There are many things a painting can be about but one key component in most paintings is how the eye moves through it. Keeping a viewer bouncing around in the rectangle requires some thought and the biggest trick is developing a way to get the eye to flow through the painting without wanting to leave it. I know most of you know this stuff but this is what i got for today. Eye flow. It happens by building a hierarchy within the structure of the art. One thing is the boss, something is secondary and something is tertiary. Sometimes it’s done with mass; papa mass, mama mass, baby mass. Sometimes it’s done with color; intense colors dominate, subdued recede. And sometimes it’s done with edge, soft edges are peripheral to sharp ones. It’s when you use a combination of these things that it gets interesting.
Playing mass off of edge off of color is a challenge. It helps to think more about the big picture and the visual weight of each thing. If something is vying for attention with another element, change it’s scale, edge, color or value. It sometimes feels like a math problem… more like intuitive math. I did this piece last week during the Wekiva paint out and just heard that it sold. Yay! We like sales. It’s a 30×30 which is big for me to paint on site, a two tripper for sure. I got a lot of positive feedback from the artists in the event mostly about the composition, one artist in particular said he was trying to figure out what it was that worked for him with this design. The answer is in the triangle (added for educational purposes only) a device that I learned about in art history, employed by the renaissance painters at first and then used through the centuries, with more and more complications added, but the basic triangle is the foundation. The main event is the boats (intense color and sharp), the secondary event the big trees (intense color, bigger, but softer) and third comes the distant tree line, the reflection in the water draws a line back down to the boats and the cycle begins again, you can check in but you can’t check out. Try looking at many of the great masters with this device in mind. For that matter, most great design in advertising and graphics is based on this principle. Looking at the work in the show, however, I saw many paintings that worked without this feature but what made them work is fodder for another post… or two.