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Friday, September 30, 2011

How One Painting Is Composed

Frequently folks want to take issue with how much composing a painter does.  But the seasoned painter knows that to get it right, it must be rightly composed.  It's not that difficult:  it's just a matter of practicing one principle at a time until it becomes a natural part of your working process.

One beautifully composed painting I discovered recently is "The Dancer," a watercolor painting by Carla O'Conner.  Today's post is about how she made this happen.

What do we see working here?

"The Dancer"  30" x 22"   Watercolor
The first thing I see is an underlying structure of triangles, one of the most powerful organizing methods available to the artist.

 Notice how the image is anchored to the painting's edges at each point a central triangle, enabling the negative shapes--those shapes outside the image-- to form their own triangles.  And look how each of these is a different size and configuration:  that's using the principle of variation.  

Next,  look at  the painting's notan.  All the darks are connected  forming a visual path guiding the eye from one area to another giving  unity to the entire piece. In quantity though, there is more light space than dark, the principle of dominance at work here.   

Back to the painting.

Notice the strong vertical alignment of shapes, the strong vertical edge of the head,  the head looking downward,  the stretch of the arm aligned with the vertical edge of the painting and the vertical format itself, all giving balance to the entire piece.

And finally, study how O'Connor uses the contrast principle by juxtaposing strong darks within a field of strong lights and how she achieves the color harmony principle using both low intensity and analogous colors.

And we don't have to know all this to enjoy this painting.

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