My painting sabbatical is under way. I will be spending time adding the final touches to my art workshop as well as painting as much as I can. Plein air and studio work will be part of this process of course, but also going back to basics. Seeing and drawing what is important is a lesson all artists need to get back to from time to time. The thing about art, and in my case, painting, is that there are many truths that are constant. It is just us as artists that seem to waver and lose focus.
The title refer to five truths yet there are many more, but these five came back to remind me about my personal painting methods. They are as follows:
1) Make a good start and the painting is half done before the actual painting gets going. By this I mean that the preparation is still fundamental. Consider the subject and look at the building blocks. Values: are they interesting? I like strong values and a painting seldom suffers for it. Are the shapes interesting? Do a notan study and outline study to assess the shapes. A few strong shapes should dominate the scene. Only when these basics are accounted for does a painting become possible.
2) Why am I painting this? This is a question we must ask ourselves. It is no good just painting something because it has values and shapes. There must be more. Call it the concept or idea behind the painting. What moves you and how will you convey this with impact? If you feel it then try to make the viewer feel it too. When it comes to landscapes for example I need to be moved by the scene. It must connect to my soul. I need to feel a deep connection to the beauty or majesty of the scene. Sometimes it is a simple moment of nature that makes a scene magical - the fall of light, the colours and interplay of shadows spark my senses. That is what excites me most about landscapes.
3) Keep those shapes simple and few. Nature is perfectly able to pull off a thousand and one shapes and make it look good. Artists however need to keep the shapes few and meaningful. Simplify the scene into a few major shapes - usually seven will do. Add interest within them and keep them linked with passages of light and dark. Everything must hang together in order too make sense. Far from chaos a painting is a study in order and simplicity.
4) Keep it Painterly: Generous paint application is a strength in oil painting. Seldom is a painting spoilt by thick paint and confident brushstrokes. Painterly brushwork is not about details, but about suggestion. This means that we need not worry about trying to illustrate, but rather to suggest and delight in the medium of generous amounts of paint.
5) A good painting can be completed quickly. It is a truth that the best parts of a painting are usually completed within minutes while the boring bits were laboured over for days. Time painting does not mean great art. Take your time in preparation, but pull out the stops when the painting begins. Yes a good painting can also seem easy too. These are the paintings that are often the best work. Accept them as the divine moment of creation when all is aligned and beautiful.
Above all - enjoy the process of painting.
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