Self-critique: Little Piggie(s)

Early piglet (comparison)

These two paintings were done about a month apart, both from the same reference photo. The comparison between them is instructive in that reminds me of how far I’ve come in just a few weeks.

When I completed the blue pig, I felt a sense of triumph. I had captured the likeness of the source photo and I’d worked through a couple rough spots where I really didn’t know what I was doing. In particular, the shadow was too light and gave the sense that it was floating over the background. I darkened it and the piglet settled onto the background a bit but not entirely. The composition isn’t horrible either though I think it is a bit low. I was proud of that piece.

Until I painted the yellow one, shown here on top. The brush strokes are far more confident. The composition, I think, is better, more dynamic since the legs and their shadow lightly challenge the bottom of the frame. The skull has a clearer sculptural sense, and the form of the skeleton is less generic than in the first attempt. But my favorite part of the yellow piglet is the rib cage. Where I had carefully — and rather inaccurately — tried to depict each individual rib in the first painting, in the yellow painting, the ribs are more a mass, as they are in the source but with better use of light. The shadows are wrong but less wrong than in the first attempt. The rear legs actually do lift off the surface and I think I achieve that sense, though I made a mistake with scumbling white to get the effect. I think I even prefer the under developed background of the yellow piece to the fussy blue “wall paper” of the blue piece. The mottled blue is almost more interesting than the piglet in the earlier attempt.

To be clear: I am not claiming that either piece is “good.” Both are just sketches, completed in a little over an hour. Part of learning a skill is learning the ability to observe one’s own performance in order to advance. I intend to get as good at painting in 2016 as I got at making omlettes in 2015.