"What to leave in, what to leave out". Some of you may remember this line from a song recorded back in the dark ages by Kenny Rogers. Kenny was singing about a card game, but the concept is just as important when it come to painting.
As a visual artist it's not your job to duplicate every detail you see in front of you. It IS your job to create something that evokes emotion. One of the first tools you can use in achieving this goal is a process called editing.
John Carlson writes about this in his timeless book, "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting". I will include some of his thoughts for you here.
"There probably never was a picture that was poor because it lacked detail or subject matter; rather the opposite. Bad paintings are usually so overloaded with useless detail that the essentials are obliterated."
An artists needs figure out how to identify what is essential and omit the superfluous. This is something that almost all beginning (and many seasoned artists) struggle with.
Here are some tips you may find helpful:
- Take a moment and reflect on what it was that first caught your eye. What was it that made you think, "Wow, that's cool/beautiful/interesting? THAT is your first essential. What else will help you communicate that feeling?
- Mentally draw a line around each of the elements you've decided to include in your design. Don't worry about the little details. Try narrow in on four or five key elements. A stand of trees may become a single shape, the barn in the distance another, the stream a third. Take your sketch book and jot each of these shapes down.
- Next draw out a bunch of boxes that are about the same shape as your canvas/paper. Redraw your key elements into these boxes rearranging them to create different compositions. This is creating thumbnails. You may find (as I often do) that the more interesting ones are usually among the last that you make. Creativity begins to take place when we have exhausted the "standard" ideas.
- Remember! No one is looking over your shoulder. No one is going to care where you were standing or what that exact angle or proportion was. They are only going to marvel at how you created something so charming out of something so mundane!
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