Monday, October 15, 2012


GHOST YARD   11x14   oil on linen panel
It's interesting how hard, focused work seems to bring forth the very thing you need to clearly grasp in order to progress.  The saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." has proven true for me again, and again.

I'm reading my new book on the transplanted Russian painter, Sergei Bongart.  Nice job of telling his story, but invaluable for capturing so many of his clear and concise pieces of painting wisdom.  Here are two that have helped me recently:

Please, first paint dog, then the fleas!

Simple Masses and extreme contrasts are the key to strong design.

A jewel like that can be such a wonderful find!  There are no immutable "rules" for design, however there are principles that will help us immeasurably in our exploration of making better art.  I've mentioned NOTAN before in this blog.  It's one method of synthesizing an arrangement of simplified masses for a balanced and interesting design. It's strength is in the way it forces us to think of the scene in two major masses, expressed in light and dark.  Here's a notan version of my composition GHOST YARD.  It is not a "value study", rather  it is a plan for the way the major masses will interact  expressed in "extreme contrast".
Notice that one group dominates (in this case, it's the dark).  From this simplified arrangement, I can see if my visual idea 'works'.  Does it pique my esthetic interest?  Is it a compelling arrangement?  If so, I can now more clearly approach a simple value study (below), in which I separate a dark, mid-value and light group of value ranges.  You can do more if it suits you, but if you'll take it even this far (again, letting one dominate) in your planning, you'll have a very solid start to begin your painting.

By mixing all of your color values to fall within their specific value group you'll gain wonderful control over the color relationships.  With this in hand, you'll be far more capable of paying attention to other important things like brushwork, shapes and edges.  Which brings to mind another favorite jewel:

Careful planning promotes spontaneity!

It may, at first, seem not to be so, but it will prove to be        the case if you try it.  The musician who is able to freely
and beautifully improvise has put in hours of practicing and learning scales, chords, arpeggios, modes and all the things needed to spontaneously express his music. The same holds true for the painter who wants the power to create a beautiful image.

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