What's the most important thing about your painting?

Kirkland Afternoon - class demo

Kirkland Afternoon - class demo


Have you ever took that personality test that asks you “What’s the one thing you are going to grab if your house is on fire?”. While I never really thought of those personality test accurate and they don’t serve a meaningful purpose other than a quick laughter, it is always fun to compare result with others. When it comes to painting watercolor, you should often ask yourself a similar question: “What’s the one thing you are going to paint if you only have 5 minutes?” Of course, that’s a silly question because you shouldn’t try to finish a painting in 5 minutes. But this is a hypothetical question that we should try to ask our self when we paint. Because when we give our self a little bit of that urgency, we force our self to choose what’s the most important thing in a picture.

Since the online course launched this week, I’ve been getting some beautiful photo references from the students. However, when it comes to their interpretation of the photos, they are usually very literal about it. They try to paint every little window on the far distant buildings. the amount of the details they are trying to capture end up making the painting flat and underwhelming. This happens quite often especially if it is a photo of a beautiful European city scenery filled with complicated classic buildings.

The most important thing of your painting is the readability. And a good, readable painting is achieved by having big strong shapes. That’s the first thing you should be thinking about when composing your painting. During the painting. You should also constantly check if the overall big shapes still hold up. Any additional detail should not take the viewer out of the viewing experience.

The next time you paint a scenery, find out what’s the most important thing you need to paint. Pretend you only have 5 minutes, and see if you can figure out what’s the mores important shape of the image. This can really help you to plan out you painting.