Thursday, May 7, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 5/7/20 Simplify by staying abstract

When faced with a daunting scene or image it is understandable to fall back on accuracy. Instead of looking for a common feature in the rock pile, we begin by making each rock separate from its neighbors. It's like painting the forest tree by tree. Before you know it, you are committed to a degree of specificity that is not much fun.

Finding a way of simplifying the scene is how we keep the process enjoyable and the product expressive. Think about the subject as a singular noun, in this case a pile. Rather than starting with rock number one, make a general statement about the whole pile. It's too early in the painting process to get specific. Is there a common denominator you could start with? How about color? Generally speaking, the pile is a pale, warm neutral, with a few rectangles left white.
Then look for the next most general statement. How about the shadow pattern? What percentage of the pile is in shadow? How are the shadow shapes distributed? What kind of shapes are they? Organic? Geometric? What kind of edges do they call for? How many marks are enough?  (O'Hara says, "Fewer than half as many as you think you need").

The answers to questions like these are abstract in nature. They refer to form, not content. Following abstract guidelines requires faith that the identity of the marks and shapes you make will be recognizable to the viewer. Keep in mind that the audience for your work is actually you. What kind of paintings do you like to look at? Paint those. That's what I mean when I say it's not your job to make sure the viewer knows what they're looking at.

Accuracy is best spent on getting the values right. Then the rest is carefree.

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