Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't Paint Weird Stuff

It is very tempting, when using photos as a reference, to slavishly copy everything we see in the picture.
For some reason, judgment seems to fly out the window, and good design sense goes with it. So, today's post is just a reminder to take a close look at our photo reference (this is also equally true in painting from life) and ask ourselves:
Will anything look weird when painted?
Take that cloud in the photo above, for example.  Sure, it's a real cloud, and occurred naturally. But, let's face it, it's weird.  It automatically becomes the center of attention in the scene.  Leave it out! Change it!
How about this one?
Here's a nice little garden scene with sweet little girls.  What could be nicer?  But, those bushes are just plain strange. If you are tempted to paint this, keep the children, import another garden scene. Here's a thought to remember:
The best art touches the universal, not the particular.

That's only one reason not to paint weird stuff, but it's the most important one. Paintings should speak to the universal. By doing so, they touch us at a deeper level, than merely recording the detail of one place or experience.  A painting about children walking in a garden that could be ANY garden, or EVERY child, is much more powerful than recording the weird bush-trimming tactics of one local gardener.

Here's another pitfall.  Sometimes you have to look for these.  They can happen without our noticing.
I call it the "faces in rocks" motif.  This one is, of course, very obvious.   But I have painted several rock formations, only to have my hubby look at the painting and exclaim, "hey, there's a monkey face!" or, "I see an indian head."  So, watch out for these. They can creep up on you.

It's a good practice to ask yourself "What is this painting really about:?" If you can answer that question, then
it's much easier to decide what to leave out. Sometimes what you DONT paint is more important than what you do.

No comments: