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Monday, May 21, 2012

Do You Have A Studio Gremlin?

'Looking For Peace'        8x10          pastel        ©Karen Margulis purchase HERE $95
Studio gremlins account for a lot of the problems with our paintings!  What is a studio gremlin? It is an imaginary creature who is very mischievous. Gremlins are known for tinkering and sabotaging aircraft but it is a little known fact that they like to make changes to paintings when the artist isn't around.  Has this happened to you?  You are working on a painting and leave it on the easel for the night. When you leave it, the painting is coming along nicely...good composition, good shapes, good value patterns. When you come back in the morning it isn't like you remembered. There is the center of interest right in the center or your trees moved or grew or things are lined up in a row. How did that happen!  You can blame them on the studio gremlins or you can blame yourself for overlooking common compositional pitfalls.

In a recent letter Robert Genn discussed  6 common compositional pitfalls artists make. One of them is something we have to be very aware of in painting because it happens so naturally....that pitfall is what Genn calls Homeostatic Conditions.
"Homeostasis means equidistant lineups of trees, rocks, blocks of color, or other patterns that are too mechanical or regular...While sometimes seen in nature, homeostasis is a natural human tendency- a subconscious reordering and regularizing within the brain"
That means it really isn't the fault of the gremilins....it is our own subconscious need to reorder things. We may start out with interesting shapes and a variety of sizes and intervals in our painting but if we are not paying attention we end up moving them into regular patterns.  I have two tips that have helped me beat the Gremlins!
Underpainting for 'Looking for Peace'
  • I start my painting with a plan. I try to make sure my initial study and underpainting avoids homeostasis. I ask myself if I have variety in the shapes and heights and sizes of objects. Are the spaces between shapes unequal? Are things lined up too regularly?  It is easiest to fix these things in the beginning stages.
  • I try to be aware that sometimes these conditions do occur in nature. So if things are too regular I am not afraid to move things around. As Degas said " Even in front of nature one must compose"
If you would like to read about the other 5 compositional pitfalls you can find Robert Genn's letter HERE


Nancy Medina said...

This is wonderful Karen, could you loan me a few of your gremlins so my landscapes will look like as lovely as this? :)

Karen said...

Thanks Nancy! Let's trade gremlins. I'd love some of yours!!

robertsloan2art said...

Studio gremlins drive me crazy sometimes. They can sneak up right in the middle of a session. Good point about what happens when things normatize unconsciously in ways that destroy the painting.

Another common example is orienting the features on a cat's face when it's tilted. Most poses for cats, the face is at an angle. But it's wicked easy to wind up lining up the eyes on the edge of the painting instead of in relation to the head, then place the nose properly in relation to one eye and bang, you have Deformed Cat instead of that charming tilted face.

Karen said...

I agree Robert! It is so easy to get the cat's face wrong. I do better when their eyes are closed though!

robertsloan2art said...

You're right! The curving lines of a cat's closed eyes are easy to connect with the angle of the face. Open eyes are harder, that's where I make all my Bent Nose mistakes or get one eye substantially too large.

I love how pastels are so forgiving. :D >^..^<