Sunday, December 29, 2013

Artist Tip #23 - Using Symbols to Simplify Shapes - Part 2

In our previous artist tip, we introduced the idea of simplification through using symbols.  We shall continue this discussion by introducing additional symbols that represent items often making an appearance in our paintings.  It remains each artist's task to identify the objects that he/she paints frequently, and to develop symbols to represent these objects in the way he/she prefers.

In landscapes, one often must represent a deciduous forest, as in Lake Lucerne Sailing:

Here the deciduous tree mass is represented by a single mass of color, with some variation in hue and value.  The edges are rough-brushed to represent the rough edges of trees, and a few trunks and branches are suggested.  The gives a much simpler and more appealing representation than actually trying to paint each tree in the mass.

The painting Porta Nigra shows symbols for both figures and wet ground:

It's important to develop an aptitude for painting figures in the landscape.  Without figures, many landscapes look vacant, as though a bomb has dropped.  Figures in the landscape must be in the same style as the rest of the painting.  For example, if the painting is done loosely, the figures must also be painted loosely to look as if they "belong".  Wet ground is indicated by reflections.  Reflections always come directly toward the bottom of the painting.  To avoid the wet ground looking like a lake, it's important to indicate a few surface marks.  In this painting, the cracks in the concrete serve this purpose.

Often in landscape paintings, the background consists of distant buildings or cities.  An example of this can be seen in Evening on the Bosphorus:

In this case, a middle-eastern city is indicated simply with a mass of color, with slightly varying hue and value for interest.  The shape at the top of the silhouette, with towers, minarets, and domes, is all that is needed to suggest the city.  Drawing and painting the many actual buildings would lead to an overly busy, and likely overworked, background.

As a final example of symbols, let's look at several different skies.  In Twilight Sail, a sunset is simply but effectively indicated with yellow, pink, and purple hues:

In A Splendid Day, soft clouds give a hazy but sunny feeling to the painting:

The addition of a few rough edges to the sky in Standing Room Only changes the feeling to one of a disturbed sky, with perhaps some unsettled weather on the way:

There are many symbols that are of use to the painter who wants to paint quickly, and give the impression of looseness.  Each artist needs to determine which symbols he/she needs to develop, and practice them until their use is second nature.  Symbols provide one method to move from simply "reporting" what is in front of us to interpreting and suggesting our subject in our painting in a more creative way.

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