Welcome to 2018! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I had a wonderful vacation with my family. As I started my online course last year, I get to interact with students on a more personal level. One thing that has become obvious to me for quite a few student is to simplify their painting to a simple and clear message. Because we have this notion that "a picture worth a thousand words", we are often tempted to throw as much stuff into our painting as we can. However, a powerful painting doesn't have to be complicated and overwhelming. It just needs to communicate the message across clearly.
The above painting is a commission work I did for a client at the end of 2017. She wanted me to paint something for her and her husband. When we first talked, she's wondering if I can include everything and everyplace they love into one single painting. She shared with me lots of photos and videos about them and ask me what I think. I narrow things down into something simple - them walking along the beach where they used to live near with some subtle hints of the memory they shared. The finished product is the one you see now. You can see them walking along the beach. With a deeper look, you can see the Cesna in the sky, and the colored balloons in the distance. These are two small things that are related to them personally.
Think of a scene of a movie. You usually have your establishing shot of the location, then you see the character and the camera move in and getting close to them as they are taking the focus of the shot. The limitation of a static painting is that we are not able to show more than one frame at a time. Therefore, we need to compose our image into something that can tell the setting, time and the main actor. In this case, we need to figure out:
What is your 1st, 2nd and 3rd read?
It sounds simple, but this thought process is very important! It is our job as an artist to direct viewers' eyes to something that's the main focus of the painting and let them figure out the rest. What do you want the viewer to see first? the traffic in the street? the talking figures? the bright headlight of the car? or The floating boat? The 1st read may not necessarily be the biggest element in the painting, but it's usually something that grabs your eyes on the first look. The 1st read grabs people's attention and helps them understand what the painting is about. And as they move their eyes from the focus to the background and all over the painting, they are getting more information about the setting, the time of day and the weather.
Your painting should be a doorway to an experience. If you try to throw everything at viewers face because you think it's all important, you will lose them. Trust your viewer by giving them only what's necessary for them to read the painting. Make your story clear and simple!