Tuesday 27 January 2015

The Pensive Palette: Silhouettes

"Marsh Wren", 22"x14", oil on board

Visual clarity and simplicity are often forgotten by artists who are so excited about their subject matter that they include everything.  Good picture making begins with a solid idea expressed through strong composition.  To help me achieve my compositional goals and maintain a clear visual message, I will often use silhouettes to make sure the main elements read well.  Reducing shapes to basic silhouettes allows me to focus on shapes without the distraction of colour or detail.  I can also make sure the shape I'm working on is interesting and drawn well.

When testing with silhouettes I will usually work quite small (thumbnails under 2") so I'm not tempted to get fussy.  I want to make decisions based on readability and detail only makes this harder.  We all love detail and can easily fall in love with superficial aspects of a subject while forgetting the overall shape of what we're painting.  Another helpful tool is a digital camera or smartphone.  You can take a photo of a sketch or painting in the early stage.  Use a very small, black and white version of this photo to study the overall impact of the shapes and make sure what you want to say is being heard.

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