Tuesday, January 29, 2013


FALLEN WILLOW    8x10    oil on canvas panel
I was caught by the abstractness of this scene.  So, I tried doing a little study focusing on the shapes and values without much development.  I was surprised by how complete it feels.

I've started pre-mixing my colors before jumping in to paint.  I break down the composition into its basic, abstract shapes and select what seems to be the average color for each shape.  Two things are especially critical in doing this. First is to mix the proper value for each color in relation to the others, and then to try for the hue and intensity of each.

I see the shapes here as the sky shape in the reflection, the dark tree mass shape in reflection, the horizontal bank, the background trees and the focal shape of the willow tree.  Five shapes.  I try not to work with more than that.  It's usually all that's needed if you've done the work of selection and editing your subject to what's really important.  Three is even better, if you can manage it.  SIMPLE MASSES AND EXTREME CONTRASTS ARE THE KEY TO STRONG DESIGN.

Design isn't waiting for us in nature.  The artist must impose a design in order to express the one thing that is the organizing motive for the whole. Everything in the picture must support that chosen motive.The design we find in nature deals with the realities of survival and co-existence.  There is certainly beauty of design to be observed and learned from in nature, but it is rarely ready for transcription into a painting.  We, as artists, must choose from what we find, and then edit and re-arrange the material to express the thing we want to say. Radical simplification is necessary in order to deal with the vast amount of information available in any scene.

The camera non-selectively records everything the lens brings in.  This record is not an esthetic expression.  It is cold, factual and impersonal.  Even the photographer must, in some way, manipulate the image if he wants to emphasize esthetic concerns.  Simplification of shapes is the beginning of sound design.  From these we can effectively deal with line, size, direction, value, color and texture.  All of these need to be brought into a balanced harmony with unity.  Abstract simplification is absolutely necessary, unless you happen to be interested in copying information and detail, which is just too much work and no fun.

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