Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson

Notes from Problem Solving for Oil Painters

by Gregg Kreutz


I1. Every painting needs an abstract idea. You have to find that idea interesting.

I2. Eliminate extraneous details to simplify the painting's message.

I3. Always have an area of focus. Differentiate and prioritize.

I4. Consider how the viewer "reads" the painting and build the composition to direct the viewer's visual attention.

I5. At every moment, ask yourself what you can do to make the painting great or better. Always seek improvement. Try finishing one area.


S1. Simple shapes carry. Are the dominant shapes as strong as possible?

S2. Are the shapes too similar? See I3.


V1. Could the value range be increased to maximize the painting's visual tension?

V2. Could the number of values be reduced? Fewer details, more impact. "Art is a synthesis, a condensation, not a documentation." See I2.


"The thing to remember is that you're not really painting a green apple, you're painting light hitting an apple."

L1. Is the subject effectively lit? Single light-sources are more powerful than multiple light-sources.

L2. Is the light area big enough?

L3. Would the light look stronger with a suggestion of burnout?

L4. Does the light have a continuous flow?

L5. Is the light gradated?


H1. Do the shadowy shapes describe the form? Don't copy shadows. Use them to reinforce the overall shape of the object.

H2. Are the shadows warm enough?


D1. Would more foreground material deepen the space?

D2. Does the background recede far enough?

D3. Are the halftones properly related to the background? Halftones are shaded areas, which imply a connection to the background. Therefore, they should have some background color to recede properly.


O1. Is the underlying form being communicated?

O2. Is the symmetry in perspective?


C1. Is there a color strategy?

C2. Could purer colors be used?

C3. Do the whites have enough color in them?

C4. Are the colors overblended on the canvas?

C5. Would the color look brighter if it were saturated into its adjacent area? Create a sense that a color is so intense that even the air around it is saturated with that color.


"The viewer becomes involved with the painter in making the transition from reality to canvas." Let paintstrokes show to involve the viewer.

P1. Is your palette effectively organized?

P2. Is the painting surface too absorbent?

P3. Are you using the palette knife as much as you could?

P4. Are you painting lines where you should be painting masses? "The painterly approach is to see reality as a series of near or far volumes."

P5. Are the edges dynamic enough? Alternate hard and soft edges to enhance depth.

P6. Is there enough variation in the texture of the paint? Dark, thin. Light, thick.