Van Gogh applied paint directly from the tube. That was my first thought and I like the association.

The blade really threw me off to the point that I want to paint over it. It doesnt seem to belong - even if I knew you were a cutter or a coke addict… just doesnt seem to flow.


They work for me, especially as they’re embedded in an undefined background.

Wow, thanks! (sorry, somehow I missed this post until just now)
Also, to respond to a sort of unasked question that a couple of people have hinted at, my intent is that all three hands are supposed to be mine. This isn’t a set-in-stone, you-have-to-agree kind of element of the painting, it’s one of the areas I’m leaving open to interpretation, but that’s how I personally read it. My thoughts behind all of the hands, and the painting in general, is that as a person I’ve always tried to not only make art, but be art, become art. So the idea is sort of a transformation, a process of modifying myself into art. Kinda.

I think they will also work better once a) they’re painted in and not so rough-drafty and b) once the severed hair is added back to the bottom one. (The first go-round was sort of half-assed and they looked too much like nice neat little individual snips, and not wispy/flowy like I wanted them.)


Literally, in the past tense. I’m on better medication now.

Good to hear this.

OK, I can see that interpretation. It’s something that I would notice in subsequent viewings.