Friday, February 17, 2012

Simplify


Study for "Bay Blue", 12 x 16 inches, oil on linen

Cityscapes are hard to paint not only because everything has to be drawn well, but also because there's just an overwhelming amount of information that needs to be processed. Simplification is key, but arbitrary editing of detail can easily end up with a weak painting that lack a sense of intent.   With so much "stuff", it's not easy to know what to include and what to edit out, especially because you know all that detail contributes to the texture of the city clutter.

One way to approach it is to have rules for editing –and you know by now I like rules. This way, you can do it systematically (more or less) and it helps me to get the painting going in the right direction. Here are some that I use often;

  • Decide on a dominant color theme (in this case, blue green) and mix every color as a variation of it. (you want violet? start with blue green and bend it towards violet. Think of it as a violet-er version of the original blue green)
  • Paint every element (car, tree, asphalt, etc.) in just two values.  Later on you can add a third value to the more important elements.
  • Link all similar valued adjacent shapes.
  • Have a large passive area. (Forces me to have an area with NO detail, juxtaposed against which the more active areas need less "stuff" in order to look detailed)
  • Treat super sharp edges as exclamation points. Don't shout everywhere.
These are not rules for all painting nor are they for every painter. They're just rules that guide me to do what I do, and they work well for me. With another painting, I may have a completely different set of rules. The point is, having this type of structure is helpful in keeping my mind organized and focused. It helps me avoid making arbitrary and thoughtless decisions. 



I had this idea of inviting anyone who wants try this way of approaching the cityscape to give it a go, and sharing your results and thoughts on the experience.  I would post a reference photo for us to use - we'd all use the same photo so that we can compare and contrast how we each respond to the same problems. Wouldn't that be interesting?  Challenging, to be sure, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I will of course post my own efforts as well. What do you think? Anyone up for it? Shall I put a deadline so we don't drag on and on? Is two weeks enough? A month?

Let me know via comment box if anyone is interested. I'll go ahead and post a ref. photo if there's enough interest.  


24 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting. I'd give it a go.

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  2. I needed to hear what you posted today it was a tremendous help :)And I would love to give it a try!

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  3. I've found that the way artists edit in their paintings is what really creates their style. The best artist seem to create their own worlds through what they leave out and simplify. Good post.

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  4. I'm up for the challenge, sounds exciting.

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  5. I would definitively want to do it! I really need to remind myself of all you listed bove! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I'd like to try too. Cityscapes alway intimate me because of the exact reasons you mentioned. I look forward to the challenge.

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  7. What the heck, I'll give it a go. Two weeks or a month whatever.

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  8. Excellent information in your post! I'd like to participate in the challenge!!

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  9. I'm new here, but consider your Studio Notes such a generous offering it would seem almost rude not to participate - Thanks!

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  10. I'm in too. Two weeks seems like plenty, any longer might tend to encourage *not* simplifying. :)

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  11. Yes ,I too would like to join.
    Amrit-

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  12. Count me in - I usually shy away from architectural subjects and this would be a good excuse to put more effort into learning to paint them! Two weeks sounds ok for me.

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  13. Sounds like a fun exercise!
    Downloaded the ref, let's hope I find the time to do this :)

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  14. Never painted a cityscape...love to take part!

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  15. Simplifying, that is my thing, sometimes, it is the most difficult part :) like your post.

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  16. Awesome and well written rules, Terry!! Epsecially the part about related colors... Thank you for posting!

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