Tag Archives: reflections

About composition

downtown crown morning square

One of the pleasures as a volunteer at the National Watercolor Society is to be exposed to all kinds of watermedia art and to see lots of watercolor paintings in real life. While I have learned a great deal just by studying other artist’s works, there were also pretty sobering moments. For instance, it is disturbing to see how many artist’s ‘enhance’ their artwork with photo-manipulating software on their computer and their piece looks only half as good when you see it in real life! That, however is a topic for another post. Or not.

Composition: One of the most important aspects of a picture. There was a time when I utterly underestimated how important it actually is! Luckily, there were people who helped me along. My past teachers of course, but also a lot of studying on my own. A couple years ago I started collecting the catalogs of all NWS exhibitions since 1950 something and whenever I have spare time, I always sit down and analyse artwork of past shows. Surprising how much one can learn doing this!
I also have very good books on the subject matter. One of them by the late Jan Herring, given to me by her wonderful daughter Helen during a workshop. I think it’s out of print, the book title is ‘The painters composition handbook’. Jan talks about letters of the alphabet that can be used as a composition tool by placing them in your work as guidelines for major shapes. Not every letter works, but A, C, H, L, X, Z for instance all work. Then there are triangles, cruciform and other shapes.
Nowadays, I always try to at least apply some of these helpers to my work. Then I let it sit for a bit and double check if everything works before picking up a paintbrush.

triangle compo

These two paintings are almost identical in composition. The big difference is, of course, the light situation. It can’t be any more different, really! Can you see the triangle that I arranged the shapes in this one? To illustrate my point, I drew it on. It made a big difference in this piece. In fact, all the great techniques and beautiful washes etc. are all worthless if the compo is no good!

One last tip: Study great abstract artists like Elaine Daily Birnbaum and others and you’d be surprised to see how much you can learn from them, even if you’re a ‘representational artist’, like myself! I always say that my representational art is 80% abstract anyway!

More street scenes!

I am in the middle of my yellow taxi cab series. I am completely taken by yellow cabs and I can’t stop painting them, aahhhhh!!

These scenes are basically black and white, or more correctly, warm and cool greys with a few colors mixed in while still wet. If you imagine the first one, Yellow and red, Manhattan, without the cabs and the red umbrella, it’d be an incredibly dull painting!
01_yellow and red, 2011 by frankeber

Yellow and red, Manhattan, 2011 ::: Watercolor on paper ::: SOLD
Posted in the New York, USA gallery

It took me many tries to get the taxis right. They are basically cadmium yellow and orange applied with two washes, but I made sure they are connected to the streets by letting the yellow bleed into the grey underneath. This is very important, otherwise they would just look like somebody glued them on top.

Notice also that I am placing them so they are surrounded by blue-ish greys, in effect two complimentary colors, therefore achieving a nice contrast and making them jump out. Maybe that’s why I like those taxi scenes so much! Orange taxis on blue-ish roads! By the way, the orange doesn’t come out right on the screen. It’s just not the right color and not bright enough, no matter what I do….

yellow and red, 2011 by frankeber

My idea for the second one, The Commuter, initially was to have two guys chatting in the foreground, one guy sitting in the car. The way I painted him, or the way it came out, he looks like he’s opening the car door. So I went with that, like he’s just getting into his car early mornings. As long as there’s a story, I am happy with it!

the commuter, 2011 by frankeber

The Commuter, 2010 ::: Watercolor on paper ::: SOLD
Posted in the New York, USA gallery

I am also happy to mention that my blog was recognized and added to the “50 best blogs for watercolor artists” list.

Thanks for adding me to the list and Happy Painting!!!

CAUTIONARY NOTE: I was alerted by someone that my second link could be fraudulent. After all, that someone pointed out, the website has absolutely nothing to do with art or watercolor whatsoever, and creating lists sounds like a flattering way of getting popular bloggers to link to a website, and gain page visits, for nothing. Obviously this needs further investigating, so for the moment I have removed that link. I suggest that anyone else contacted by that website think about what they’re doing in good faith.