|Composition with Degas and Bread|
30 x 30
Paintings are about good paint. They're also about patterns, repetition, linkages and separations. The secondary thing is that paintings are about stuff: vases of flowers, apples, bowls, sculptures, and loaves of bread.
What I stressed in the workshop was that it was a wonderful thing to create a rounded, proportional person on the canvas, but, even more wonderful, was to create a composition in which one element was a person. That meant looking for shapes that enhanced the figure's pose, colours that could be repeated both in the figure and her surroundings, and edges that could be lost or emphasized to move the viewers' eyes through the rectangular world that each painter had created with nothing but paint, brushes and a unique point of view. The painters in my class created some stunning works during the week, and, best of all, they thought beyond the idea of "a figure and a background", and thought instead about a composition; figure and background became equally important.
So it was with renewed vision and purpose that I came home and tackled this piece that I'd left half finished on the easel. I took my own advice and thought of the painting as an abstract assortment of shapes that needed to coexist interestingly in a rectangle. I needed to link them, and separate them, depending on the importance that each shape had in my concept of the final painting. There had to be harmony, and tension, and a movement of the eye. Because I'd left it for a week, I could see the painting dispassionately and critique it with greater honesty, and it came together quickly.
Teaching is a great way to figure out what's important to yourself, as you strive to condense information for your students. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to examine my practise that teaching provides.