What is the Number One Challenge for beginner artists? Mixing color? Drawing accurately? What I find is that the biggest challenge for every new artist is how to control the massive amount of details in every scene. Composition and details are the most important hurdles that every beginner painter needs to overcome.
In this article and videos I'm going to share a simple trick that, when used correctly, will make painting any scene easier and more enjoyable. Find out how:
First The Free Course
I have spent a lot of time over the years teaching artists how to simplify landscape scenes. This is such an important aspect that I have created an entirely free short course on how to do this. If you have not signed up for this course yet you can do so here.
Hundreds of artists have discovered their breakthrough moment with this technique. They have gone on to incorporate the technique into their painting and it has become an automatic part of their process.
The concept can still be difficult to grasp and that is why I also teach a method of looking for the big pattern in every scene. The concept of a pattern is apparent to anyone. We all know that if you want to create a complicated piece of clothing you start with a pattern. The pattern is a simplified outline of how the clothing is to be cut and put together. If you follow the pattern you should end up with something that may not be perfect at first, but it certainly will be close to what you intended to achieve.
Key idea: For the visual world looking at a pattern makes everything much simpler.
So what does a pattern look like when you are outdoors looking at beautiful landscapes? Imagine if you took a photograph of a scene and blew it up to the size of your canvas. Now imagine taking a felt-tip marker and outlining all the big ships on that photograph. Not the leaves. Not the twigs, nor the flowers or the blades of grass. Only the big shapes.
For example a tree would be the outside outline of the tree and the tree trunk. The grass would be the entire expanse of the lawn or the field covered in grass and so on. You would probably end up with around 7 to 10 big shapes. Now if you coloured in each of those shapes a different colour you would end up with a two-dimensional canvas or photograph of flat shapes. You could cut out each of those shapes with scissors and have a kind of jigsaw puzzle.
KEY IDEA: The pattern is the arrangement of the big shapes and when you put them all together they will resemble the scene that you are looking at .
Getting to Grips with Pattern
The concept of looking for the pattern makes beginner artists feel a lot more comfortable. It simply makes sense. Now, how do you see these big shapes, because some of them are not that obvious. You have overlapping shapes and some recede into the distance.When you start looking for individual trees you can quickly find yourself getting into trouble.
The simplest way of course is to squint a little. Just close your eyes half way and you will notice all of the Shapes getting a bit darker. Those that are similar in light or darkness will sort of merge into each other forming a larger shape.
Now all the similar lights and darks have joined into bigger shapes and they all seem to have been simplified. Let's say 53 shapes of trees have turned into one big dark mass of trees. You can see how this process follows along logically and you end up with a very simplified scene.
The pattern is now right in front of you and all you have to do is move that pattern onto your canvas. You can mix colour to match each of those pattern shapes and brush them in with a big big brush very quickly. This saves a huge amount of time and anxiety.
Now to develop the painting simply means turning that big shape into slightly smaller shapes. The smaller the shapes the more realistic the picture becomes. How far you want to go in the whole pursuit of realism is entirely up to you. In many cases the painting can look beautiful even when the shapes remain quite large. This loose approach is my preferred style.
Humans Look for Patterns
We as humans are so developed to look for a pattern that we immediately sense and determine what we are looking at just by the big shapes. The mind will fill in a lot of details for us. We do not have to see all the little details. We get more pleasure from looking at an arrangement of large shapes.
In the first video below you will see how I have used patterns to simplify a scene. In the second video I develop the pattern into a resolved painting. The amazing part to me is the steps from capturing big shapes on canvas to completion are relatively few. Once the pattern is put down onto the canvas the painting is more than halfway complete. It is incredible to me how powerful a strong pattern of light and dark and warm and cool shapes can be.
If you are interested in learning more about this approach:
The concept and the practice of pattern is fundamental to painting. It is far more important than colour. If you don't believe me about this have a look at black and white photographs and you will realise just how important an arrangement of shapes in a pattern can be.
So focus on getting your pattern established and then the colour and you will find a breakthrough moment in your painting.
Step One: The Pattern
Step Two: Develop the Pattern
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Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa