Sunday, March 6, 2011

Elements of Style

Wind Haven I/II, Oil on Board, 10"x8"

I did the left version first from a photo. This is more or less typical of my landscape painting from the last couple of years. There might be some pleasant things about it, but it ultimately strikes me as boring, so I painted the version on the right from the first painting, editing a few elements, moving faster, and attempting something slightly more stylized. Certainly there is still room for improvement, but I'm definitely liking the latter one better.

Many would argue that the subject matter here is, in itself, boring. I'll concede that argument. There are so many challenges in painting a good landscape, and in my efforts to get all the technical stuff right (values, color notes, composition, brush stroke, etc.), I often forget to consider if I'm creating anything interesting. Here is the photo I worked from:
Granted, not much going on here: just some evening light on a tree against the mountains in early autumn. Sometimes the quickness required when painting outdoors will give such a scene that element of interest, and while I love to paint on location, it's just not too feasible right now with a day job and two young kids. The second painting represents my attempt to make the scene more dynamic through a more stylized brush stroke, along with a shift in color and composition. Still perhaps not very interesting, but I think it is more interesting.

Noted sculptor and Lynchburg College professor Richard Pumphrey recently gave a critique at the Georgia Morgan Show at the Lynchburg Art Club. He had an interesting definition of art (and I know I won't get the wording quite right): An expression of design, created with extraordinary perception. (If anyone has the exact quote, please tell me.) If art lacks that extraordinary perception, what is it? It's ordinary! Most, if not all, of my work has been simply ordinary, and that's not going to change overnight. However, you may notice me trying to subtly apply a more stylized concept to my paintings. Some artists develop their unique style effortlessly. It just comes naturally to them. I've never felt I'd had much of any unique style to speak of, but maybe in a few years you'll be able to spot a painting from fifty feet away and recognize it as one of mine.

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