Category: blog

Composition playground

Composition is one of those aspects of paint learning that will never be complete.  You can never sign off and say, “Well, I learned that now on to painting”.  Composition possibilities are endless and fascinating.

An art friend and I were talking composition a bit ago, specifically joking about JPI–jolts per inch.  In truth not a laughing matter.  In many schools of composition the punch of your composition or design takes precidence over everything else in the painting.

Any of your favorite illustrations and movie stills have that NOTAN/JPI punch and drama.  The rest of the story is subordinate to that initial kick in the teeth, mainly with your values.

A design of lights and darks that frame the design and all fits within that.

This is one important school of composition.

One thing I have been experimenting with though is applying the composition concepts of Pollock, and Tobey to my figurative work.  Not designing with NOTAN punch but subordinating image elements to the overall flow of the color and rhythm.

In this portrait I broke up all the architectural rigid forms, the lighting and even the figures.  This same composition could have been a very crunched NOTAN design of crisp dramatic lighting and dark shadows. but i purposely broke everything up with pattern and sun dapples.

Making technique organic to the work

One of my goals lately is to make my technique organic, to the story in the piece, not try to impose one technique or process on the entire composition, but rather to have each bit of the vision speak in its own technical voice.

I mean if I decide to paint a scene in a very realistic sense then I impose that technique evenly over every aspect of the scene, the figures, the lighting, the perspective, the bricks and mortar and the atmosphere–to make it all work as one cohesive illusionistic whole.  This is all well and good.  However, if there is one thing that the 20th century artists taught us is that even if you are a realist, there are myriad ways to tell that real story.  For example, Picasso has some powerful paintings of his children, a mother teaching her child to walk, children on the floor drawing.  These have a visual strength, punch in a simple story that had he painted them in a late nineteen century style the paintings would have been trite, treacle.

So different things call out to be painted differently.  And I have never, in my head, been pinned to one style.  But only recently have I been trying to bring that style choice into the workings of one canvas.  In stead of deciding the overall style language first and building within that frame, now I am trying to lefft style choice be left open and to be planned within the painting process on the brushstroke level.  Each to its own voice.

The serious risk is off course, total and ugly disastrous chaos.  But hey, no risk is boring.  If I didn’t love risk I’d be working a paycheck job.  I may end up with all disasters but maybe somewhere in all the trying will be a small gem that shines.

sketch

just a quick sketch of a model from the other day.  It is very important to keep my hand in everyday or I can really get a flabby hand.  A lot of the studio day is of necessity taken up with stretching canvas, mixing palettes, that sort of thing.  But I really need to draw daily or when the brush is in hand it is not in shape.

drawing class

There is a very talented crop of new art students coming up. I am teaching a figure drawing class now in Bath and I have to say it is a thrill. Some of these students are really very good.  And the daughter of a friend is putting together a portfolio for her college entrance.   self-portraitIt will be a joy to watch them grow.

I feel it is the responsibility of those of us with a few tidbits of art knowledge to pass it on as best we can to this next generation.