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Birstall and District Art Society 

Appraisals Evening with Amanda Jackson

Tuesday 7 March 2023 


Amanda shared the benefit of her training and experience to explain what she thinks works well about a painting, and what might be done differently to improve it. Because this was a session appraising members’ paintings and we don’t have those paintings in front of us it is not useful to pick out comments relating to individual paintings, but I hope the following general advice will be helpful to refer back to.



Amanda had brought a colour wheel with her, so she concentrated many of her comments on the use of colour.


  • Green, brown, orange colour scheme is restful due to being on one side of the wheel. 

  • Split complementary colours give contrast but are not jarring (e.g. pale green against orange).

  • Repetition of colours from one part of painting to the other create harmony. 

  • Rural scenes - low saturation greens and greys. 

  • Turbid green for sea - white over a darker colour to create the translucent effect.

  • Make a broken line to make things more pleasing. 

  • You can notice the colour of a shadow on a snowy day. For example bright purple on white. 

  • Watch out for primary colours together that can give a picture a lack of harmony and a childlike quality. 

  • Use dilute opposites on a colour wheel to brighten a dark area. 



  • In order to paint light, capture the darkness. 

  • Look for what is most important in the picture. Could use backlighting to bring things together. 

  • To overcome dark against dark, you can pick out some areas of light to provide contrast. 

  • Dark things feel heavy and light will feel lighter. Think about making lighter colour on the foreground lighter to make it feel more grounded. 

  • Use opportunities to create useful contrast in light and shade. 


Portraits and animals

  • Take care when painting living things that curves don’t become straight. 

  • Be careful that detail at the edges does not draw the eye away from the areas of focus.

  • Where a face is turned away, take care not to include too much of the furthest eye.

  • Try out glaze work - using a thin layer of paint to soften and blend. 



  • Think about the route through a landscape (for example a path). 

  • Use abstract techniques in landscape by concentrating on shapes.

  • Composition: skating in - making a path meander through the picture. Have a reward at the end. 


General devices

  • Use a key shape elsewhere in a picture to create shape harmony by repetition. 

  • Lost and regained shapes echoed within a picture. 

  • Mark making and creating shapes and then turning them into something engages a different part of the creative brain. 

  • When something is loose and abstract it allows for imagination to take over. 

  • Consider composition when cropping a picture. Also best not to let an object ‘kiss’ the mount. 

  • Lost edges and crisp edges can be used to advantage by letting the edge bleed into shadow to help seat the object into the space. 

  • Cubism - like looking at something from a different perspective through time.

    Meg Grant


Click Here to view some of the excellent pictures
brought in by our members

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