Hadley Valley, September Morning – And a Reflection on Criticism


Hadley Valley September Morning (final), 9x12 oil on cotton canvas ©Maggie Capettini

Hadley Valley September Morning (final), 9×12 oil on cotton canvas ©Maggie Capettini

This painting was done en plein air. I did a post about the painting experience and about the finished painting here on my blog. Many months later, I opened my email to find I had received a comment on the painting. Here is that comment:

I’m curious about why you use such a curved ‘horizon’, meaning the edges of the field and the tree tops. It gives the image a bit of a cartoonish look…which perhaps you intend? Just a thought.

I was taken aback. This was posted by a person I’d never had any contact with before. It was the only comment they had ever made on my work, and it was – gasp – negative! I let this feedback tumble around in my mind for a bit. Reflected upon it. Noted the different ways in which I could proceed …to internalize it, take it personally, feel upset …or, to try to look at my painting as a stranger would, to read the words objectively and apply them to the visual (my painting); to try to use this moment as an experience of growth and openness rather than defense and close-mindedness.

I decided to email the man who posted the comment and find out more. It turns out, Bruce has a background in teaching and is a painter himself. We emailed back and forth a few times, and while I didn’t agree with every one of his points or suggestions, I did decide to go back to this painting and attempt for greater accuracy in the lines of the painting. I used photos I took on site and attempted to give a more natural look to this landscape. I also toned down the color of the warm-colored grasses near the tree line. The painting still has its essence of spontaneity, but the distraction of the bright red curve in the middle of the painting has been moderated. Also as a result of my emails with Bruce, I decided to dedicate more time to sketching and observing in a more habitual way so that it becomes “second nature”.

It felt good to choose a path of growth and positivity. I hope this inspires you to do the same the next time you’re presented with the decision. And, feel free to give me your honest, thoughtful feedback! 🙂 Thanks, Bruce, for engaging me in a critical exploration of my own painting.

Before and After:


4 thoughts on “Hadley Valley, September Morning – And a Reflection on Criticism

  1. I like these before and afters. And I do like the changes you made. Good for you for taking the criticism and not letting it get you down. I find that some of my best improvements have come when somebody (it helps when the somebody is in the field and has some know) dissects my portfolio and picks it apart. ONce I’ve licked my wounds, I often incorporate their suggestions (though not all). I agree on the sketching part, but wow, isn’t it hard to find the time? It does pay off, however. Great job!


    • Thanks, Eileen! It is a challenge to find the time. Yesterday, while waiting in the drive-thru for my coffee, I grabbed a receipt and a pen and started sketching clouds on the back (clouds are something I’m wishing I could capture more quickly, since they change so fast). I’m doing my best, and to heck with anything formal or fancy. At this point its do or don’t-do. I love that we are having an artist dialogue long-distance…thanks for engaging in my blog!


  2. I love the dialogue as well! I keep meaning to invest in a tiny moleskin (WAIT! I think I put one in my xmas stocking…must find), so I can keep it in the diaper bag and pull it out for a quick sketch when I’m in the pick-up line, or, yes, the Starbuck’s drive-thru line!

    Quick question: do you watermark these images, or do anything to protect them other than sign them?


    • I’ve read differing opinions on watermarks. Some say its obligatory. Others say it detracts from the art and, if you keep your paintings small enough (dpi), no one will be able to print them clearly bigger than a couple inches. I think at some point (soon?) I will work on a subtle watermark – that way, wherever my painting image may go – even by way of innocent and helpful sharing – my name will always be immediately associated with my work.


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