Friday, May 10, 2013

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 5/10/13 What Matters

It may seem obvious that just because you see something, it doesn't necessarily belong in your painting, but, somehow, we often forget. What we know well when we are contemplating can evaporate as soon as we begin to actually paint.
Even if you have the detachment to wonder whether the bit you're about to paint needs to be generally stated or richly detailed, how do you know the answer? How can you tell what is essential information and what is optional?
First of all, it helps to remember to squint. With your eyes narrowed way down, similar colors blend together. The value range is compressed. Separate shapes merge and become part of a simpler pattern of darks and lights. Basically, what remains visible when you squint is enough to tell the story. Anything more than that is embellishment - you can add it if you want to, but the viewer will get along fine without it.
If your painting has a definite focal point, There's another tool that makes deciding what matters easier. Focus on the center of interest. With your attention fixed there, use your peripheral vision to observe the  part of the scene you want to treat next. While the focal point is detailed, the less important parts of the big picture are relatively indistinct. This is the appropriate way to treat the areas that play a supporting role. If you shift your focus to each shape as you prepare to paint it, everything will be competing for the viewer's attention.

Bound                       David Taylor
The trees and buildings in the background of David Taylor's cityscape are deliberately simplified. No doubt he could see more specific information, but he included just enough to tell us what we need to know. Standing where we are, we don't need to know much about the window treatment of the distant buildings, or the leaves on the trees. What matters is provided. What doesn't is left up to us.

For homework, look at a scene with an eye toward the role each part plays in the big picture. Can you afford to give the paint room to run, as Taylor has with his trees?

Your job is to allow the paint to be in charge as much as possible. The guidelines you establish for what matters come from your intelligent assessment of the job each passage does. With those few standards in place, the paint can do no wrong. Have faith.

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