After 40 years of painting, I find the joy of painting is wanting to create not just put down paint. I find joy in the variation of color and the layering of it. I find joy in thinking of a shape and allowing the brush to do the work. That to me is a far cry from trying to paint things with rules. That is not to say that I do not want to keep in mind warm against cool, dark against light, smooth against texture, light source, guiding of the eye in a painting, perspective, atmosphere, telling a story, point of interest or interests, reflection, and on and on. BUT: I think there is a place that can be reached in painting that can be even further than that. To me it is a God thing, a creative guided thing and that is what I hope and pray for. There is where the joy and even more thankful can be. I know that is not a place where I always am by any stretch, but that is where I want to be. I am so very, very thankful for it all!!! To God Be The Glory
Below are two different value patterns of the same subject. It does not mean you must like it, but I hope it makes you think of all the possibilities of painting the same subject simply by changing where the values lay within your painting.
Texture describes things in a painting. It is easier to give a feel of it with oil or acrylic. Texture can be rough, smooth, fuzzy, slick, gritty, etc. These surfaces can be accomplished by the type of brushes you use or by the use of palette knives. I must admit I use my fingers at times but that is not a healthy thing to do. I was taught it is good to put rough against smooth paint. Using texture that way could fall in the realm of Conflict which is a principle of design. Good or bad, below is an example of rough against smooth in a painting.
Around 40 years ago I studied the Element “color” in regard to the Principle of Design “harmony”. One I studied was Ed Whitney’s book, Complete Guide To Watercolor Painting. In it he talks about 5 color harmonies: Monocromatic Harmony, Analogous Harmony, Complementary Harmony, Split Complementary, and Triadic Harmony. I took a workshop years ago from Margaret Ellerman and she listed: Analogous, Moncromatic, Complementary, Triad, Split, Double, and Sextad. All these harmonies have to do with what part of the color wheel we might use. For example: Analogous is where 3 to 4 colors located adjacent to each other on the color wheel are used. The reason for pre-deciding what part of the color wheel we will use keeps us from using everything in the color wheel -which may in some cases be OK. I personally have probably used the Triad Harmony most i.e. making a triangle in the color wheel and limiting myself to using only those colors in the triangle. However, I might use one color out of that triangle in the focal point with a light repeat of that color in a couple of other places. If that is too much for us to take in then I have been told in the past just Color Me Brown and Blue. You might like looking at another person’s description of Color Harmony.
Last week the blog was on the element "Line" and how it can be applied to each of the 8 Principles of Design. This week the element “Shape” we can use as food for thought as it applies to the 8 Principles of Design. Only one principle: Conflict or Contrast will be mentioned. I will leave how it applies to the 7 other Principles as food for thought. Shapes can cause conflict when geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles and triangles and organic shapes such as circles, ovals, etc. are applied to the same painting. How and where they are applied in a painting can involve the other Principles of Design. Below is a painting with geometric and organic shapes. That does not necessarily mean that I did it right.
I know this can be mind boggling - at least it is to me. If you take each of the 7 Elements of Design there is the potential to apply each of the 8 Principles of Design mentioned in an earlier blog. In this blog I will talk about probably the least used Element of Design: Line. In future blogs I will probably not cover how to apply each Principle of Design to each Element of Design but will just try to put up some food for thought. These things are not all my own ideas because they have been mentioned in different ways by different people.
One of the Elements of Design is Line. Line is probably the least used Element in a painting except maybe when painting a power line or fence. Lines can be fat, thin, straight or curved. When using an Element like Line, we must then think how to possibly apply each Principle of Design:
1.Balance: How do we keep the element Line in balance in a painting I.e. are lines distributed right to give balance to the painting? There can be formal or informal balance i.e. a formal similar line or lines or informal balance where different types and numbers of lines are used to give the appearance of balance.
2. Harmony: Here we must think about the harmony of line types I.e. lines are similar in ways that give the painting a feeling of Harmony.
3. Gradation: Gradation can for instance be from a thick to a thin line or a dark to a light line, etc.
4. Alternation and 5. Variation: Alternation is like wall paper and Repetition is like maybe repeating the Line several times in the painting but keeping everything in balance.
6. Conflict: For example we may think thick against thin, curve against straight etc. Conflict can bring interest but too much can make the painting seem jumpy.
7. Dominance: Is there more thick than thin, more dark than light, more curve than straight. There are other ways I am sure to apply dominance.
8. Unity: I remember taking a workshop once and the instructor said if you cut your painting into pieces would you be able to tell if they all came from the same painting.
Below is a painting I did where I subtly applied lines in a curved fashion within the flower petals to direct the eye in the painting.
Last week in the blog 7 Elements of Design were mentioned. This week the list is the 8 Principals of Design:
4. And 5. Alternation and Variation: Can be grouped as Repetition
6. Conflict or Contrast
In the coming weeks the blog will cover some about how each Elements of Design relates to Principals of Design.
I learned early on about Elements and Principles of Design and how they relate to each other in painting. I hope to post in future blogs what I have tried to learn about them. That is not to say I know the complexity of it all. I just would like to share a little bit about them.
Below are the 7 Elements of Design:
When I painted in acrylic, I used a deviled egg tray with a snap lid for the paints. By putting the different colors in the trays and using the snap lid, it keeps the acrylic colors moist, although occasionally it is good to spray the paint with a mixture mainly of water and a little flow aid. The snap lid serves as the pallet. You can occasionally peel off or wash off the colors on the palette. With this system and 2 coffee cans of water (one to keep the used brushes wet and one for cleaning the brushes), the start up and clean up is fast and easy. A good Deviled Egg Day.
I remember showing my first mentor a painting of a cabin I did. She kindly let me know my perspective was off. I then bought a simple perspective book and studied about how the viewers eye level and horizon are the same. I learned about vanishing points and how they can be selectively picked. Then color, value and edges must be considered. Sometimes it is good to remember that tall buildings also have a vanishing point. Color, value and edges could have been done in so many different ways in the painting titled: Farmers Market.
I took an art workshop around 40 years ago. The instructor said that we have design naturally in us. I asked if that is true why do we need to learn all these rules. He said that we know design when we are children but as we grow up the world influences how we think. He said look at a child’s painting. There is a house in the middle and a tree on each side. He said they know perfect balance but it is boring. However, even perfect balance can be beautiful if the center of interest and the balance on each side are done beautifully by a child.
Many years ago a teacher at an art workshop said to paint shapes and not things. That really bothered me because I wanted to say paint a tree not a shape. Over the years I have learned that if the various shapes are painted beautifully then the thing is beautiful and more so the reality of what you want the viewer to see. That is not to say that you do not at some time during the painting process think more and more of the thing you are wanting to paint. Below is an image where I enjoyed the creation of a shape that in the end was a tree trunk. The joy is in the shape of things.
How do we hold our brush when we paint? I remember years ago at a workshop watching an artist use his brush. He was going around the room touching up student's paintings. He held his arm out full length and his hand was at the end of the brush with it full length. He could make strokes of paint that brought their paintings to life. I remember the student paintings looking great to me but after his few strokes of paint they looked awesome. Years before that I was taught you should move your hand further back on the brush if you are painting too tight. Sometimes we can paint holding the brush like a baton and other times hold it like we are holding a fork and other times like we are holding a pencil. It is all in how we express it.
I believe painting in layers can give excitement to a painting. By that I mean when painting some shapes it is beautiful to paint a shape with a color, then add layers of color over it leaving some of the underlying colors showing. I will give an example. The Teddy Bear has a tan look to it, but there are various colors within it.
There are a couple of drawing exercises. One is contour drawing. That is where you cannot look at what you are drawing unless you stop moving the pencil. In this exercise you are to imagine that your pencil tip is actually resting on the edge of the object you are drawing. In this exercise you are then drawing what you see and not what you think you see. I heard an artist say once, “A chair does not sit on the floor. It SITS on the floor." I once watched an artist speak out loud what she was thinking as she did a control drawing. The logical side of her brain was battling the creative side. Like, “If you don’t turn that pencil now you are going to have a bad drawing.”
The other kind of practice is gesture drawing where one rapidly scribbles in a form either still or moving. Try it watching a sports event and do a person rapidly. It is amazing how you can then put edges around them which gives you a much more live form.
You are probably familiar with the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
Years ago I was taught, before computers were in heavy use, to buy red cellophane from an architecture supply store. You could put it over the painting and see value instead of color. A couple of years ago I bought John Lennon red lens flip up sunglasses. I went to Wilson Park and plein air painted by myself. I think I have plein air painted alone only two times. I need to do more of it. Anyway, they really worked. I could not see my palette colors but knew about where they were generally located. I blocked in the attempted mixes on the canvas based on the value I could see. I stopped using the glasses once the values were blocked in then finished the painting. It was really an awesome day though the wind blew so strong it blew my easel over and spilled mineral spirits on my shoe. I enjoyed visiting with people who came by that day. Plein air painting makes for a good day. Sadly I do not do enough of it. I hope we block our paintings in with not so much thought of color like wearing Rose Colored Glasses.
I enjoy painting sunflowers. Looking closely In the center of the flower before the seeds begin to form to me it is like looking at a carpet closeup, but that is just me. When I paint the center then I need to think carpet so that my brush moves loosely in that thought. I know that sounds like I am out in left field, but I have noticed I have been doing that more lately. There seems to be a difference between painting something in a structured way compared to letting your thought of the place or thing being transferred to your brush when applying the paint. I have found fine tuning, if any, is much more creative when applying the finishing touches. Lately in painting, I believe if we think less and express more we will have an expressive brush.
I remember 40 years ago I took a piece of my art to a frame shop. It was a watercolor. The frame shop owner tossed the painting on the floor to look at it. Being new at art, I thought that was some kind of an art world thing. I later learned there are different ways to look at your work to study it for errors like hold your painting up to a mirror or looking at it upside down. In any case, lately I try to not get into to big of a hurry to say a painting is finished. At least for me, at times I may become too easily satisfied with the painting I called finished. It pays to study it over and over again after we think a painting is finished. An even better painting may result in pausing before we put it out for others to see. Finished? It is a good question, I believe.
This probably is not an accurate definition of vignette but I was taught years ago that a vignette painting is one in which a part of the painting comes within an inch of each edge of the paper or canvas. Anyway the edges of the painting, whether a vignette or not, are important. Early on I would regularly do a painting and then realize I did not not consider the edges and then fill them in with something. I was told once in a workshop that if you have 2” along the edge of the painting and it does not relate to the rest of the painting then you have a problem. Seems I just could not learn. Once I showed a fine artist friend in Santa Fe one of my paintings and ask her to critique it. She said just cut off 2” of one side of the painting and it would be fine. That just irritated me that I still could not see it. I cut off the edge and sold it. If the edges are considered first at the beginning of a painting things go a lot easier for us. It is good to be edgy.
When I was working in watercolor years ago, one of the things I predetermined was the intensity of the colors. Back then I determined the intensity based on value. As an example I might make all the mid-values basically intense (MVI), the lighter values dull (LVD) and the dark values dull (DVD). That left me several options:
MVI-LVD-DVD MVD-LVI-DVI MVD-LVI-DVD MVI-LVD-DVI MVI-LVI-DVD MVD-LVD-DVDKind of Boring MVI-LVI-DVI Kind of Garish
I know, I know you might not want to do that but it is an interesting design principle. It is good I think for us to try new things. It is a creative thing I believe So That Is The Question - Intensity or No Intensity?