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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Few Tips for Simplifying a Busy Landscape

'Southern Magic'                   9x12                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $175

Do you ever get frustrated with a painting? Do you ever get to a point where you just donn't know what else to do to make it work? I know it happens to me all of the time. And I often fall into the same trap which only makes things worse. The trap of overworking and adding more and more in the hope that something will work.

Take the painting in the photo just below. It is a late summer landscape form South Carolina. I was in love with the pink grass and the white puffy weedy things and the interesting silhouettes of distance palm trees.  But instead of simplifying I tried to put it ALL in. The result was an overly busy painting and white things that took over the whole painting!

Before: Way too many white things! The painting was just chaotic. There was nowhere for the eye to rest.

I thought it might help to add more stems.....than more grass and finally some pastel dust. I kept adding elements trying to improve the painting. 

That was the problem! Most of the time when finishing a painting or trying to fix a painting gone bad,  it isn't what you ADD but instead it is what you TAKE AWAY. Less is more and Simplify! You've heard it before and it is great advice. The next time you are finishing a painting and it just isn't working....instead of trying to add things try to simplify and take things away. It usually does the trick! Here are a few ideas for simplification:

  •  Brush off sections of the painting to create softer edges. This helps give areas for the eye to rest. This works great for distant features in a landscape....soften and simplify.For this painting I brushed off the white things and started over on the grasses. 
  • Use a hard pastel to scumble over some of the busy areas. This will also soften and simplify.
  • Start over!  Use a stiff brush and brush off the painting. I was left with a softer ghost image and more tooth to redo the painting. I also decided to spray the painting with rubbing alcohol and use the brush to move the pastel around. ( I keep some rubbing alcohol in a small spray bottle) It dried as a soft gray ghostly block-in. I then revived the painting keeping things SIMPLE. Scroll to the top of this post to see the newly simplified painting.

1 comment:


Very nice paintings and so beautiful colours !!!