Rules of thirds, mmh what’s that behind her on the wall?
Path through painting
‘It takes Patience II’
We’ve all heard of the rule of thirds, but there is also another good way to create a focal point:
A path through the painting. That refers to the way line work creates a dynamic path that leads the eye around the painting. I often use it as it makes for a very interesting composition. When out in nature we have to look for these things. I think they are almost more important that the subject itself! A good painter can create a great painting out of the most drab and boring subject, i.e. a junk yard or an intersection with nothing much there but ugly buildings, just by making use of this!
That brings me to another point: it’s easy to get lost in the subject and neglect the composition. In this instance, dry docked boats with men working on them is great subject matter in itself. However, if we just show a boat on stilts and nothing else that can be a bit underwhelming to look at. After all, we just have our pathetic, two dimensional piece of paper or canvas to capture it all! So I tried to create a path to make it more interesting. I also created big areas with, what I call abstract painting. The entire hillside behind the boat and the entire foreground has an abstract quality to it. I always say, in representational painting, 80% of every painting is non-representational!
Finally, ‘pardon the dust’, so to speak: my website is currently down because it gets a much needed revamp. Hopefully it won’t take too long. Stay tuned!!
When working out scenes with dramatic light, it is important to remember where the lightest light is and not paint over it. Watercolor painting depends on the whiteness of the paper for the ultimate highlight! Once we mistakenly paint over it, we cannot bring it back.
You could argue: well, I can always lift! True, but it’s still not the same as the untouched paper.
Speaking of lifting: In my opinion, lifting always feels a bit like ‘fixing things’ – unless you lift while it’s wet – why not paint it right in the first place without having to come back later and lift paint here and there?? But I digress..
In the above painting, the huge foreground puddle as well as the background body of water is nothing but the untouched paper. It feels very light, because everything else is darker. The interaction of values does it. It is an illusion, that’s all. That’s our job as artists: create an illusion. In the reference picture the water was not bright at all, more like the color of the sky. A pretty dull scene. By exaggerating the values of the scene, we create more interest and the result is a luminous, lively watercolor. (15″h by 29″w)
Two very different compositions that convey very different moods. Where to place objects and shapes in our work is certainly one of the questions that need to be worked out even before picking up a pencil to draw, let alone a paint brush!
Over the years, I have ruined many paintings by disregarding this simple but important fact. It can be very disheartening, especially so if the painting is finished! There’s nothing more frustrating than to put it up and think, ‘mmmh, I don’t like it – what happenend??’ Well, what happened was that I placed the focal point wrong and no matter how nicely it was painted, it’s just not working. Sometimes it’s even hard to figure out why exactly it isn’t working. You just know in your heart, something is wrong. That’s a good time to check your composition. It is usually the culprit. That or the values, either one of those…
When deciding on a composition, it is important to ask what you’d like to accomplish. Do you want the viewer’s eyes to go around the painting finding different points of interest? Is it all about one focal point? Is there a lead-in? What role does the background play, if any? Most artists get too caught up with light situations and forget all about design! Sure, the light is the most important thing, but if you just get that right and nothing else then the painting is not exactly a success! Just food for thought.