Welcome to Compose. There's lots of stuff here, all about composing paintings.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Getting Shadow Values Correct on a White Image

Of all the visual elements we work with, value seems the most challenging, especially when an image is white.  Let's take a look at that.  

What happens to us is that we allow our thoughts to be about what the image is rather than what we see within it.  For example, when we look at a white horse do we see a white horse or variations of values?  If we look for values with intention and without thinking "white horse", chances are we will be surprised at just how dark shadows on a white horse can be.

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White horse seen as a white horse
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White horse seen with not thinking "white horse", rather thinking variations of values
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There's an easy way to get this value relationship right:  learn to ask yourself, "What's in shadow?"  Shadows, no matter the color onto which they are cast, range from shallow to deep. If we practice seeing them this way, we can force ourselves to make our colors dark enough to indicate what kind of shadow we're observing.  

Here's an analysis of the deep and shallow shadows I see in this photo of a white horse.

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Here's a video critique I did for Stella Messina, addressing the topic of this post--shadows on a white image, among a few other little things. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Five Pivotal Questions for Composing Paintings

What causes us to begin a painting or a drawing?  My guess is that our answers will vary, but let's take ourselves to the times when a subject catches our attention and pulls us towards it.  Chances are something will be there that's junk, not useful to the composing of the painting.  On the other hand, the subject as is might need some rearranging to pull together a sound composition.

Here's a subject that got my attention a few years ago.  For the first time ever, each member of my bed of bearded irises sprang forth into full bloom.  One section caught my eye and pulled me towards it.

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Without some selecting and placing as well as editing, it's a jumbled mess, but the way the light was striking those center flowers excited me.  That brought me to five pivotal questions: What to use? What to ignore or leave out? What to emphasize? What to subdue? What to change?

Using the the rule of thirds option from the Selecting and Placing principle, I found a beginning of What to Use. Finding what to change,  I spotted the flower on the upper right that I could move to the left a bit and another mid-left that I could scoot inward.  And rather than use the withered blossom in front, I chose another (not in the photo) to use.
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Within this rough crop, I  chose to ignore the azaleas and tool building in the background, to subdue some of the textural details, to emphasize the light pattern and  the shadow area of the foliage.  This reinforced what caught my attention in the first place:  the light.

Here's the resulting oil painting, "Irises in Light".​​​​​​​
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Asking these questions--What to use?  What to ignore or leave out? What to emphasize?  What to subdue?  What to change?--can help us more closely scrutinize possibilities and make more aesthetically sound decisions while composing our paintings and other art works. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Using Contrast as a Tool

What do a hammer and value contrast have in common?  
Answer:  Both are tools that we learn how to use and both can do a single task, but towards a number of intentions.  
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One of the reasons people tire of dealing with composition principles is that they seem so academic and restricting.  That's why in Finding Freedom to Create I changed the nomenclature, calling them generators, a word with all that baggage.  I call one group of these Results and another group, Workers.

Among the Workers is contrasting and value is an element with which contrasting works.  The painting below is dull and uninteresting because value contrast is not doing its job.

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But if we go back into the same painting and put value contrast to work, we can achieve visual clarity.  The painting becomes more dynamic, more life.  . 
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We can use degrees of contrasting value to control where the eye goes in a painting or how fast the eye moves within the piece. We can pull the eye to a focal point by setting a strong contrast then lead the eye towards that area using reduced degrees of contrast.

It's a fun thing to work with and is what I'm doing in this week's video lesson in which I take the study from Lesson 3 of Series 16, Focus with Value to a finish by using value contrast as a tool to do just this.