All or Nothing?

Hello. I am working on a painting and having a problem reconciling the way most of it is executed and the parts of it that I am (for lack of better way to put it) “inventing.”

The figure, sky and lantern seem to be coherent yet the rocks and landscape look inconsistent to the rest of the painting because I am relying on brushwork and marks that are not handled in the same way as the rest. Is it better to push this even further (not even attempt to recreate the grass/flowers/rocks as accurately as I aimed on the figure) and be even looser and more “painterly?” My tendency is to paint each blade of grass, each leaf, each tiny variation in rock pattern that I see in my photo reference, but given the size it would literally take me forever.

In other words is it less effective to aim “higher” (work towards complete accuracy) and fall short or aim for a more deliberately loose style/technique that may not look the same as the rest of the piece? Hope that makes sense.

I can’t figure out a solve for this and would love to know anyones thoughts or suggestions.

Thanks all!


My very first thought on seeing the image wasn’t about the handling but more about where the figure meets the landscape and whether there should be a hint of atmospheric perspective as with the overlapping landscape forms circled in green. Might that help knot things together? I think the handling/renedering of he landscape so far looks right; personally I’d be inclined to be consistent on that front, though not to the point of transcribing the full information content of the reference.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean re: “…as with the overlapping landscape forms circled in green.”

I think you might mean that there doesn’t seem to be enough depth between the two rocks and between the rock and the figure?

Thanks again. I really appreciate the feedback.

Oops so sorry I forgot to attach my image! Let me know if it makes sense now!

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I wonder if there would be a bit more of a shadow cast from the man’s shoulder and elbow on the small, low outcrop of rock right at the man’s pant leg?

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Good afternoon Tony,

As always, a very cool and impressive work. It is always difficult to assess “better” in these contexts. One can easily argue for aesthetic advantage with consistency in brushwork and resolution just as another can argue for aesthetic advantage in variety in painting surface, finish and brushwork. Personally I think that you have a really great balance here. I don’t look anywhere and think “this part isn’t done” or “wow, this guy just can’t paint grass.” One thing that I can say though (outside of merely stating a personal preference), is to watch that you don’t overcompensate with complexity when “making it up." Some people (myself included) have a tendency to add, add, add, when we are “inventing” areas of a work. The problem though is that we can quickly lose the general balance of light and dark that gives rise to the “believability” of those areas that we have reference for (or at least enough reference to rely on to find those comfortable resolves.)

I think that while your grass and rocks do work great—you can probably ease off of some of the detail/variation in the light of, let’s say, the rocks so as to lean them towards the nice balance found in those objects that you are comfortable with. This shift may offer a new dimension of consistency—the very thing that you may feel is being tested amid the varying brushstrokes and/or resolutions. It’ll definitely tip the scales—and probably in a direction you would like. Just some food for thought. The self-policing of over-reaching complexity in this context has definitely pulled imaginative-invention into the world of the real for me in the past. Just some food for thought.

Just for further insight–I added a more general rock face that emulates what I mean regarding simplification just so you can see it. I also added some “higher-resolution” grass so you can see it. Again though—I think yours is a perfect fit.


Of course now all I want to do is add a dialogue bubble to the actual painting. It actually balances the whole thing out quite nicely.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response once again.

I will definitely simplify the rocks and some of the grass as well.

I was even considering a Bob Ross palette knife approach (like when he paints mountains) on the rocks so that the brakes in the paint application will lend a “natural” look. I’ve just been looking at it all too long :stuck_out_tongue:

I hope to have a finished version to share soon.

Thanks again!


Looking forward to the finished version! Very nice job so far.

I agree with Anthony. Nothing jumped out as inconsistent in the painting, and I also found the highly-textured (many bumps and regions of light and dark) rock faces to be a bit distracting. If you simplify those a bit (fewer dramatic value changes), I think it will look better.

I notice that nine of the white flowers appear to be glowing. They almost form a constellation. Is that intentional and part of the painting’s content?

All of these words aside, you’re doing a great job with your painting! You should be proud.


Thank you John!

Yes the nine flowers are indeed meant to be a constellation and is the cornerstone of the whole piece. Its actually the constellation of Leo which in astrology if often attributed to creativity, ambition, courageousness. The figure is looking to celestial bodies for guidance/inspiration using the sextant navigation tool but the “constellation” at his feet is meant to convey the idea that we needn’t look to the “heavens” for guidance, its often grounded on earth.


Lol! I figured the dialogue bubble would be a crowd pleaser-- ha ha ha.

Great observation skills catching the constellation in the flowers John! Nice!!!

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Yes! Simplifying the rocks makes a huge difference…allows the eye to rest for a bit. Beautiful painting. Wish I could see it in person.