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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Avoiding Tangents

A tangent is bothersome touching. You might call a tangent the painting's harassment because it creates an uneasiness within the viewer, even if unconsciously. Tangents happen when...

...the edges of two shapes touch
Solution: Either overlap the shapes or put some space between them.

...one shape overlaps and intersects the apex of another
Solution: Shift one shape or the other so there is no overlap at the apex.

...a vertical shape aligns with the apex of another shape
Solution: Shift your vantage point.

...the edge of a shape touches the edge of your painting
Solution: Either crop inside the image, suggesting the rest of the image is outside the picture, or bring it comfortably INSIDE the picture.

...a shape is cut in half at the edge of the painting
Solution: Either bring the entire image inside the picture plane or crop in a place other than the halfway point of a symetrical shape or at a joint of an animal or person.

...a closed shape hugs a corner
Solution: Either find another way to crop the image or lose some of the edge so that the negative space merges into the positive.
(If you have problems with knowing where to crop,
I recommend an article written by Katherine Tyrrell.)

...The edge of a horizontal shape hides behind a vertical shape.
Solution: Either have shape behind follow through and be visible on the other side of the vertical shape or put some space between them.

...the edge of one shape aligns or continues with the edge of another.
Solution: Change the vantage point so that edges of different shapes don't align.

...a vertical shape appears to be growing out of the body of an animal or person.
Solution: Place an interfering shape or value or change the value or color. The solution to this problem will depend upon the subject. The idea, though, is to change it somehow so that the background shape is shifted to the distance.

...The edge of a frontal shape is aligned with the edge of a background shape. (Example: backs of cows here align with horizontal of creekbed)
Solution: Change your vantange point or simply raise or lower the horizontal.

I'm sure there are other tangents, but these are the major ones that plague us. It's a good idea, while our work is in-progress, to occasionally step back and scan it for tangents. They can sneak in on us without the least warning.


Diana Moses Botkin said...

This is so well-put and very useful!

You should write a book. Call it Common Mistakes in Painting.

Dianne Mize said...

Well, now, that's an idea...

Susan Carlin said...

Great article, Dianne. Helen Van Wyk called it "kissing on canvas" - something we're admonished not to do. Your photo examples are wonderful!

Dianne Mize said...

Thanks, Susan. Yep, I never see a tangent that I don't think of Helen. She might have been the person who make me so aware of them.