Continuing Education

August 19, 2010

It’s easy to just keep doing the same old, same old in art as in anything else.  Usually when I have time to paint I either have a plein air painting to finish or a painting to do for an upcoming show or exhibit.  But recently I had time to paint without having anything I felt I had to paint.  It was time to look for new ideas.

I have a book called Expressing the Visual Language of the Landscape, which said it contained 20 famous artists showing how to master the landscape in all mediums.  I decided to read the first chapter and see what advice John Pototschnik had to give me.  I liked the photos of his work.  In the written part he was essentially saying, “Remember the basics.”  He listed six key principles of art to keep in mind when painting:  Concept (what are you trying to say), Composition (an organized arrangement of shapes), Drawing (including proportion and perspective), Values (lights and darks), Color, and technique (the way the artist applies paint).

I went through my stash of photos for possible paintings and found one, an autumn scene in Colorado, that looked like the sort of scene this artist might paint.  I decided to try to follow his seven steps.  Under what the artist used, I learned something very interesting.  Although his paintings are as varied in color as mine, he only uses four colors, essentially the three primary colors and white.  Now that is really getting down to basics.  I mean many people learn as kids that the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, can be mixed to make other colors.  But any color?  Apparently so.

The paint box on my French easel is so full of different tubes of paint that I can hardly get it to close.  Could I really simplify that much for this one painting?  I decided to try.  I’ve only just begun, but it seems to be working.  Different amounts and combinations of the primary colors and white can produce an endless variety.  Thanks, Mr. Pototschnik, for reminding me of something I was already supposed to know.

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