by Sharon Teal-Coray
Each one had a variety of paintings they had finished.Before a student would call a painting finished, they would go over
it with a set of rules that I gave to them when they started classes. It is nice to think that artists just paint without any rules and create wonderful art, but as long as there have been artists there has been rules that are imperative for the artist to create a great painting rather than a OK painting.
These rules when followed will help the artist achieve success. I thought I would share these with you so you can take advantage of checking your art to see if you have created a “masterpiece”!
Concept are plans for solving problems of light, air, dimension, form, color, value, edges, and composition. All great paintings are conceptually SIMPLE. You must have a “concept” before you can work out a composition, just as a writer must have a plot and characters.
Working with a concept will keep your techniques under control, because you will be working within a structure your concept provides—it is a restriction that makes learning possible. You will not be able to go off on a detour; the concept will supply uniformity throughout your canvas.
You will know which things you need to emphasize, and those you need to down play. Concept will pull the whole work together and unify your painting structurally.
Maybe the most important thing a concept does is that it enables you to have a SENSE of what you are doing, what you are striving for, and when it is actually finished. Let’s look at what your “concept” is:
Do you want your painting to have a range of values, movement of light, high intensity, strong light and shadows, soft edges, or sharp edges?
What is the style you wish to use? Impressionistic, realistic, photo-realistic, impasto, smooth, or knife work?
Let’s now look at the application of the paint. Is your style consistent throughout the whole painting? Have you applied the paint skillfully in all areas of the canvas? (Every square inch should be painted with the same attention as you give the focal point)
How is your composition? Here are things you need for a good composition. Have you created movement by the use of lines, patterns, color, texture or brushstrokes? Do you have one distinct center of interest or focal point? Is this area clear to the viewer? Do you have dynamic positive space? (This is the space of your subjects)
Do you have interesting negative space and shapes? (This is the space around your subjects) Do you have some repeating shapes?
Do you have UNITY? That is are all the compositional elements working together as a UNIFIED whole?
Things you need to check for your background: Are your objects staying in the back? Are they too warm? Are they too cool? Do they jump out and demand attention taking your eye off the focal point?
Do they have too much texture which pulls it forward? Are they dull? Have you spent time on this area just as you have on the focal point?
Looking at light and Shadows.
Have you painted your shadows thin…or have you painted them with thick strokes…impasto destroys the illusion of shadowiness. Do your shadows look “dead”? Do your shadows look like they have depth are they alive? Do they have soft edges? Do your light areas follow the form of the object?
Highlights will occur at the corners where a plane changes direction…does yours? Are your lightest areas the center of interest? Have you applied your highlights skillfully?
Highlights will have a crisp edge for brilliance and a tail which will melt into the form…does yours? You can never paint your lights too light….are yours bright enough. Are your lights and shadows too close in value?
The eye should look at the light area and the shadow area should not be in competition with the light, always make your light strong so the viewer won’t be looking at the shadows!
Does all objects within the same picture plane or at the same distance have the same or similar value? Have you created “Depth”? Artists need to be able to create depth to make things look real; this can be accomplished by a change in temperature, use warm and cool colors of the same value.
Change the edges to create depth….. Use hard edges in the foreground and soft edges in the distance. There are two kinds of edges; soft and hard. A hard edge is clear and distinct they are more vibrant, soft edges are duller they have a fuzzy edge. Hard edges are used in the foreground for your focal point while soft edges are used in the background.
Using hard edges will draw the eye in, as the eye will automatically focus on the clearest edge. You should have both kinds of edges in your paintings.
Intensity, is also important for depth, you can use vibrant, intense colors in the foreground and duller colors in the background to create depth.
Next let’s look at the shapes you have used, are they distinct? Do they give your artwork a sense of design and organization? Remember everything has a shape; each shape must retain its honesty throughout the picture.Your colors are very important, don’t ignore them, and check them to make sure they are not muddy or over mixed looking. They must have a vibrant, alive look to them to attract attention.Looking at your “creativity’.
To be a great painting you have to have an “original” idea. Is yours original or is it a copy of someone else’s idea? Have you used a novel use of line, colors, pattern or texture all which makes your painting more creative, different from others work.
Does your painting have an emotional visual impact? If you hung it in a room full of paintings does it “stand” our from the rest of the work, does it make the viewer want to take a closer look or does it just sort of merge into the rest of the paintings becoming nondescript.
Have you expressed a mood, feeling or message? The last thing you want to check is any problem areas. Is there any area in your painting that “jumps’ out at you? Are there any “tangents”, these are things that are just touching or ‘kissing’ they do not overlap and cause tension to the viewer. Is there anything that is leading the eye off the canvas, like a tree branch? Is there something preventing the viewer from entering your painting like a fence or river in the front, with no way to get into the picture.
Is there any area that looks like you didn’t quite finish it? If you make it a habit to check each painting with this guideline you will see much improvement in your work.