Friday, March 11, 2011

Contemplative Painting

Earlier this week, I wrote about artistic license. When we paint with artistic license, we reinterpret our subject and analyze it as a combination of lines, masses, patterns etc. Then we freely use those elements as we see fit for our composition.

Another way to paint is almost the reverse. I'll call it "contemplative painting" because it's best done with a sense of mindfulness and peace.  This little study is one example:

In Contemplative Painting, the artist does edit and select, but the main purpose is to look more and more deeply into the subject. As the artist loses track of time he begins to see the flow of light over and around the subject; the way light bounces back into the objects and reflects off the surroundings. Painting this way, you will become wonderfully aware of the miracle of seeing. 

This is best done with still life painting, because you won't be rushed. When painting outside, you will always have fleeting effects to capture -- it's delightful but it's a different way to paint. When you are painting from reference, whether photo or sketch, you are back to re-interpreting what you see. And portrait painting involves the interaction with another person... or, again, a photo.

Even within the discipline of representational art, we find as many approaches as there are artists. Isn't it great to be creative? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Artistic License

Sometimes I'm a slow learner. I know artistic license has to do with moving things around and leaving things out. I know we can't paint every leaf and twig, so we only paint something that serves to remind us of what leaves and twigs look like. Also, maybe our landscape is marred by litter. Well, we don't have to paint the litter just because it's there!

For a while, I felt kind of like I was lying when I left out things like litter. It was as if I was showing a place as more beautiful than it really is. 

It took me years to realize that all these details -- twigs, litter, etc. -- are really nothing more than elements of design. A tree, for instance, can be a mass or it can be a collection of lines. The leaves can be a mass or perhaps a pattern.  The litter itself can serve as a pattern in my composition. 

This cottage is inhabited by people who like plaster lawn ornaments. I am not a plaster lawn ornament person, so my first inclination was to leave them out. But as the composition developed, it became clear that it needed more than just the house and tree. This is a loosely-rendered painting, so that gave me the freedom to include spots of dark or light where I needed them (inspired by the lawn ornaments)... and the viewer can decide what they represent.

I used another bit of artistic license in the foreground. In reality, this was entirely asphalt. There is nothing wrong with that -- many Impressionist painters have used wet asphalt to great advantage. The problem with the asphalt in this case is that it covered about a third of the picture with a large, blank, flat shape.

This composition needed a dramatic sweep upward to the tree, so I just put that in. Who cares what it is... you can decide.