Tuesday, April 29, 2014


When you see a painting that makes you say “wow”, do you try to discover the “why”?

It must be my analytical mind, but I've always enjoyed figuring out the “why”. As a child I loved to take things apart to see how they worked. This trait has remained a constant in my life. Over the years my art students and I have study different artists, their techniques and color choices. We have explored and shared thoughts and observations. I found it was the curious student who showed the most promise and improvement.

I have a special folder on my computer filled with copies of paintings that have the “wow” factor for me. I look at them often for inspiration and guidance. But just looking wasn't enough. I needed to take the time to really analyze what it was that made these painting so special to me. So the other day I sat down at my computer with pen and paper and looked at all these paintings, taking notes on color combinations, subject matter, composition, brushwork - any aspect that I found interesting. The time was well spent.

I have been referring to these notes as I study my unsuccessful paintings. (We all have a stack of those, I’m sure). The “whys” were clearly apparent.

Painting is a balancing act. Composition, color, value, edges, brushwork, etc., must all be recognized and placed in their proper relationships. Sometimes in the excitement of beginning a new painting, we forget that there is an underlying structure to good painting. All the parts must be given due consideration and they must all work together. It isn't enough to set up a pretty still life or find an interesting scene outside. You must be sure that all the parts work together. And often the parts need to be modified to improve these relationships.

Strange as it sounds, these components and how they relate to each other are more important than the subject matter itself. There is a lot of “thinking” in successful paintings. I found that if I paint correctly, with all the components in mind, the objects become secondary. I have to make a conscious effort to keep to this thought process while I am painting. That was the major fault in my unsuccessful paintings. I was painting objects, not relationships, and the paintings wouldn't hold together.

We study and read. We learn and forget. Do we ever reach the point as artists where we can say, “There, now I know all there is about painting.”   No, I don’t believe we ever do. The more you learn and understand, the more you realize that there is still so much more to learn.

A good artist is a student forever.

Thanks for visiting.



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