According to several teachers, my “strengths” are color sense, design, and paint application (I always thought that was an odd one -- yes, indeed, when I put it on, the paint sticks to the paper!). My main “problem,” according to these same beloved teachers, is descriptive, uninteresting shapes. They have repeatedly told me the following.
Design takes precedence over accuracy. Artists impose their own feelings and shapes on a subject. Choose shapes and put shapes all over the painting. If shapes are too accurate (descriptive) or too general (“cartoony”), then they’re dull and can be grasped in one look. Exaggerate shapes and make them “yours.” There’s a difference between an accurate shape and an interesting shape. When drawing shapes, look for asymmetries, and if there aren’t any, create some. When painting, ask “What does this piece of paper NEED?” and “How can I make this (always asymmetrical) shape more interesting and more mine?”
Although I think these lessons are starting to sink in, I still struggle with shapes. I recently made a little painting of birds. The shape of real birds is actually fairly boring and symmetrical, so I try to distort them, but make them still look like birds. In this painting, I think I leaned too far towards accuracy.
In addition, the two big birds are too similar in size. The one on the right is a little better than the one on the left. But the one I really like is the small duck! It is assymetrical, has some unexpected pieces, is made up of lines of unequal lengths, has some neat curves and some sharp angles, and still looks like a duck. The interesting silhouette is filled in with subtle color variation and a bit of texture.
I also liked how I got looser on the left side of the painting. Look at these cool flowers.