Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simplifying the complex

Simplify- we hear the word thrown around a lot in our culture of  "way too much of everything". Simplify your possesions, your home, your finances, your cooking- you name it. Why? Because it allows us to see what is truly important when we get rid of all of the "stuff" in our lives. We begin to see old things in new ways, we have more clarity in our thinking when we have clarity surrounding us. And simplification leads to clarity.
It is the same when drawing and painting. I have a student who had beautiful photos of a trip to Costa Rica. The colors, the palms, the waterfalls and exotic flowers. Truly breathtaking- but  how to begin a painting with this much visual stimulation and complexity is difficult. More difficult than one would think.
  So, we began trying to shift over into that right brain a little more and begin to see not flowers, sky, palms, and waterfalls, but instead look at the general shapes : the simplified outline  of the waterfall, the negative space formed between the palm trees, the general shape of the mass of rocks, etc.
 Once we sketch these shapes on paper, we begin to realize that we can now control what we want to have happen in our composition. This is no longer a painting of a photo. The true art has begun and we are now in the process of "abstracting" our photo into a drawing/painting. We are not simply imitating what we see, we are "steering the boat" ! Now the mass of rocks may become smaller and the horizon line higher. The palm trees move into the foreground, the waterfall extends, the mountain takes on a different contour. We "play" with these shapes and configurations' - remember "playing" is the
 essence of creating, so allow yourself this freedom until your mind becomes less apprehensive and
less self-conscious. When you have a sketch that you like,  it's time to figure out how you will make this composition a pleasing one. So take the time to do a value sketch: using dark, med, and light value. When you have decided where to place these values and sketched them in, decide what your dominant value will be. Don't worry too much about it not looking like the light and dark areas in the photo. You are creating a composition, and your composition will hold together better if you have done a good value pre-sketch. A value sketch is one more step that will help to simplify and clarify. Instead of 8 different values, you push the values one way or another, with the goal of getting to the  3 basic values.
Now, when you are ready to begin your painting, you have simplified and manipulated your shapes into a pleasing composition, and simplified your values into light, medium and dark. Now get out your paints and have fun. The hard part is over! To see some of my completed paintings using this method:

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good writing