Frank Webb talks about painters as shape makers. I find this to be very apt. All we do is paint shapes. We can’t paint objects, we can’t make things magically appear. I talked about it a lot in the past, I talk about it again and I’ll keep talking about it in the future. It is my belief that one needs to adapt this shape making mindset in order to truly advance as a painter. In my article on shapes I go much more in-depth on the topic and I encourage you to read or revisit the article for further information.

Elements of Design – 1. Shape

With today’s painting demonstration I return to a subject I tackled several times already. Below I include links to four previous demonstrations, each addressing slightly different side of it. At the end of the article you can find today’s demonstration with the description of the process.

Shape making is, of course, a complex subject. It needs to be understood in conjunction with the rest of the elements and principles of design and how they function within the environment of an actual painting. There’s a word for them being understood as a whole and that word is pattern. Below I paint such pattern and show photographs of my reference that applies to today’s demonstration (and all demos linked here) as well.

“Painting a Pattern” Full Demonstration [+Video]

Building upon the discussion on patterns, the next demo makes a point of utilizing different techniques and yet achieving a satisfying result. You are free to paint however you want, technique-wise, as long as you have a vision, that is you conform your painting to the pattern of light/dark and warm/cool.

Combining Techniques. Watercolor demonstration [Video]

Simplification is a very important and necessary part of the designing process. As artists, we run what we see through our personal “filter”. We translate what we see. This results in a very personal approach to how we use color, what shapes we use, etc. There is so much more to the process of simplification and it is a topic I want to tackle more in-depth in the future.

Simplify. Watercolor demonstration [Video]

The benefits of attempting single concept a number of times is discussed in this next demonstration.

Variation on a theme. Watercolor demonstration [+Video]

As you can see, the resulting paintings differ quite a bit from each other. This is an important point. Exploring your idea, or concept, from different angles makes you think about painting very differently than painting a pretty picture would. This is what I want to emphasize with today’s demo painting. There’s a lot to be explored in most subjects.

Sometimes we stick too much to our plans, to what we imagine our painting should look like finished. But remember that your reference is right in front of you. From the very first mark you put down on paper you need to recognize that what you just created is a new reality and you need to react to it and it only. Don’t paint from photograph directly, you effectively compare two very different worlds. What’s more, photographs lie both in color and value, as well as spatial effects. It’s therefore important to let each painting unfold on its own. Even using your own sketch may be misleading. You gain momentum as you paint. To keep this momentum going you need to listen to your intuition, and most importantly to your painting.

Preliminary sketch for today’s demonstration

The above is the preliminary sketch for today’s painting. Notice that the shape structure is very different from the previous versions – it’s much more flat.

The painting process itself begins with a single shape. I don’t draw on my paper. I put it down resolutely and work from it outwards. I make my white shapes the subject – the focus of the composition and I surround my white shapes with middle value and add darks at the end. To suggest depth I overlap. However, I don’t overlap too much here as I don’t want a great depth. I want to conform to the 2-D grid concept. Instead I use value to differentiate between planes. I push back and bring forward. Light comes forward, dark goes back.

The final painting:

©2017 Daniel Novotny, 822. Watercolor on Paper, 11 x 15 in.
©2017 Daniel Novotny, 822. Watercolor on Paper, 11 x 15 in.

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As always, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments, I’m always happy to chat with you. Thanks for reading and watching!

-Daniel

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