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What makes a painting?

If you’re new to painting or maybe you don’t paint at all but love #art, you might be intrigued to know how artists create their work. If you already paint you will no doubt be eager to read on and maybe pick up a few tips.

"Often my subjects are captured from places and angles that you wouldn’t be able to erect an easel".

It all starts with composition.

Composition is the arrangement of shapes and elements that form a harmonious assembly. It begins with shapes but there is far more to it than that. For now, let’s just think of shapes. Shapes give us scale, drama, excitement, connection and contrast. When a collective of shapes attracts my eye the #composition radar kicks into gear, and I explore the subject further for a harmonious arrangement. Interestingly, when I’m out looking for things to paint, it’s not always the subject that attracts me, it’s the shapes and dynamics. If they are present, there is usually a painting to be found somewhere, but not always. That is when I consider the content, for example I have found super interesting dynamics in mud ruts, but occasionally I have to stop myself and ask, would this really make a desirable painting? I mostly use a camera to capture my subjects. I know, I know, it’s all about plein air #painting nowadays and don’t get me wrong, I love to work outdoors, but often my subjects are captured from places and angles that you wouldn’t be able to erect an easel. That puts me in very different viewpoints, and I like the intrigue that it generates, for example why would I look at this from the top of a wall? Well, look at the dynamics of what I’m finding. The castellated patterns of top stones in the light, the long triangular #shadows pushing the eye into the picture, the #perspective lines, the dancing horizontals, the vertical posts, the balance, division, repetition. What I’m finding within an everyday subject is #design.

Clearing Winter Snow, Watercolour 56 x 38cm

This is the road back to the village where I used to live. People would walk their dogs and look out at the expansive view (it really was a big view), but never notice the more focussed view in front of them. Here I'm using warm and cool, light and dark, near and far, varied shapes, an off centre arrangement, perspective, verticals, and repetition.

Design starts with Harm