Shapes and Simplicity
This series of blog subjects are designed to address the "structures" that make a painting successful and, hopefully, significantly enhance the experience of viewing art more meaningfully. In other words, to get you visiting galleries with knowledge and flair! The blog in February explained how irregular and random patterns of shapes and spacing affects our interest in an art piece. In March I blogged about the way lines and angles in a painting will both lead the eye and direct attention to the focal point. Today's blog is about the power of simple, basic shapes in a compelling painting.
"Start like a turtle and finish like a hare", a quote from one workshop I attended, speaks to all the thought and planning that happens even before paint touches canvas. After the subject is determined, the artist studies the elements and their values to find the most simplified value pattern by squinting hard until all she sees is light and dark shapes. This can also be done by adjusting a photo to show only 3 values in grayscale. You can try this safely at home!
She is looking for interesting shapes that have variation in size and value (dark/light). Looking at the shapes in this way reduces them to the abstract level (not a thing...just a shape) In fact, a very good painting will have a simple underlying abstract quality to it. The 3 or 5 shapes (always an odd number for irregularity) chosen should vary not only in their edge quality and size, but also in the level of light to dark. The painting should not be equal in amounts of light and dark; one or the other should dominate so that it is either a high-key painting (mostly light) or low-key painting (mostly dark).
Often an artist will do several thumbnail sketches until she determines the strongest composition for the scene. She may even use "artistic license" to move a tree or add a path if it helps achieve the purpose of the painting. The thumbnail sketch is useful as a pattern of the simple shapes and their values and can be referred to as the painting progresses, checking and comparing to stay on course.
So, next time you visit a gallery here are some great vocab phrases you can drop: "irregular intervals in shape and value, high key, low key, underlying abstraction, 3 (5) values, interesting patterns". And hopefully, more than just making you look smarter, knowing these bits and pieces will bring much more enjoyment to your art viewing!
Thank you for reading my blog!!
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Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...