I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Monday 4 March 2013

Answering a question about my Opus Demo

Chesterman Beach reference photo

Received  some interesting questions on this blog following my Opus demo on Saturday. Instead of replying directly to one comment/questions I decided to share the answer on the blog so others that were present  could share in the answer.

Comment/question received

Brian, your Saturday workshop was informative and inspiring. A pleasure to attend. At the end of the workshop you expressed that you weren't particularly happy with the final outcome - (which most of us thought was pretty good). Earlier in your presentation you touched on how you would go about evaluating the success of a piece - by checking against your personal "checklist". I meant to ask you to explain a little about why you were not pleased with the piece. Can you elaborate a bit on what you thought was the problem with the piece? It would be most helpful to understand your view.

Thanks again for the very worthwhile and enjoyable workshop.

A short and simplistic answer is that demos have a time limit - and paintings don't. 

The  painting from this demo was developed to the stage where most paintings enter a difficult ( I used a different word in the demo) stage. If stopped at this point the painting has not reached its potential. And that was my point – we ended at an unfinished stage. Its not that I was unhappy with it (knowing that it could  be carried towards an acceptable finish) – but I was unhappy having to leave it at that stage for the demo and those beginner painters thinking that was it - finished.

So the question was - what would I do with it now to take it to a finish.  I wish I had taken a photo so that I could discuss this painting specifically. I don't, so the answer has to be general in nature. 

To progress with a painting you need some idea of where you want to take it - or at least what the possibilities are. I am a “what if “ painter with acrylics – I tend to make changes to see if I am happy and change again if not. I know from experience that I can go back and forth and find my way out. 

 I had a problem assessing the painting at the Demo.  To evaluate a painting I need to get back  about 10 ft. Particularly recently, when I developed problems in one eye,  I have had trouble evaluating up close. So that is the first step for me. Getting back from it to consider “the big picture”. I normally stand when painting and am constantly walking back to evaluate. 

Then  I start to go through my self-critique check list which I pretty much have in my head now.  I don’t want to go through it all on the blog– but I encourage others to organize their thoughts for reviewing their work.

It starts simply – why did I paint this piece? What is it about – ie the center of interest.  Have I placed it correctly and guided the viewer towards it. In this case it was the west coast tree. Did I do all I could to make it strong? Did it scream – west coast?  The tree at that point needed to be stronger. Too cut up with sky holes, could have leaned more ( exaggerate reality for emphasis), etc. etc

The lead-in to the tree is done using whats available - the rocks, the sand, the shadows on the sand and I could have added some water to direct the eye – all tools to use that are part of that environment. Could also have put a strong west coast cloud  above that would stop the eye from leaving the top of the painting and even point to the tree.

I could go on and on but let’s summarize the possibilities.

Big questions to ask:
      Does one colour dominate?
      Does  one value dominate?
      Does one of the large shapes dominate?
      Is the centre of interest well located – off centre
      Is there an entry point?
      Are all exits blocked?

Tools  to work with :
      Colour contrasts – compliments, temperature
      Value contrasts
      Shape contrasts
      Edge control
      Details – small marks
      Pointing/leading lines
      Effective brushwork

But remember, its not about making it correct ( copy the photo) but about making it interesting and unique.

In this case the  subject is very simple with simple shapes  - a tree, some bushes, rocks, sand, shadows on sand, sky. You can use them as needed to make an interesting statement – of a west coast tree.

Lots of good reference books on composition. I strongly encourage reading and reading – different authors take a different approach and considering them all is probably best and the best way to drive the concepts home.

Long winded for a blog – hope it helps a bit.

1 comment:

  1. I also loved your class and have sent you an email before discovering this page. Your comments above are so helpful.

    My email asked you to please give the two artists names and recommended books. My notes have John Carlson and Edgar Payne. I did a search for John Carlson today and only found he was listed as a psychologist.

    You referred to a book as one of the best for rules regarding values, light reflection etc.

    Can you help?
    Cynthia Cooper


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