Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Virgil Carter, a painter from Delaware offered me some gentle advice about the way artists in the rennaisance treated space in landscapes. For the most part, they divided the picture plane into fore, mid, and background planes and chose ONE (and only one) of those three for their focal point. It could be either of those planes, but only one. And once it was chosen, that is where most of the bold color, the higher contrast, the harder edges went. All the things that attract a viewer's eye were accentuated, and the secondary planes were treated in a more subdued, less detailed fashion. It seems like such a simple thing, and something I knew in theory long ago... but "knowing" something and remembering to use it are two differnt things.
I tend to edit what I see intuitively when I'm outdoors - my own eye is drawn to the focus of my chosen composition, and the other elements recede as they 'should' in a painting. But when I'm indoors in the Winter, working primarily from photographs, my mind's eye is less able to breakthrough the plane of the photograph, to project and edit itself in the photographed landscape. I had been getting bogged down in extraneous detail. I was treating almost everything as equal: equal values, equal color strength, with too much fussy and poorly executed detail everywhere. I was too often painting the photo, not the place.
Virgil's simple explanation of a complex visual phenomenon - one of the primary languages of landscape painting - pointed the way through an aspect of my recent paintings that had been bothering me, but that I couldn't quite put my finger on. The painting above was the first with those thoughts in mind, and a big improvement over my most recent work, I think.