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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Less Is More in a Painting....an exercise to try

'New England Morning'        16x20                pastel       ©Karen Margulis    Purchase Here $225
We hear it all the time "Less is More"  "Simplify".  But it is easier said than done and what does it even mean? Why is less more and how do we achieve it?  This is something we are working on in my classes. Robert Genn has addressed this topic in some of his letters and it was a recent letter on compositional boo-boos that inspired my lesson.  Genn talked about having too much going on in a painting as being a common pitfall. To quote Robert Genn:
"Overly busy works tire the eye, induce boredom and make it difficult to find a center of interest or focus.  Less is often more. "Take something out" said the American painter and illustrator Harvey Dunn"
It is our challenge to find the balance between putting in enough information and clarity in our area of interest and making sure we have some areas of rest and mystery so out viewers can participate in our paintings. Here are some ideas:
  • Have a plan before you start painting...know where your area of interest will be so you have a general direction.
  • Work with pastel chunks rather than hard sticks or pastel pencils. You are less likely to get too fussy with bigger pieces. (same as the idea of using bigger brushes)
  • Try working on rougher surface especially homemade textured surfaces. The texture forces you to paint loosely and less detailed.
  • Start with a wet or loose underpainting. If everything begins mysterious and out of focus it is easier to decide where to put in the clarity.
  • Try doing a painting more quickly than your usual pace. Often we are done sooner than we think and we just end up fiddling and adding too much stuff.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and take a break. Come back to the painting with fresh eyes.
  • Use a frame or mat to eliminate the surroundings...this allows you to concentrate on the painting and evaluate it. It is often closer to being finished than you might think!
Here is a suggested exercise. Choose something to paint and get set up. Set a timer for 30 minutes to paint. Try to work quickly and efficiently. Stop after 30 minutes and take a break.  You will now evaluate your painting and in tomorrow's post we will finish the exercise. Don't make another mark until I post the next part of the exercise! If you are itching to paint, start another one or two!


Paula Ilha said...

Great works!
Best wishes.

Karen said...

Thank you Paula! I appreciate your comment and thanks for visiting my blog!

robertsloan2art said...

Great concept and wonderful exercise idea. I'm going to have to try this, though if I don't get around to it till you post the next stage I'll still start it and wait after doing the first 30 minutes.

One thing about simplifying and taking things out that I discovered from several classes and from comments by professional artist friends - it also relates to how big the painting is. Working small, I really have to pay attention to this because too much in a 5 x 7" painting will get busy very fast, compared to a 12" x 16" or 16" x 20" or even a really big painting like 30" x 40."

Since I have to work small because of physical limits, this is vital to how well I can paint.

I take it that 30 minutes includes doing an underpainting, but does it include the time it takes waiting for the alcohol or water wash to dry? Or can I stop the timer when the wash is done and start it up again when the wash is dry? Or should I start the timer after the underpainting and sketch are done?

Anonymous said...

Don't comment much, but just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your work and sharing!