Monday, December 8, 2014

Composition and abstration

It's a fox and hedgehog thing: The fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The understanding that you seek is the moment you become both the hedgehog and the fox.
Here is where to start. And this is very, very, very important.
All good pictures (as opposed to listless, bad pictures) are written in sentences of shapes. These shapes can be as sharp and clear as a bell or implied, evoked and elided like smoke. Or they can be a combination of both. Lines are just long thin shapes related to the big shapes either side of them (which they both describe and are given context by).
The moment you stop writing your picture in this way, the moment you just make unrelated marks, the thing gets dirty and confused, and the eye snags and drags over the image, becoming bored and 'losing the thread'.
Go and look at a picture you really like. See how your eye can glide around in a continuous melody of shapes each related to the others, 'hooked' to each other, mashing, kissing, pushing, stroking, locking, knocking, shoving, pinching, caressing each other. This is as true for Rembrandt or Velasquez, Waterhouse or Sargent as it is for John Jude Palencar or Picasso, Monet or Modrian or Morandi or Muncha. Even the orange picture with the severed head advertising the 'Portfolio' on this page or the strap-line image at the top are expressive because they are written with this understanding firmly inside the artists who made them.
It is the difference between artists who write expressive, fascinating work and those who write dead statements about what we already know.

Read more:

Recommended book from that thread: A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art by Dan McCaw
From top Amazon review:
Design is fundamental to a good painting. Design is largely created by the values and shapes chosen. If you try out a series of thumbnail sketches you are more likely to come up with an interesting design. Doing a value study is going to help you focus on the values that will make the painting work. If you are going to paint in color you need to know how light and color work on the variety of light and shadow planes. Contrasting warm and cool colors is usually helpful. Paying attention to edges - when to accentuate, soften or lose them. The importance of using accents. Avoiding too much color mixing on the palette or mixing with the brush on the painting in order to create clear and interestingly textured brushwork.

The book is ridiculously expensive - but it seems to be just a review of compositional ideas you can find in many other books. I just wanted to add it to this post to yet again reinforce those ideas through repetition. Apparently, according to another review, the book is similar to The Yin and Yang of Painting (which I already have). That one is much less expensive, but my initial opinion was that it focuses only on a very limited area of composition and approached it a rather limited way as well. Might need to take another look. In fact I think it's time to do a post on all my composition books. 

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