Marooned – Self Critique

Here’s a nice little 8×8 inch oil painting I did this past weekend:

Marooned by Dan Johnson
“Marooned” – Oils on canvas – 8×8″

In the interests of constant self-improvement, I’m going to start critiquing some of my own paintings, so I can focus on the areas I need to work on.

The Good

I’m pretty pleased with how this one turned out, and once again, as with two of my other recent paintings, this was a retry of a subject I had attempted previously, the first attempt pictured here on the left:

Initial failed attempt on the left
Initial failed attempt on the left

I had wanted to paint this little broken up rowing boat ever since I first saw it and photographed it whilst on holiday in Portugal in 2013.

For my first go, over a year ago now, I stuck to the scene exactly as it was in the photo, with the boat in front of an odd-looking small white house. I couldn’t make it work how I wanted to, so I gave up soon after the inital block-in. I wasn’t “feeling it.”

So when I tried it again, I decided to get rid of all the surrounding elements and focus in on just the boat, making it the undisputed subject of the painting.

I think that works really well, and emphasises the feeling that the boat has been abandoned and left to decay.

I’m happy with the drawing of the boat. I think I was pretty accurate with the tricky angles, and it looks convincing (to me anyway!)

I also emphasised the warm glow of the sand around the boat, by exaggerating the darker areas in the corners.

In general, I’m happy with the overall painterly feeling of the piece, and the value, temperature and edges throughout the painting.

The not so good

There are a few things I feel I could have done better here.

I made the beach recede into the background, losing all detail and blending into a suggestion of distant sea at the horizon. Looking at it now, I think I could have made that transition slightly more distinct without losing anything, and the part on the left of the boat is perhaps a little over-blended.

The line separating the glowing sand from the darker area in the lower left is a little too straight, and might have been more appealing with a bit more of a jagged edge.

The little blades of grass sticking up into the cast shadow of the boat are a bit too uniform, almost making a ‘Y’ shape, which doesn’t look quite natural.

I may have added some clouds to make the sky more interesting, just something subtle to avoid distracting from the centre of focus.

I think those are the only things I would consider changing if I painted it again. All in all, not a bad result. Let me know what you think!





  1. Emma Avatar

    I really like it. It creates a feeling of warmth and peace. Beautiful.

  2. Mike Barr Avatar

    Dan – if an artist can self-critique like this, then they are on the way to greatness.
    I like what you have done with this subject. What freedom it is when we realize that we can change scenes with impunity – a lot of artists just don’t get this.
    I reckon on your skies just vary your brushstrokes – have some down-strokes too even on a blue sky, it just adds a bit of life and bravado.

    1. Dan Avatar

      Thanks Mike, I appreciate the feedback! Changing the scene is something I am just starting to get used to. Putting my artistic license to good use!

      I think I need to be bolder when painting skies. Flat blue tends to be somewhat boring 🙂

    2. Dan Avatar

      By the way, I just checked out your site. Beautiful work! 🙂

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