St. Johns Bridge, the Reprise

Good critique groups are worth their weight in gold — and then some.

Thursday I met with the Meet and Eat crit group — 4 couples altogether, representing at least a century and a half of professional art experience. And then there’s me.

I showed the panorama of the St. Johns Bridge, which I thought was in pretty good shape. It’s now in even better shape. The group, after making lots of kind remarks, spotted the “bumps”,  made brilliant suggestions for changes, I came home and took most of their advice, and the panorama is even better now.

One bumpy spot was also noticed by an online friend, Barbara, who wrote a kindly note, but said that there was one thing that seemed a bit off. I tried to correct for it, but obviously didn’t do enough, because the Thursday crit group also lit on it almost immediately, even after I had reworked it.

Here’s the original of Panel 2:

And here’s the new version:

Note the difference? The critiques all said that the petroleum tank made too much of an impact in the total scene — it jumped out. So although it is white in its reality, I toned it to echo the big base of the bridge in Panel 1.

Here’s how the tank fit into the earlier version of the first four panels:

And above is how it looks now — pushing it back into the middle ground enhances the large east side of the Bridge, which is what I wanted to  happen.

In the next blog or two I’ll show some other changes I made after listening to the comments of the group.

Finding the right critique group is difficult, but I seem to have been accepted into two groups both of which are gentle yet have very sharp eyes and good analysis skills. Each group has a different dynamic and different talents, but both have helped my painting skills immensely. –June

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10 Responses to St. Johns Bridge, the Reprise

  1. June says:


    Good thoughts. I won’t be able to try this out for a while, but I’ll try to remember to let you know if it works. It’s a bit touch-and-go — or maybe I’m just inexperienced. But I definitely want to echo the bridge light — I was thinking of enhancing the big tree in front, picking up more of the bridge color and enhancing it. I’ll have to see whether I can also make highlights on the tank.


  2. Olga says:

    You are right about losing the strong morning sun. I’m not sure that making the sky lighter in itself will overcome this. How about putting highlights onto the areas you darkened – to echo those on the bridge support on the left – ?


  3. june says:

    Thanks, all. Terry, as you know, changing one thing sometimes makes unexpected other changes. The perspective wackiness was somewhat deliberate, because I was looking at this in the morning sun. When I toned it so far back, I needed to make it less “wacky.” Odd things happen. I might also have been standing rather than sitting for this particular panel, although that’s a different matter.

    Carole, you are right — the pano isn’t about that blasted tank, although it shouted a lot in the morning sun. Sheila, I’m interested in your dubiousness.

    Olga, I’m always interested in Hockney’s eye — I have sometimes taken photos of the scene before and after a painting session (particularly if it’s long) but never of the painting and and the scene. An interesting difference. As well, his looking at them before he starts out again is worth keeping in mind.

    One thing I noted in changing the tank was that I lost the sense of the brilliance of the morning sun. So I’m continuing to whiten the sky and water (Shawn on FB noticed that) and lighten the hills with cadmium yellow a bit more. I didn’t notice that difference until I saw the two on the blog, side-by-side.

    And so it goes….


  4. Olga says:

    It just goes to show how much our eyes adjust real life for us.

    I was interested to see in the TV programme David Hockney did recently about his plein air paintings that he photographs the painting and the scene at the end of each day and looks at those snaps before setting out again. Sometimes reducing the composition like that can help make decisions about where to execute greater license.

    You are so right about the right kind of critique being worth more than its weight in gold!


  5. Jeri says:

    Yes, yes, yes….the water tank was too bossy as it was, and I am sure it you are looking only at that spot it is the prima donna it wants to be, but by toning it down, the entire essense of the St Johns Bridge is captured. Great groups are hard to find, it is all a matter of trust I think, and commitment.


  6. Sheila says:

    I’m another one that gets too caught up in literal interpretations. It’s often a subconscious thing too, so I really have to check myself every now and then, remind myself I DO NOT have to have an exact match.

    I was dubious as I read along, but indeed, the muting was the thing to do.


  7. acarolegrant says:

    I need to thank you so much for sharing this June. I am such a realist, that I would have just said ‘well.. it IS white’… but what a difference. It tucks in beautifully, in fact, it seems smaller…I checked several times to see if it was made smaller. I like that three items were ‘muted’. It was probably the yellow more than the white?
    Doing what you did really makes the ‘scene’ as whole pop…it really is NOT about the tank. And I LOVE the tree-line.
    Thank you.


  8. Terry Grant says:

    The color is an improvement and you have also made the top of it lay down by adjusting the perspective a bit. That bothered me more, actually, than the color. I do love the tree-covered hills in the background. Beautiful line and so Portland! Thought about you when I drove across the St. Johns bridge a couple nights ago.


  9. gerrie says:

    Wow! What a difference. It really helps to anchor the landscape under the bridge. We must never forget that we can take artistic license!!


  10. Barbara says:

    Oh soooo much better


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