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Deborah Secor
11-29-2005, 02:07 PM
I just happened upon this quote as I was looking through a book of works done by Bob Kuhn, the fabulous animal/wildlife painter. He doesn't work in pastel, just acrylic and oil, but his work has all kinds of things that apply to any medium, such as the way he uses the paint to enhance the animal without sacrificing painterliness, and the way he constructs every painting carefully so that the composition is expressive (without being tricky or overly sensational).

Kuhn says, "Representational art that doesn't have a strong abstract component is probably not very effective realism."

Take a look at these thumbnails and see if you don't agree that he's truly a master of the underlying abstraction of realism!

The challenge is to show some paintings here so that we can help to strengthen each other by analyzing what works and what doesn't in our paintings...It doesn't matter what the subject is, of course.

Anybody want to do this? I'll post a couple things here as soon as I have some shots of new work... I think the underlying abstraction of a painting is often its strongest characteristic, don't you? We all have more to learn!

Deborah

HarvestMoon
11-29-2005, 02:12 PM
Deborah, his work is beautiful- and I would LOVE to be more abstract, instead of attempting photo-realism, at which I am poor, at best- BUT I don't understand where he has been 'abstract'. I see abstract work a lot in magazines, etc., that has great titles, and could be anything at all- but I guess my point is that I don't understand HOW his work is abstract- it looks pretty lifelike and realistic to me- I have concluded I have art attention deficit syndrome... so any help is welcome!

PeggyB
11-29-2005, 02:23 PM
Purples, you may be mistaking nonrepresentational for abstract. Abstract can have recognizable objects, but if you look at the last polar bear for instance, you will see that the sky isn't "real" as one would see it. Notice the shadow on the lower part of the bear is almost a continuation of the line of sky, the patches of ground is almost "strips" of color, etc. When you think of "nonrepresentational" think De Konig or Jackson Pollack - shapes of color and design, but no recognizable objects.

Sorry I don't have more time right now to go into greater explanation. This will be a fun thread to follow. Thanks Deborah!

Peggy

HarvestMoon
11-29-2005, 03:19 PM
Peggy- thanks very much- ok, I see that!
cheers,
Linda

Deborah Secor
11-29-2005, 03:27 PM
This is exactly my point. It isn't what the end result appears to be but what it is built upon that matters. In other words, no matter how realistic the painting becomes, its underpinnings are definitively abstract. Let's face it, painting is abstraction because you take a three-dimensional reality and paint it in (essentially) two dimensions. You don't make a little diorama, you make a painting. That is abstaction right there...

So, look at his little red fox painting. Squint like crazy and see the big light and dark shapes first. Notice how your eyes move over those shapes, led by the light. The spot that draws me most is the stark white spot on the fox's breast, below his black face, but that line of light along the top of the rock is what led me there! The droop of his tail leads down to the light splotches below, where I meander around in the mediums, but that shaft of light always takes me smack back to the fox. Even the touch of medium light on the leaves above the fox's head 'points' me to him, surrounded by the darks. It's a masterful abstraction.

See what I mean? Now go look at the other two and analyze them to see if you can follow the abstraction. Think about large light, medium and dark SHAPES...

Deborah

HarvestMoon
11-29-2005, 03:39 PM
Thank you Deborah- squinting really helps, although it seems like I am always squinting to see things at all, I am really NOT- so I followed what you guys said and I see it much better now- thanks!
cheers
Linda

Bill Foehringer
11-29-2005, 03:47 PM
I think I know what Kuhn is referring to. When he says abstraction is important to representational art he is talking about how the artist pulls elements from the visual field. If we think of the visual field as a flat surface composed of sections of various colors, shapes, tones and edges then we need to be able see the shapes. To do this we need to be able to pick out the shapes and they are often very abstract, irregular, shapes. It is the artist who arranges these shapes on the paper or canvas to mimic the three-dimensional field that has been reduced to two dimensions in the artist's and viewer's minds. Now, when I paint I will paint a background shape and then paint over portions to give a better sense of depth. But it could just as easily be done by dividing the background shape up and painting it around the foreground shape. BillF

kkelly
11-29-2005, 06:20 PM
In regards to the fox painting I find the red of the rocks in the lower right really troublesome. I flattens the picture for me- try covering it up or imagining it a continuation of the white rock color and for me it is a better painting.
Karl

Deborah Secor
11-29-2005, 11:05 PM
Karl, I think that reddish area in the corner is a bit overplayed in this print (or by the program here at WC). I have a book of Kuhn's work and it's a very subtle warm, more in the ochre range than red. I agree, in this rendition that red is a little distracting.

You can't argue with his masssing of values, though, can you?

Deborah

Deborah Secor
11-29-2005, 11:10 PM
If we think of the visual field as a flat surface composed of sections of various colors, shapes, tones and edges then we need to be able see the shapes.

I agree, Bill--it's all about shapes, but for me it's all about shapes defined by their values, devoid of color or details of any kind. I think if a painting begins with good masses of value organized into interesting shapes, the painting will be strong if you stay true to those shapes. And it's even stronger if the colors and details are used to enhance this massing...

Deborah

Kathryn Wilson
11-29-2005, 11:21 PM
Hi, I think I am having a semantics problem here - is the word "abstraction" equivalent to the word "design" of a painting? In our recent pastel show, there was an award for "best design" and when asked what is meant by that term, the judge had a hard time explaining it.

And this has to be in conjunction with composition, correct? Poor design or abstraction will lead to poor composition. Or am I way off track here?

Deborah Secor
11-30-2005, 12:03 AM
When I was in art school back in the dark ages, well, the 70s, the word 'design' was a real put-down! If you said someone was a designer it was scathing criticism. So my reaction to the word is a bit off center, I suspect.

To me design indicates the overall qualitities of the painting, including the masses of values, the colors chosen, the line, detail, edge, and technical uses of the medium (such as textures). Abstraction is tied more intimately to the shapes underlying everything in any painting. No matter how you dress it up, the abstraction of a painting is its distillation, the bone structure, if you will, the anatomy that predicates all the rest, underneath the color and details, or anything else that is part of the design.

I hope Mr. Kuhn won't mind, but I took his painting and modified it to show you what I mean:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-bob_kuhn_B.jpg

This to me is the underlying abstraction. The design may relate to this, but it has to take into consideration all the rest along with this... Design describes the totality of the painting. Abstraction is the essence of it. Does that make sense?

Deborah

Kathryn Wilson
11-30-2005, 05:55 AM
The "bones" of the painting makes it much clearer.

Are we supposed to put up images of our own paintings, or examples of other artists' work that show good abstraction?

Deborah Secor
11-30-2005, 11:13 AM
Your choice, Kat! I think we could use this as a place to explore others and our own work, don't you?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-Bouquet_.jpg
Here's one of mine to examine. I had it framed already but took it out. There's something about that corner flower... I'm still in the process of looking at it and considering, and although parts please me I think the underlying abstraction might be improved with a crop or other additions. Not sure yet! Tell me what you all think.

Deborah

Bill Foehringer
11-30-2005, 12:28 PM
With your painting of the flowers draw an outline around the outer edge of the flower mass. This painting is two shapes the flowers and the background. But the background is split in two by the flowers so there is one large 'negative' space shape to the left and three smaller negative space shapes along the right side as delineated by the dark green leaves.
Are you referring to the flower in the lower left of the image bothering you? I don't know if that's what is unbalanced. The dark green leaves on the right dramatically throw the eye to the right. Could it be that a similarly shaped undefined curved leaf exiting the painting from just above the white flowers or 'behind' them provide balance without making the painting too static?
It's a beautiful painting. When you painted it did you focus on each flower as just a basic shape at first and then add smaller shapes within each flower shape to give cues as to how the surface of the flower curves in the light? BillF

Kathryn Wilson
11-30-2005, 12:31 PM
I hesitate to comment on the abstraction of this painting as I am still working through how this is done. I am squinting like mad. (okay, so I took it into Photoshop to see this better) From this, I don't see real strong blocks of abstraction - it's almost like the painting is split in half diagonally?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/14941-dees_bouquet.jpg

I do know that the bare/grey background in the lower right draws my eye there.

Kathryn Wilson
11-30-2005, 12:44 PM
Okay, here's mine - my still life project - not nearly done, but best to see if the abstraction is strong enough now, rather than later when done.

Deborah Secor
11-30-2005, 01:27 PM
Hmmm, good one, Kat. Yes, get the underlying abstraction strong early on and the rest comes.

I wonder if this crop improves some of the things that Bill mentioned...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-bouquet_crop.JPG

In yours, that circle-swoop is a very self-contained shape with nothing compelling to divide the rest of the shapes up. I'd either focus on that dominant shape or divide some of the other spaces up with more vertical and horizontal shapes. Maybe a crop??? Don't know...what do you think?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-kats_abstraction.jpg

I always try to analyze the shapes of the corners in a still life--as in my bouquet painting. I identify the shape at each corner and try to make them varied and interesting. Try thinking that way!

When you painted it did you focus on each flower as just a basic shape at first and then add smaller shapes within each flower shape to give cues as to how the surface of the flower curves in the light?
Bill, I worked very fast on this one and tried not to over-analyze each flower, but I like working from larger shapes to smaller ones. I let that calligraphy do it's work at the end, like punctuation, only after I had established the shapes, colors and light.

Deborah

Deborah Secor
11-30-2005, 01:37 PM
I also want to look at some of the work done by masters..like this Degas painting.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-degas-race-blur.jpg

I turned it upside down so I'm not thinking about the subject matter. It should work in any direction if the abstraction is strong, right?

So, what do you think of this one? Does it work? Why? Does it matter if it's upside down?

Deborah

Kathryn Wilson
11-30-2005, 01:50 PM
hmmm . . . probably should have put in the real one for comparison. I am going to add some shapes on the bottom plate - small tomatoes, bread and basil leaves. I think the reflections will stand in for the vertical shapes you mention - I think. It's probably not fair to post something not truly done.

PeggyB
11-30-2005, 03:39 PM
Just a quick thought about your flowers Deborah.
First of all, I like the overall colors and texture, but the repeated diagonal is a bit overwhelming to me.
Your lovely "quiet" triangle in the upper left is almost exactly a diagonal half of the painting - I said almost.
It is balanced in the background by the darker triangle in the lower right.
You've placed most of your lightest flowers against the lightest background color and your darkest flowers against the darkest background and all are a repeat of the same diagonal.
The middle tone (pinkey red) is in the middle of the light and dark and again repeats the diagonal.
Although you've applied some nice light dots (baby's breath?) to the right lower corner, they too look like a triangle, and I'm not getting any way to work into and out of your composition through either color or abstraction.
Hmmmm - and come to think of it, your darkest dark mass (the green in the stems) and lighest light mass (lite yellow that reads for white) are stacked one on top of the other in almost the center of the paper. Your idea to crop might help there. Let's see how it looks cropped in black and white:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/68149-Untitled-2.jpg

and in color:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/68149-Untitled-4.jpg

Could this be the quick fix? Still a bit "diagonal", but I think you could easily change that too.

Peggy

Bill Foehringer
11-30-2005, 03:50 PM
Referrin to the Degas, except for the horizontals in the background this looks like a Rochart (sp) inkblot with the negative space roughly equal on either side of a horizontal line through the center of the figures on horseback. The lights on the jockey's thighs are interesting repeats.
It may be that the balance in the painting is acheived by the roughly equal but different interseting shapes around the figures.
Also the faint background horizontals may be a subtle way of drawing attention to the symmetry of the open space. If so this would be a something to look for in any subject. Does the 'V' of the figures lead to a brightly colored focus? I, course cannot tell what color is at the apex of that horizontal 'V' of the figures in this monotone. BillF

Deborah Secor
11-30-2005, 04:29 PM
I see what you mean Peggy... As I was looking at the shapes I decided that in the original the dark and light make equal shapes, and the two triangles on either side are equal. I think my crop takes care of some of that. The diagonals were most intentional, as was the choice of dark/light areas.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/30-Nov-2005/23609-bouquet_crop.JPG
Here I think some of those issues are solved. Now to think about it in real life! LOL

Deborah

Shari
12-01-2005, 06:11 PM
I was reading Richard McDaniel's book, "Landscape" today and near the end of the book are a couple pages called "Abstrcting from Nature." He states, "The basis of abstract art is the concept of rsponding to color and shape rather than rendering specific objects . . . Good realisting painting also has good abstract structure . . . by stripping images bare of all but the essential, an artist concentrates more on the interaction of component parts." McDaniel goes on to say, "When I look at a landscape painting or a real scene, I don't always try to identify objects. What I see first is essentially a grouping of non representational shapes . . . I am primarily concerned with getting my compositional structure into an abstract arrangement of shapes that attracts me."

I found this inspiring at this point in time; especially since I am not one to sit and draw a complex picture before painting. I hope others find this useful. It's a great book.

Orchidacea
12-01-2005, 09:52 PM
I love a strong diagonal in a composition, so I'm not thrilled with this crop on your painting, Deborah. Actually, I would probably fill out the diagonal created by the light-colored flowers by adding a couple into that empty spot near lower left. Does that make sense?

This is such an interesting conversation...I've been thinking a lot about these kinds of issues.

Here are a couple of my paintings that explore an abstraction of the shapes and volumes. This has been somewhat of an obsession for me recently....and I'm still learning, and have a LOT to learn, but....well, here they are.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Dec-2005/41088-Porcelain_Bowl.jpg

I was drawn to this composition because it showed up in the corner of a photograph of something else entirely. I cropped it out and had a go at it, even though it was lacking a lot of information. I love the strong diagonal with the roundness of the bowl above, and I love the light/dark contrasts. The bowl's decorative pattern was really of secondary interest to me, though I liked the orange/blue of the bowl and how the orange connected it to the wood below. I emphasized that orange (in the wood) because I liked that connection so much.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Dec-2005/41088-Red_Napkin_3.jpg

This photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea. This also plays with abstraction, I think (given my understanding of the term as used here). I chose this composition because I liked the yin/yang of the red/green areas, and how the two colors split the picture down the middle and yet also balance it out by appearing in reverse on each side.

I'm doing a lot of still lifes now because I just love manipulating the shapes and exploring the light/shadow effects.

scall0way
12-02-2005, 12:53 PM
What a fascinating thread. I guess I am still "art blind" in many ways. I'm still not sure I even "see" (either physically, or with the mind's eye) exactly what you are trying to accomplish here. But if I keep on reading and looking I hope I can learn.

kkelly
12-02-2005, 06:57 PM
Kim,
Would your bowl picture be ecen more dynamic if you cropped down the top to just above the bowl. It seems then that the flutes (?) on the top of the bowl would play against the top edge. The horizontal of the picture would help with the diagonal giving it even more force. Maybe cutting down the space above the bowl by half. What do you think?
Karl

Orchidacea
12-02-2005, 07:03 PM
Kim,
Would your bowl picture be ecen more dynamic if you cropped down the top to just above the bowl. It seems then that the flutes (?) on the top of the bowl would play against the top edge. The horizontal of the picture would help with the diagonal giving it even more force. Maybe cutting down the space above the bowl by half. What do you think?
Karl


Karl--It's an interesting idea; certainly worth a try....

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Dec-2005/41088-porcelain_bowl_crop.jpg

At first glance, I like it! Need to think about it some more...input, anyone?

Edit: Played a little more--here's a tighter crop, which I think I like even better. Whaddya think? It certainly adds tension!! I just have to decide if tension is what I want as the overriding impression...My sense in the original, uncropped image is that it gives an impression of serenity, which pleased me...but this one is more exciting, which also pleases me, LOL. I'm liking how it's kind of all divided into quadrants now...Comments, please!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Dec-2005/41088-porcelain_bowl_crop_2.jpg



BTW--I LOVE your pastels!! (sorry, just had to say it!)

Beanie
12-03-2005, 10:54 PM
Hallo .. this is an interesting thread. Peggy referred me to it when she looked at my vineyard painting (thank you, Peggy). I think I understand what you are talking about (well, most of it!) but I find it difficult to put my thoughts into words.

When I paint a subject I know that I look at the shapes and design, and that I am aiming for a representation that is convincing but not photographic. Is this a bit like what you are saying about abstraction?

I am uploading the painting that Peggy was looking at when she referred me here, plus a B & W version .... do you think it is the underlying shapes that make it work rather than the colours?

Beanie
12-03-2005, 11:00 PM
Sorry but meant to ask (seeing that painting upside-down reminded me) - has anyone ever done the exercise when you are given a drawing to copy but you have to draw it upside down (and not cheat by turning it the right way up!)? Its a real test of 'seeing' the shapes and not being influenced by 'what you think should be there'.

Not quite apropos to the discussion but sort of!

scall0way
12-04-2005, 11:11 AM
[QUOTE=Beanie]Sorry but meant to ask (seeing that painting upside-down reminded me) - has anyone ever done the exercise when you are given a drawing to copy but you have to draw it upside down (and not cheat by turning it the right way up!)? [QUOTE]

LOL, yes I did try that when I was doing exercises from the "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" book. It was fun to do - though I later tried the same image drwaing it right-side up and I confess I could hardly tell the difference between the two! Edwards, in her book, showed examples of what students did when drawing the image upside down, and rightside up, and in the book the differences were dramatic! But my two pictures looked like twins. :)

kkelly
12-04-2005, 11:32 AM
Beanie,
There are two "abstrast" elements in the vineyard painting that I wonder about. One is the brown line that is at the bottom primarily on the left thru center- it gets hidden nicely on the right side. It seems to me to cause a plane that pulls up to the surface in a flat way as opposed to leading into the picture.
The other is the dip in the tree line at the end of the straight path and then above it another dip in the mountains. It is subtle but it seems to make a line right down the picture so it interrupts the flow. Does anyone else see this? Once I did It was all I could see.
I do like the top edge of the mountains against the edge of the picture, I think the amount of sky is just right. Good work all around- these are minor points but hopefully helpful.
Karl

Beanie
12-04-2005, 01:29 PM
Hi there
Scall0way, maybe your two images were exactly the same because your 'inner eye' is well developed on both sides of your brain? I don't know!!

Actually I was listening to a very interesting discussion on the radio the other day about the latest research into brain activity. You know how for years we have been taught that we have these various centres in our brain which are responible for memory, speech, etc? Well, apparently the latest neurological studies suggest that there is no concentration of neural activity in any one place at any one time. It would seem that the whole brain is involved - with impulses whizzing about all over the place (highly technical jargon there!). One wonders where the Right brain v. Left brain theory would fit in there? Also how it fits in with the damage seen after 'strokes' in various part of the brain - loss of speech, for example. Anyway I'm digressing!

Karl, I can't see what you mean about the dark line, but i have turned the B&W image upside-down to see if it works ....... and to me it now looks quite unbalanced. What do you think?

kkelly
12-04-2005, 01:50 PM
Beanie,
The bottom part of the picture, the brown line I was seeing is probably due more to the reproduction than the painting itsself. The only thing that I find "weird" about the painting is the little dip in the tree line in the back right at the end of the row going straight down and I think I figured out why this bothers me so. The set up of the rows works as a one point perspective basically converging at the end of the row- right where the dip in the tree line is. This makes it the focal point of the painting. It seems to me that this painting isn't about focal points, it is about the scene of the landscape- how you move about it or how you have this convergence of these rows and then these "stripes" at the top of fields and mountains. It is more about the rhythms of the landscape then any particular point in it. So this is actually a good problem for this topic, how do you make the abstract qualities show this.
I was just looking at the color picture again and also realized that the darkest parts of the mountains are in this same area in the center. Maybe if the shadows on the mountains on the right were the darkest it would pull things over there and break up the center a little.
Karl

Beanie
12-04-2005, 03:13 PM
Karl - NOW i can see what you mean!!! and you are most probably right. It is interesting to suddenly be able see these things that you didn't know were there!

But I will not be changing anything on this one (can't face taking it out of its lovely frame and all that that entails!) but will certainly bear it in mind for the future.

many thanks for your input.

Orchidacea
12-06-2005, 07:25 PM
I'm sticking in a comment so this thread doesn't get lost--I'm hoping this interesting discussion will continue!

Deborah Secor
12-09-2005, 11:42 PM
I agree that this has been interesting. None of us ever really analyzed the Degas pastel except Bill! I thought I'd reopen that discussion. Here's the painting, blurred, in grayscale, & upside down:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Dec-2005/23609-degas-race-blur.jpg

Referrin to the Degas, except for the horizontals in the background this looks like a Rochart (sp) inkblot with the negative space roughly equal on either side of a horizontal line through the center of the figures on horseback. The lights on the jockey's thighs are interesting repeats.

It may be that the balance in the painting is acheived by the roughly equal but different interseting shapes around the figures.

Also the faint background horizontals may be a subtle way of drawing attention to the symmetry of the open space. If so this would be a something to look for in any subject. Does the 'V' of the figures lead to a brightly colored focus? I, course cannot tell what color is at the apex of that horizontal 'V' of the figures in this monotone. BillF

Bill, I see the whole thing this way. I went to the color image to 'see' it better...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Dec-2005/23609-degas-race.jpg

And this is my take:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Dec-2005/23609-degas-race+.jpg

It's a whole series of angles that make this an interesting composition to me. It's all about intersections...the dark tail near the white of the distant rider...the thrust of the horses bodies right up against the edge of the paper, trapped there...the way the jockey's face each other, and the horses heads overlap...the rhythms of the distant lines enhancing the movement.

Tell me what you think of the composition 'in real'! Do you see it differently in color and rightside up? What elements make it work best for you? (Or not?)

Deborah

Orchidacea
12-10-2005, 12:07 PM
The blurred image shows it best for me--I was struck by the strong repeating diagonals, bounded firmly by the "frame" created by the horizon and the painting's edge. It gives a powerful sense of great energy under great restraint--which is exactly the sensation given by racehorses in training.

The more I think about it, the more awed I am...

In "real", that central horse has his feet raised in forward movement, but his weight shifting back to his hindquarters to let him reverse direction, which he'll have to do as he comes up against those horses on the left...he will have to compress his haunches and raise his forehand to wheel around, which will shatter all the carefully constructed diagonals and horizontals--can't you just feel it coming?

Deborah Secor
12-10-2005, 12:17 PM
Yep, Kim, the blurry one allows us to analyze shapes and values and angles without getting all tied up in what's happening, who's doing it and why. It's no longer horses and riders, although it functions additionally on this plane.

I find so much of Degas' work is composed with a strong dynamic using the edge of the frame in a very real way. He did it with ballet dancers, horses, even just street scenes... It creates tension and movement in an interesting way. But it all comes down to the underlying abstraction.

Deborah

nootnewt
12-10-2005, 04:16 PM
Great discussion folks!
This may be a bit off what is being talked about in some ways but something I always remember from my art history class is Picasso.
When people think of Abstract they of course think of Picasso and rightly so. His Cubism is so important and fascinating but one of the most misunderstood art movements.
Basically he and Braque (sp?) were art buddies and would often paint togather. They would set up still lifes and paint and talk.
One day they decided to set up a still life then do something different. They would paint a part of the still life. Any part anywhere on the canvas. Then they would pick up the easels and move to another side of the room and paint another part of the still life from a different angle. They would do this over and over until they felt their painting was complete.
Picasso did not put a nose where it did not belong for no reason.

Of course Picasso was a well educated artist and knew theory before he threw it on its head. That is why it worked for him. Certain rules of art theory are based on hard coded visual perceptions in our minds. You cant create abstract art and escape those rules.

Seraut was all about testing how we physcially see color.

Mondrian believed one can create an emotion by simply placing different size and colored shapes in specific ways.

nootnewt
12-10-2005, 04:46 PM
In response to the Degas piece...

I look at this and I say why is it that my eye is no drawn directly to the "impending' collision on the right side of the piece. That is where most of the action, darker colors and shapes are. But then when you look at the upper left corner there is the town in the distance. This town is surrounded by a road. The shape of this town and road are elliptical.
I believe the reason my eye does not pull to the right and the work is pleasing to look at on a compositional level is that the elliptical shape at the top-left is balancing with the sharp angle of the vertical and horizontal horse on the rightside.

Here is what it looks like without the town.

nootnewt
12-10-2005, 04:49 PM
woops, here is the image I was supposed to add:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2005/69958-23609-degas-race_new.jpg

Now look at it with the town:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Dec-2005/69958-23609-degas-race.jpg

Orchidacea
12-10-2005, 07:34 PM
Newt (noot?), that is really interesting! I never would have thought of it, and I'm glad you pointed it out. I keep flipping back and forth between the two versions, and I just can't believe the difference. I have zero training in art, so I really value this kind of discussion.

And it's nice to "meet" you!

nootnewt
12-11-2005, 12:41 PM
Kim, it is nice to meet you as well. Art theory is a wonderful thing. Learning the different theories of functiton, form, color and perspective open up an artist's possibilities. It is like working in a darkley lit room without theory. You can still see what your doing but when you learn more and the light gets brighter you wonder how you saw things clearly before.
It also helps a person appreciate other works of art and the general beauty of the world around them more.

It is one thing to know you like to look at something but it is another to know why. ;)

Bill Foehringer
12-12-2005, 03:42 PM
I didn't really see the diagonals the same way. Good to see them pointed out. They are more obvious in the full color and not blurred images. The blurring minimized the legs which trigger looking for other diagonals when viewed by me in its 'real' state. The diagonals are connected to the main mass of the horse's/jockey's bodies top and bottom. So it's the repetition in the abstract that pulls this together. Mmmmmmm..... balancing the left and right brain.....BillF

Deborah Secor
12-13-2005, 01:26 PM
LOL Bill! Yep--balancing left and right brain. That's an ongoing thesis for me: I want to know enough intellectually to be able to make things happen in my painting using these elements, so that when it comes time to paint I can rely on that knowledge and be FREE to paint intuitively. It's an interaction, don't you think?

It's so disappointing to achieve something really good in a painting and suddenly realize it was totally by accident and I can never recreate it again on purpose... I want the intellectual part of painting to become tools I can use over and over again, but the part of me that uses the tools--the artist--then can paint with but almost despite the tools.

Does any of that make sense? :o

Deborah

Mikki Petersen
12-18-2005, 09:10 PM
Gee! We talked about this in class last month and I didn't get it...now we are talking about it here and (thank you Deborah) I understand abstract a bit...but I still cannot apply it. I think we are rubbing against my math block here.

Is the theory to pick out the main shapes and organize them pleasingly then build the painting upon that arrangement? Help...I'm totally lost and I've re-read the whole thread three times.

Mikki

Deborah Secor
12-19-2005, 07:10 PM
Okay, Mikki, I think you're almost there on this. Yes, to a degree means "to pick out the main shapes and organize them pleasingly then build the painting upon that arrangement", but that doesn't always have to be the order in which it's done.

As a landscape painter I often find a pleasing subject and arrange it on my paper because it intuitively 'looks right'. THEN I analyze the underlying shapes and see where the organization is good, or where it's lacking and should be rearranged. So I might take a photo of my painting in progress (which could be my drawing or even my first layer of color) and blur and/or grayscale it so that I can see it without objectifying it. This helps me think of the shapes of the values in terms of their masses, how they are arranged, what it would look like if it was just an abstract, and even shows me where I should add little shapes or details to draw the eye further into the painting. Once I can see things that way I make improvements in the composition, although I paint it as a more representational painting.

For instance, I start a painting, blur it and maybe see that it's a little scattered. Perhaps a big shape is pointing away from the area of interest, which is often a few smaller shapes or a place where the darkest dark and lightest light come closest together (or both). I then look at my painting to see if I could reshape the distracting shape. It might be a mountain or a stream or pathway that needs to move the eye differently, but it's still a shape defined by value--right??? Then I can re-draw the angle knowing that the underlying abstraction will work now.

Does this help?

Deborah

Mikki Petersen
12-19-2005, 07:35 PM
Yes! that helps totally! I think I was getting stuck on my definition of abstract instead of on the objective in question. Thank you! I'm not a very "abstract" thinker (pun intended) and take things as literally as a three year old child. It has been a struggle for me to ignore all the details of a scene because they "are there, aren't they?" and sometimes I get too literal in interpretting theory as well. I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to paint representationally and end up with an abstract.

Thanks for your patience,
Mikki

Deborah Secor
12-21-2005, 06:04 PM
I'm rating this thread. I think it's turned out to be pretty informational and interesting. I know the Mods are always asking us to rate them so they can find what we think should go in the library. Just a thought...maybe you want to rate it, too!

Deborah

Orchidacea
12-21-2005, 06:07 PM
I'll rate it too!

jackiesimmonds
12-21-2005, 10:59 PM
Fascinating thread, stuff I have been banging on about for years, both here at WC, and with students.

The UNDERLYING ABSTRACT qualities of a painting are, to my mind, vitally important. And I fully understand the confusion a lot of people feel when the word "Abstract" comes into the conversation. For many, that word is reallyscary, for them it defines an entire artistic world that they do not feel they relate to.

I believe that Deborah is, in fact, talking about something much more fundamental. She is talking about COMPOSITION. For those of you who are worried about the word Abstract, instead read Composition, it may take away some of the fear!

In fact, all figurative artists use the same language. We are all working on a 2 dimensional, flat surface, and saying things about the 3 dimensional world we live in.
However, what we need to fully understand is that instead of simply copying the world we see, on paper, to the best of our abilities, we can stretch ourselves much farther, and create far more interesting and exciting works, if we ORGANISE our paintings into a cohesive composition, which depends not simply on a shopping list of, say, three trees, one path, six clouds and a mountain, but instead, on painterly considerations (underlying abstraction) such as :


the divisions of the rectangle,
the quality of the shapes used,
the arrangement of dark, light, and middle toned areas,
rhythms, movements and counter-movements,
the path of the eye,
the placing of the focal point,
the element of repetition
-
in fact
the geometry underlying the shopping list.

In his book "Composing your paintings" by Bernard Dunstan - my bible - Dunstan says

"The subject-matter could be called the top layer, and the picture can be appreciated - as children will look at it - with this predominant in mind. At the same time, the abstract, or formal qualities, can be enjoyed, just as much as in a purely abstract picture. (see the distinction? j) And in yet another way, the two can't be separated; one is continually overlapping the other and influencing it. I am convinced that in some way the picture gains greatly from the fact that the painter is thus working on different levels at the same time. he is thinking of his subject, its individuality, and the qualities in it that he wants to stress; he is also thinking about the formal qualities, both in the picture and in the subject, which are being gradually unfolded and developed in the processes of looking and painting. "

This, for me, is the fascination. It is composition/design/underlying abstraction . But ...How to use these ideas?
Well, I generally begin my work on any picture with a thumbnail sketch. In that thumbnail, I start to consider the UNDERLYING GEOMETRY - call it the abstract qualities, call it composition - call it what you will, but at that point in time, I stop thinking too much about the subject, and try to think more about that list above.

Then, when I begin to paint, I veer between thinking about these kinds of things, and also how I want the picture to "look" - do I want my viewer to feel the wind in the grasses, or the stuffiness of the cafe, or the sparkle on the water...and how do I best achieve those kinds of things? The fact is, for me, anyway, that because my underlying design was originally considered fairly carefully, I can take time out to think more about the atmosphere of the piece.

sometimes, the picture begins to change, the composition may develop slightly differently, as I discover nuances I hadn't spotted originally. Colour begins to play a part, as my original thumbnail would probably have been in black, white and grey tones only; I find myself making adjustments as I work, hopefully adjustments which strengthen the finished piece, both in terms of its atmosphere, and its formal elements. I might strengthen an edge, which works to take the eye in a particular direction; I might soften an edge, which means that it melts into an adjoining shape, making a bigger shape which looks more "important" within the design. See how I am thinking? I am not thinking" oh I need to make that leaf look more like a leaf" - tho there may be times when i do think like that....the important thing here is, as Dunstant says, that we need to veer from one kind of thought to the other. Deborah's thread has usefully given us an indication of how, perhaps, we should be thinking, as artists.

If you have not read much about Composition and Design - the underlying abstract qualities of picture-making - then I really recommend that you do so. It takes time, and patience, to recognise these "formal qualities" Dunstan talks about, and there are some marvellous books which will help. It will not drop on you out of the sky, you have to study, please believe me. A good, simple book to begin with, is Greg Albert's excellent "The Simple Secret to Better Painting". When you have read that, your eyes will be fully opened to what Deborah means by "underlying abstraction" .

good discussion, food for thought.

Deborah Secor
12-22-2005, 12:10 AM
Brava, Jackie! Well put, great elaborations. Thanks so much for your valuable additions here!

Deborah

jackiesimmonds
12-22-2005, 03:35 AM
Brava, Jackie! Well put, great elaborations. Thanks so much for your valuable additions here!

Deborah


My pleasure. After I hit the send button, I wondered if I should have gone on at such length. You had, in fact, explained things perfectly well, but I always feel it never hurts to reinforce what has been said, particularly when what has been said is so valuable and important. And I wanted to mention Greg Albert's book and before I got there, I somehow got a bit carried away...do hope you weren't offended!.....

away now for a week for Christmas, so I wont disturb your thread again! (well, not for a while...:evil: )

Have a happy time over Christmas, everyone!
J

vhere
12-22-2005, 05:47 AM
that was really well put Jackie

I learned a lot from looking at how Degas arranged his compositions - he directs your eye around a painting like a film director - your eye follows the horses across that image you've been discussing, hits the barrier of the horse and rider on the left and skims back along the horizon, round that town and back again to the horse where you started. I love his dynamic, offbeat compositions.

Areas of simplicity and quiet are essential to offset areas of detail and activity and Degas is a master of this.

Deborah Secor
12-22-2005, 11:45 AM
Yes, Degas uses every inch of his canvas to move the eye, almost like sculpting movement, and he uses such risky compositions, too, hanging near the edge for a few moments and then catching you just in time to move on... His paintings are lessons in composition!

Jackie, do 'bother' our thread anytime you can manage! :D

Deborah

vhere
12-22-2005, 12:06 PM
sculpting - yes, a really good way of putting it :)

I tried to put a link to a one of his bathers, it has a shelf seen from above, across the right hand side, from top to bottom of the canvas, a fantastic composition and radically different. the link won't work :(

you'll find it if you google Degas along with 'woman bathing'

Deborah Secor
12-22-2005, 12:29 PM
http://colours-art-publishers.com/prod2402.htm

Is this the one you mean? Very striking composition! I love the way things hang over off the edge of the shelf into the deeper space, creating tension yet linking the image.

Look at this one blurred! It always helps me to better see it as an abstraction.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Dec-2005/23609-degastubbl.jpg

Deborah

vhere
12-22-2005, 02:02 PM
:) that's the one - yes the depth and the unusual viewpoint and division of space. He was so original.

I think people often equate abstraction with flattening of the picture plane - whereas flat abstraction was short lived and limited - the best abstraction contains depths and space. I love the work of Ian McKeever - his huge abstracts in monotones are wonderful

http://fineart.ac.uk/images/works/BTON/400/bt0006.jpg - link to image by him

I saw a fantastic exhibition of these works a few years ago - the paintings were enormous and the paints were veils of whites greys and blacks and uprimed canvas, some matte, some shiny, some pearlescent - they were beautiful and full of light and space.

and another one: http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=21189&searchid=7802

though big, these are small works compared with the vast ones I saw.

and wow look at this one

http://www.alancristea.com/pages/new_pub/mckeever/day_painting_18.html

I'd never seen this - isn't it gorgeous?

Mikki Petersen
12-23-2005, 12:28 AM
It's always so nice to hear things explained by several different people. Jackie, what you say about getting stuck on the word "Abstact" is so true for me. When I realized from Deborah's response to me that we were really talking about the composition of shapes and values, then I was able to take in the info. Abstract? I don't know abstract! But I'm learning...

Mikki

Orchidacea
12-23-2005, 06:47 AM
I am eating this up with a spoon. This is really exciting stuff....and it makes sense!! Thanks for the book suggestions, Jackie, and thanks to Deborah and Vivien for the paintings to consider. I wish I could express how much this is helping me. It's like a light going on, you know?

Deborah Secor
12-23-2005, 11:26 AM
My dictionary defines the word abstract like this: 'having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation', from a Latin word abstrahere, meaning to draw away, meaning 'disassociated from any specific instance'. (I love dictionaries.. sorry!)

The point is that the word abstract implies that what you're doing is distilling to the essence, finding what underlies and informs something below the surface. It's the intrinsic--the special nature or constitution of a thing. To abstract is to summarize things.

If it helps to think of it as composing, go ahead and think that--but I want you to understand that the word composition carries a slightly different conntation. When you create a composition you arrange elements in some way, no matter how complex or detailed they might be. But the underlying abstraction of the composition takes it down to its essence, its most basic form, its fundamentals, its starting point.

So, do you see the difference here? Yes, compose away. Just be sure that part of that process is a distillation of information that helps you see its core. That's why I like to take a complex photo with lots of information, remove the color, and blur it. I can see less, which helps me understand more...

Okay, let's try it this way. The underlying abstraction is the bullet point outline. The artistic elements flesh out each bullet point with more details. The arrangement of the paragraphs is the composition. We want to analyze the bullet points--so that we don't miss the underlying qualities by being overwhelmed with the information in the composition.

I sure hope that makes sense.... :D

Deborah

vhere
12-23-2005, 02:32 PM
yes, well put :) composition alone gives you a pattern - a pretty decoration to match the sofa - abstraction distils the essence and has depth and meaning as well as composition.

Merry Christmas
Vivien
:cat:

vhere
12-23-2005, 02:33 PM
yes, well put :) composition alone gives you a pattern - a pretty decoration to match the sofa - abstraction distils the essence and has depth and meaning as well as composition.

Merry Christmas
Vivien
:cat:

Paula Ford
12-24-2005, 10:59 AM
...It's so disappointing to achieve something really good in a painting and suddenly realize it was totally by accident and I can never recreate it again on purpose... I want the intellectual part of painting to become tools I can use over and over again, but the part of me that uses the tools--the artist--then can paint with but almost despite the tools.

Does any of that make sense? :o

Deborah

Oh gee, that is how I feel with every one of my paintings :crying: ...like all the good ones were accidents.

Orchidacea
12-24-2005, 11:19 AM
Oh gee, that is how I feel with every one of my paintings :crying: ...like all the good ones were accidents.


Has it begun to occur to you that there are too many good ones for them to be accidents? Statistics tell us so.

I do know what both you and Deborah are saying. It seems quite important to have knowledge and understanding to back up instinctive choices.

Deborah Secor
12-24-2005, 12:18 PM
There's a crossover, of sorts, in which I can go into that 'right brain' state and paint, pull out to the 'left brain', analytical part and figure out what's happening rationally, then re-enter the painter's way of seeing and use what I know and saw was happening.

Paula, I agree with Kim--you have too many successes on record here for them to be purely accidental. I suspect you desire to be more in control, to be able to rationally make happen every aspect of a painting in order to feel you have succeeded. Of course, I could be wrong about you, but that's a place I've been myself. I think it's a matter of controlling a certain degree of the painting process, while simultaneously relying on happy accidents to move me along. That way every painting becomes an experience, not an exercise--if you know what I mean. It contains a degree of control and of spontaneity. The best ones have both!

Deborah