Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Putting It Together

John Singer Sargent's paintings of fountains in Italy first inspired me to seek out fountains as subject matter. This one can be found in Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis, an old Victorian Park conceived by Henry Shaw. The faux ruins are salvage from a hotel that burned in the 1800's.
The ruins serve as a frame of the fountain. Many design elements I've talked about before are present in this painting.
Balance -- Look at the tree trunks in the background and the size of the ruins on both sides of the paper.

Line --- The calm, soothing, formal horizontals and verticals, balanced by the oblique lines in the foreground that subtly point to the fountain.

Edge control -- The soft edges within the ruins. Stones are only suggested, and then only some of them.

Contrast -- The darkest darks and lightest lights form around the focal point: the fountain.

Painting is a juggling act. Keeping all the design principles and elements in the air at once is no simple task, but in no other way will a well structured painting result. The key, as always, is in the planning. Value sketches and preliminary drawings make the painting act smoother and more predictable while also allowing for some impromptu changes. Plan like a turtle; paint like a hare.

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