Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The artist that has most influenced me

The artist that has most influenced my art is Ian Roberts and his book “Mastering Composition”.  Before I read his book, I did not know how to design a composition. Oh I knew about the 7 elements and the 8 principles, how to use a viewfinder, centres of interest, the golden rectangle, lead-ins, blocks and exits, tonal value and contrast, the oblique, and many many more LRPGI, laws, rules, principles, guidelines, ideas, but I realized that I lacked a design framework and a process to follow inside that framework to produce a painting.

I have worked on Internet projects from a time well before the World Wide Web became the Internet in most people’s mind, so quite naturally I start my search for this elusive framework there.  Over the course of many months I found many quality references to the 7 elements and the 8 principles. The actual number elements and principles varies, depending on the reference source you choose, but a framework and a process for composition remained elusive. The few online references, to visual composition, that I located, consisted of examples of good or bad compositions and a dialogue to support the goodness or badness of that particular example.

Ian Roberts' “Mastering Composition” is the only book I've found that provided a clear and usable (for me) framework for visual composition.  Before the first chapter of his book, he defines “What is Composition”. After reading those two pages, I knew I now had a framework for composition that I understood and could apply to my paintings.  The proverbial light bulb was lit. This is where I first started to understand visual composition. Ian’s five bullet points, describing the 5 Picture Planes, presented a nearly complete, visual design framework.
  1. The Dynamics of the Picture Plane. Each proportion and scale of every painting - square, vertical or horizontal - has its own special dynamic that affects and is affected by every mark or shape you put on it.  The edges of your picture plane are the four most important lines in your composition since they, in the most basic sense, define the foundation you are starting with.
  2. Armature: The fundamental lines of direction or flow that connect the main compositional movement to the picture plane.
  3. Abstract Shapes: The building blocks of the painting. Each shape is interacting with every other shape.  Resolving this interplay is the main arena of painting. This really is where the success or failure of the painting lies.
  4. Subjects: Bottles, mountains, people, a river...
  5. Details: Highlights, wrought-iron street lamps and almost anything else painted with a little pointed brush.

It is my opinion that the 5 picture planes should have been the 5 chapters in Ian’s book.  Somewhere along the line, he got sidetracked and wrote a book about painting landscapes including 30-40 page filler: “Gallery or Greats”.  Personally, I also don’t like Ian’s style of painting. IMOSHO, neither of these negatives, detract from the importance of his description of the 5 picture planes.

Does this framework work for all genres of painting? No!
Is this framework complete? No!
Does this framework work for everyone? Again No!

...but it does work for me, so it  is important to me, and I can honestly state, that Ian Roberts, through his book, is the artist that has had the most influence on my art.

Monday, January 1, 2018

When you are “in the groove”, stay there!

After a very long hiatus of almost 2 years away from art making, the new house is almost done, the old house has been sold, we have moved, my “art room” is almost back together, and for the past couple of days, or evenings, I’ve been getting back into painting.  First an abstract for Jill for the bathroom.  Not much thought. (sorry) And it didn’t really do much for my soul but it was a start/restart to painting.

Between arranging my supplies, hanging up some old favorites, and a little painting, I was back in my old habit of reading blogs, and articles about art and making art, and art education when I came across an article on recovery from artists block.  It offered simple advice: make a list.

Make a list of the art things you should be working on.  So I did.  About 10 small items to start with.  Before I even started on it I added 6 more.  Then the list took over. I was making art and enjoying the process.  So much so, I forgot to update the list for several days.  When I finally checked, big surprise.  I had to cross 7 items off the list as completed!

Reading WetCanvas: CafĂ© Guerbois: someone had asked about ‘Resolutions’.  I’m making a list and checking often, and revising it for completed items and adding new one.  Well at least for the time being.  It really helped be get over a reluctance to step up the drawing table and start painting.

So what has this to do with being in the grove?  My art making block is in the past. The make a “to do” art list, works for me and I am happy to say, that this morning, I was back in the grove or was for at least a couple of hours while I tackled the start of a new painting.  Then I decided to take a break and order some art supplies.  In retrospect this was a bad decision.

Googled my way to two different online suppliers both whom I have used in the past.  I need some new matboard to re-frame some paintings for the new house. I easily found what I needed, added a couple of items to being the total up to the free shipping level and applied a discount coupon I had recently received.  “Sorry, but discount XYZZY cannot be applied to your items”.

Alright, Internet chat with someone to find out why.  It seems that the major items I wanted to purchase were already “on sale’ and no further discounts were possible. All this took 20 minutes of back and forth and left me in a bad frame of mind.  I was angry at the retailer about the discount and similar events from previous purchases.  So much for being “in the grove’.  All thoughts of making art were gone.

If you are ‘in the grove’ and making art, don’t stop unless the house is burning down around you, or some other life changing event is happening or about to happen.  Keep making art.  After the grove concludes naturally, or you exhaust yourself, or some external event ends the session, then is the time to pick up those mundane task like ordering art supplies, but not while you have that “I must make art” mindset and tempo.  It’s hard enough to get there with the distractions of the day so don’t voluntarily end a productive session for any trivial, trite, tasks that can wait until later.  YMMV