On Tuesday, I posted a new painting, “Side Street”, which began as demonstration painting The post is long and covers the composition and color choices made while painting the demo. What was left out of that post was any discussion on another question that came up during the demo and which I have been thinking about since. One of the ladies watching the demo asked why I placed such a large shade area at the bottom of the painting, where one visually “enters” the painting. At the time I offered the answer that the large dark and the smaller patches of shadow further up or, visually speaking, back in the pictoral space act as compositional stepping stones leading the eye to the main focal point. The answer is true as far as it goes. The question stuck with me after the demo was over, as it occurred to me that many of my paintings feature the same sort of composition. In looking over images since having heard the question, I have found a number of recent works and older works with the same sort of compositional treatment. “Equinox Road” , shown below is a recent work that has been a successful showpiece.
This painting was posted shortly after it was completed in April 2008. In that post, I talk about this work being metaphorical and composed just to communicate the way I sense the change of season between winter and spring – more about this painting can be found here. A large cool shadow area covers most of the bottom third of the painting. Below are some other newer and older works that feature similar compositions.
So, how come? Why does this compositional convention show up so often in my landscape paintings. The answer I gave during the demo is true – it works well as a compositional tool. Beyond that, I have an affinity for the play of light in nature. In a painting, the only way to convey light is to contrast it with shadow or shade – meaning that there must be some variety of darker values near the lights. As I alluded in the earlier post, and as I try hard to convey to students in my classes, the composition of value shapes is what provides structural strength (or weakness) to a painting. Personally, I like a solid visual step at the bottom edge of a painting, which is the reason that I so often include it in my work. What would Sigmund Freud think? Something deep, dark and troubling no doubt! I prefer to think it’s just my best efforts at good composition. That said, perhaps I’ll mix things up in work to come – stay tuned!
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