Today’s critique comes from artist Anne Driessen. She has painted her two cats in acrylic paint. Her goals were to achieve a graphic style. Anne started off with using an outline that she created with Gimp, a photo editor. Starting with a good base drawing is key, so good job on taking those extra steps for that! It’s awesome that you were stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying a style that is new to you! 

Looking at some things we can adjust to improve on this piece, first, your reference photos are not some that I would ever consider using because they were taken with a flash, washing any dimension out of your subjects. What makes for a cute photo does not always translate well into art. One of the big things artists complain about when working from photo is that it is hard to see the dimension in the subject so their work comes out looking flat. A good reference photo will help to avoid this. Here for example, the whites in the calico are almost one solid mass so you can’t see where shadows and highlights should actually go. Once you’ve painted a hundred or so cats from great reference photos, you will get so that you can take a lower quality shot and get the dimension you want because you will have pretty much memorized where those shadows and highlights should go. The next problem here, again on the calico is that on the darker areas you can see almost no detail, again leaving you with a flat image.

Another problem is that the flash hit weird making the eyes misshaped on the calico. You’ve copied your reference photo in that one eye is more rounded than the other, but this would be something that you need to correct in your painting. Copying the reference photo won’t always make for an accurate piece.


My next issue with these reference photos is that they are SO tiny. Even if they weren’t taken with the flash, you still wouldn’t be able to see much detail, like the direction of the fur or smaller things around the face. While aiming for a more graphic style, you’re probably not looking for every tiny detail, you still want to be able to see more than what you can in these photos.  You may be thinking “but the photo wasn’t THAT small!”, the reality is that the subjects are teeny tiny.

As a portrait artist, I am regularly asked to paint people’s pets where the dog is across the yard. I can’t see anything but a general shape that is dog like. You, as the artist have to be able to recognize what you can and can not work from. The reference photo will directly affect the quality of your work.

My last tip is on the color, while going for a graphic style, you can get away with adjusting the color a bit, but even so you want to make sure that the overall piece is well balanced. On this one, my eyes are drawn straight to the bright pink ears. I would tone that down, and adjust the oranges on the calico not to be so bold. For the tabby colored cat, I would use a more light grayish tone for her base. To get that color I would first mix black and white, then add a touch of my brown tone to warm it up. The grey would be my strongest color though. You also want to watch your markings quite closely. On a pet that has stripes or spots, those need to be in the exact right spot. If you put them all over randomly, the customer will notice, and will complain!

Given your reference photos, I can see what you were looking at in many of the areas in this piece. I would love to see what you could accomplish with better photos! Keep painting!!