We have a quarterly critique at Lakewood Arts Council's Community Art Center and Gallery, and Saturday was my day to lead the critque. (I'm getting warmed up as I'm also doing an evening critique on Nov 4th for the Mountainside Art Guild.)
I wanted to provide a framework for the critique rather than "I like it" or "I don't like it", so what's better to provide the framework than the 5 elements of design?
1. Line (includes edges)
4. Value (contrast of light and dark, usually on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the darkest)
Every painting will employ most, if not all ,of the 5 design elements, however some elements will be stronger than others. If you think of them as tools, you can even plan the execution of your painting such as "I'm going to employ color and texture in this painting", or "I'm going to use values and make my painting high key".
As we critiqued each painting, we talked about which tools were the strongest in play, which ones needed to be strengthened, and how one might improve their understanding of the the elements.
For instance, if you really want your work to be about line, study techniques employed by pen and ink artists, or calligraphy, or Asian character writing. If you want your work to be more about color, study color theory until you see colors in your sleep. Just as you would learn to use a screwdriver to drive a screw (you wouldn't use a hammer!), learn to use the elements available to you to make your work more accomplished.
I am watching a DVD by David Leffel on still life painting and one of his remarks is something to this effect "...your paintings are only as good as your understanding of the elements and techniques...."