Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Every painting problem comes down to four visual elements:  shape, value, color and edges.  Line, direction and size and texture are the other design elements we use, but they're actually dealt with in support of the big four.  This painting isn't so much about an oak tree, as it is the primary visual qualities that go into making the picture.  When I go outdoors to paint, I'm not hunting for "things" to paint.  I'm looking first for interesting shape arrangements.  Shapes may be the result of light and shadow, or the form of objects, and it helps to practice seeing flat silhouettes.

What makes for interesting shapes?  Well, first, it helps to be aware of what makes for boring shapes. The circle, square, and equilateral triangle are all "static" shapes, and tend to kill "dynamic" shape relationships by acting as a dead spot. The eye will go there, as to a target.  Trouble is they're just so self-contained they tend not to contribute to the interaction of the whole design.  "Good shapes" are usually flat, interlocking, varied, compound, and oblique. This is a huge key to improving our personal sense of composition, and I'll talk more about this in another post.

Although value is one of the three elements of color, it's so important that it's worth treating it separately when it comes to composition, and lighting.  Color is lovely in and of itself, however in painting it's most beautiful when placed in relationship to other color. Exploring and practicing color exercises is necessary to become familiar with the magical qualities of color, and developing your personal expressiveness.  Edges range from hard to lost, and they play a powerful role in the "feel" of a painting.  One or two hard edges is usually sufficient and it's worth considering the effect of using the whole hierarchy from firm, to soft, to broken and lost.  They can communicate form, create atmosphere, direct the eye, even affect the mood.  Whether abstract or representational in approach, these four are the main players.     

©Jimmy Longacre 2014
11X14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
subjective realist landscape paintings

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