Art theory Landscape Oil Painting Painting Plein Air

Sibley Take Two: Better?

Sibley Take 2, Oil on Panel, 12x9"
Sibley Take 2, Oil on Panel, 12x9"

When I took a peek at yesterday’s painting this morning I was disturbed by the color of the foreground wall (“YUCK!” I said out loud when I walked in the studio). I worked on it some more and now it’s closer to how I actually saw it.  I also touched up a few things here and there.

I noticed that I’ve broken a rule of composition: avoid placing two of something, better to have three. For some reason human minds prefer three items to two: two is boring three creates interest. Also avoid two shapes of the same size because contrast is what makes the painting interesting I’ve got two trees the same size, though one is a little further back; two bushes; the wall is split in two, etc.

So what do you think? Is this better than yesterday’s version? Am I done? I’m still bothered that the road and the top of the wall are nearly the same color, but they actually were just about identical and pretty close together.

Advice always greatly appreciated!

11 replies on “Sibley Take Two: Better?”

I think the second version is improved – lovely feeling of distance, and a slipping down the hill just across the road. I don’t think the ‘two’s’ matter – though perhaps I would add a couple of extra stones to the wall so the step occurs further to the right – so there isn’t such a vertical line of step, bush tree – maybe


(Sorry, I’ve never commented on your blog so far, but since you ask, and I’ve got something to say, I figured it as good opportunity as any to post my first comment).

I don’t think the “two” thing is a problem here, but what bothers me is this very dark (the darkest) spot almost right in the center of the painting. It is probably a shadow, but the shadow of what is unclear, and it rather reads like a hole. And since it is the darkest spot in a rather light painting, and it’s right in the center, it attracts too much attention. If I were you, I would have made it a bit lighter and a bit warmer.


This is one of your best color treatments, I think. The front of the wall is now ideal, especially with the teal highlights. But should the top of the wall be a bit darker, perhaps a dove grey? Don’t know. It just startles me a bit that it’s the same color as the path.

But truly, the color is so expert and astonishing. Also, the dusty path is quite, quite fine. I think I wanted a darker wall top to set it off.


If I could afford to buy one it would be the first. No 2 has lost the visceral energy and the middle-ground is fussy, I see Bacon vs Renoir and prefer Bacon, but Renoir told his truth no less than Bacon.


Take Two is better, the foreground colour is not so red. Okay, I’m in a hurry. Just browsing through your posts of the past three weeks. I’ve been in Fiji and didn’t look much at the art blogs – it was too darn hot – 85% humidity in Suva! And the keys on my son’s computer stick a bit in the heat.


Me, again.

I thought Lena was right to study the dark areas, because they are so needed to offset the colored ones. But Jana is using one of her typical composition patterns in placing a prominent dark area horizontal at the lowest point, almost and underlining, which is cradling color above it. Then there will be a dark spot, not very horizontal or vertical, in the center and two darkish, substantial, vertical shapes on either side of the top half. Her shapes grasp each other a lot. This is part of her originality, and for me it brings attention to the dark areas, where she handles color very well, and which draw more attention through symmetrical placement.

Also on composition, there is a distinct diametrical line from lower left to upper right, through wall, dark shadow under central plant, dark central mass, and right hand tree. This slant is repeated in the less prominent tree to the left.


I love the texture. Because I don’t oil paint, I really appreciate when i se it. I like how the second tree isn’t in as much focus as the big tree on the right. And, the mountains look so misty in the background which is great.


Okay; my 2cents worth: The red wall bothered me too but I knew it was red and that’s why it was painted that color. But now looking at the 2nd version I still know it is red but the bright sun has bleached out the color…….it is more pleasing to the eye now. As for the composition I think it works because there are multiples of two. I feel like I want to just climb over the lower wall, run across the hot dirt path and into the forest, past the two tall trees and into that sparkling stream below!!! I want to come paint with you!!!! The sensual exploration into oil has begun!


When people ask for advice I tend to go ‘back to basics’ and ask whether or not you did a thumbnail sketch of the monochrome values and big shapes before you started.

I suspect not with this one partly because of some of the issues which are getting thrown up.

I’m also wondering what the wall adds to the composition – I think I would have left it out.

I had a tutor once who told me that ‘fringes’ at the bottom of a painting are very difficult to handle and get right – and I’ve tended to find that to be very true. It’s not that you can’t have a narrow shape at the bottom of the picture so much as you need to be very certain of its value and how it will work and add value to the whole before it’s worth adding it in. Covering it up and looking at the new crop produced as a result is one way I tend to decide that particular issue!


Thanks so much everyone for the very helpful suggestions.

Katherine, I think you hit it on the nail with that information from your tutor. If I’d had that bit of compositional good sense I would have skipped the wall completely. Strangely the light on the wall was what attracted my attention first and so it rather stupidly became a focal point of the painting. I did do a compositional/value thumbnail sketch first, but should have done more than one, comparing with wall to without wall.

You’ve helped me to see that my repeated painting/repainting to try to solve the problem of the light on the wall is really a problem with the composition of the painting as a whole.

Now I see that that problem will prevent the painting from ever really working, no matter how many times I repaint the wall. Maybe I’ll just ask my neighbor to run it through his saw next time he has it out and crop it.



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