My Work – Responding to Composition

Weights-and-Sketches-9½-x-12¾-in-mixed-on-paper

Weights-and-Sketches-9½-x-12¾-in-mixed-on-paper

I began this still life by building up layers of mixed media to establish a textured surface which invites marking and scoring.  I then marked in the table top quickly and gouged the heavy line spanning the wall and turning upwards at the right.

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detail one

I next determined the shape of the table cloth to provide an entry from the bottom edge of the painting.  Then, once on the table, changing it’s direction to harmonize with both ends of the table top.  I decided to have this direction emphasized with a series of parallel edges and lines, and these in turn determined the placement of the sketches and soaking pan.  The rhythm continues with a spatial plane (see detail one) to the right of the table finishing with the edge of the wall.

I used the same considerations horizontally as well, but with some “shifting” to convey the feeling of occupying space, especially along the top edge of the table.  I’m very pleased with the downward shift of the stripes adjacent to the soaking pan and the angle just above (see detail two).  I feel a sense of energy there.

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detail two

 The wall above invited the two rectangles and the circle.  I played with their placements until I was satisfied with how they supported the items on the table.  I especially like how the delicate circle offers a gentle place to pause away from the focus of the weights and soaking pan.

The top of the painting felt a little vacant, and this prompted the arrow, which introduced the finishing touch for the rhythmic parallels below.

The black edge of the soaking pan then needed rhythmic support, resulting in the appearance of the black weights.  I readjusted their placements until they felt right.  The triangular feel of the lower weight in the pan was determined to relate to the shape in the sketch at the left providing the finishing touch for the composition.

I’m always open to where the composition will guide my considerations.

My Work – Refining Composition

Tide – 2011 – 9½ x 13¾ in – mixed media on paper mounted on board

 One of the most interesting aspects of painting is refining a composition.  I do this by working with shapes and markings which lead to unanticipated considerations.

This approach suits my temperament and I have come to trust my instincts through study.  We need a base of knowledge for growth and I feel connecting with the modern masters a great way to develop.

The subject matter of the painting “Tide” was not anticipated when I started this painting. I began with a horizontal line and what I like to term a “loop” as I quite often do.  I never tire of using shapes I have a deep connections with, as they lead me onward, something I learned from Morandi.

As I was marking the painting in search of structure and rhythmic movement, I found myself introducing a wash of blue within the loop.  This is when the rhythmic movement happened. I energized the blue wash with an arrangement of smaller loops, then introduced a circle above the horizontal line.  This immediately provided a sense of place, which I interpreted as a tidal pool.

To provide containment for the composition I introduced two slightly curved vertical lines at the left, as well as subtle horizontal lines across the top, to guide our perusal towards the circle.  The vertical line at the right also holds us within the painting. I then scratched a series of vertical lines across the bottom to complete the subtle containment.  Can you feel how your eye stays within the painting?  This wasn’t done in one step as I removed and remarked the elements a number of times until it felt right.  I enjoy this phase very much.

The same went for the smaller blue loops.  I adjusted their placement and strengths until I said “yes”, being patient with myself.

I should mention the vertical markings on the circle as it may seem odd if your thinking of the sun or moon. hey are there to relate to the verticals across the bottom of the painting.  This is a good example of what I like to term, “composition before information”.

Finally I marked in another (inverted) loop below and to the right of the large loop for rhythmic support.  Can you feel the relationship and its importance?  I didn’t adjust it and I’m very pleased with its placement.

My Work – Shape Motifs, Reduction, Rhythm and Spatial Considerations

Blue Cup VI - 37 x 50 in - mixed media on canvas

This composition with my blue cup is a great example of reducing composition to an arrangement of shapes.  This seemingly basic approach opens the door to wonderful spatial ad rhythmic considerations.  The most important aspect of painting is the viewer’s engagement with how things relate, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is working with shape motifs.

This painting could be described as an arrangement of rectangles supported with a sub motif of ovals and a triangle.  The challenge is orchestrating them, which usually calls for considerable reworking, until I “feel” their relationships.  I become excited when this begins to happen and will stay with it no matter how many adjustments or refinements my sense of rhythm and harmony commands. I never tire of the process.

The primary relationship in this painting is between the cup and the rectangular pan.  The distance, or space, between has an energy which is embraced by the table top and supported by the rhythmic arrangement of the small white sketches.

Now to the very important play with lines and markings on the table.  I felt the ovals and half ovals needed rhythmic support.  Can you see the curved lines and feel their influence with the ovals?

The four lines (detail) between the cup and the pan were instinctively placed to support the four sketches. The triangle below was instinctively placed for a counter movement toward the sketches. There is also a small angle (detail) at the right which guides your eye back towards the sketches. 

The balance of the painting supports the rectangle motif with the lines at the top harmonizing with the horizontals of the table, especially the front edge.

A very important connection is a small line on the wall, just above the left edge of the soaking pan.  It carries you upward towards the strong white line carved into the painting.  I spent considerable time determining the placement, weight and length to harmonize its relationship with the cup and pan.  I also used the same consideration with the right edge of the cup and the edge of the white sketch above.

Striving to ensure every mark and shape have harmonious relationships and avoiding competition is the key.

If the shapes were not simple their relationships would not be felt as strongly.

 

 

My Work – Movement – (The Reductive Process)

Direction VI - 2008 - 49 x 97 in (124 x 246 cm) - mixed media on canvas

This painting has a special place for me as it represents how wonderful it can be when a composition succeeds through the reductive process.

The seed of the painting is to convey movement as purely as possible without any superfluous markings or information.  This can be very challenging, for it is not simplification just through omission and reduction.  It is striving to have the viewer connect and participate at the primal level.  Arranging and rearranging the markings until I respond is genuinely exhilarating. and It always seems to be a circuitous route..

Those small dancing angles are an invitation to engage and they may represent anything the viewer wishes.  The colours and textures are open as well, and it is my hope the painting invites a different response with every visit.

I should mention a very important structural consideration.  Note how the bottom edge of the light area curves upward at the right.  To support this movement I provided a parallel line just above.  This is very important for the composition and is meant to be felt more than seen.

I would like to share another detail which I feel is the finishing touch to the painting.  When my eye comes to where the blue intrudes slightly into the light texture, gently holding me briefly, I smile. (see detail)   The best notes appear when we are responding to the painting.

We artists put ourselves through a great deal to arrive where we initially intended, and to be truthful that place can be elusive. 

 

 

My Work – Repeating Shapes for Rhythm and Balance

Rough Wall - 2013 - 9¾ x 13 in - mixed water soluble media

This recent still life is an excellent example of using shapes for continuity or rhythm in a composition.  Repeating shape motifs organize my considerations, permitting me to search for an interesting arrangement within the context of my chosen shapes -(rectangles, half ovals and triangles).  I begin with the basic rectangle of the table.  The rest of the composition is not predetermined, but rather develops through playfully scratching in the paint, then removing and rearranging the shapes until I respond to their relationships.

Next I playfully marked in two parallels which define the edges of the tablecloth.  Can you feel how your eye moves up and to the right along the angle determined by the edges?  I also played with the half oval shapes of the chair and the place mat, adjusting their relative positions and sizes until I found myself marking three rhythmic half ovals on the wall above.  I then refined the shapes which were formed by the tablecloth painting them blue to represent the table.  There is a very important triangle at the bottom (on the tablecloth) which leads you  towards the boxes and a playful small one just below the boxes.  I also indicated a partial triangle above on the wall.  I am now responding to the painting and continued to orchestrate with various markings to enhance the viewer’s participation

I love spatial planes which also can be read as shapes.  There are two in the painting, which I marked in just after the half ovals.  One is the sense of a rectangle protruding above the top edge of the table and the other on the wall, which appears the come forth.  I like the sense of depth they provide and their relationship with the shapes of the boxes and the blue cup.

 

My Work – Working with Shapes and Spatial Planes

Blue Table - 2012 - 10 x 12½ in (24.7 x 32 cm) - mixed water soluble media

I find it interesting how restriction can lead to new considerations, such as becoming involved with spatial planes as we see in my painting  “Blue Table”.  Presenting a harmony with planes and shapes can be quite elusive and I love the challenge. They always seem fresh to me because they are not predetermined, except for the primary shapes, which intentionally read as a still life.  I then play with the shapes and planes until I begin to respond to their relationships and I must say they are not meant to be apparent.  I wish the viewer to “feel” rather than see them.

Let me begin with the shapes which provide the lyrical unity of the composition.  To ensure this, I used an arrangement of rectangles and triangles, conveying harmonious relationships.   I actually adjusted their sizes, colours, values and locations several times until my sense of harmony was satisfied.  I enjoy this immensely, and working  and reworking water soluble media permits endless play.

Now to the planes which providing the sense of space.  They are both shapes and edges of shapes which connect or integrate elements in the painting.  For instance. the left side of the table integrating with the edge of a plane above, which then takes your perusal to the cool rectangle above the orange stripe.  You then take in the yellow triangle.  Can you feel the yellow triangle sitting on a vertical plane which seems to come forth?  The feeling of space is also felt where the top edge of the table shifts, merging the table and the wall as well as providing the sense of movement.  The small box is also sitting on a plane, and I love that small angle below the rhythm of black dots and how it comes forth.

I mustn’t finish without pointing out how the blue triangles provide a base for the composition and I’m very pleased with the triangles at the top corners as well.  I then provided a curve within the soaking pan which leads you towards the box through the four dots, which were rearranged a number of times.  There is another relationship providing an important rhythmic support for the prominent black sides of the soaking pan.  It’s the long parallel rectangle adjacent to the blue triangle to the right.  This came forth during the process.  I am grateful for having the patience to allow a composition to evolve, no matter how many revisions are required.

I hope you enjoy finding other subtle notes, such as the little black line at the top of the blue triangle at the left .  Can you feel it’s impact?

My Work – (Influences and Spatial Planes)

Two Boxes – 2012 – 23 x 33 cm – mixed water soluble media

This recent painting is an excellent example of how I permit influences to show in my paintings.  My first consideration in this composition is the feeling of the space between the orange chair and the blue boxes and the use of spatial planes (Paul Cezanne).  I also refined the composition through reduction (Ben Nicholson), and determined eye movement with Paul Klee’s approach to guiding the viewer’s perusal.  I’m not thinking of these masters when working on the painting, but recognize their influences afterwards.

My own sensibilities are prominent, which have developed over time through studying many wonderful artists.  Their work and knowledge has provided me with a strong foundation.  The key is appreciating the process of the masters.

The spatial planes are very important and fascinating, as they can be quite elusive when developing the sense of space.  They usually require a considerable amount of time to feel or refine, (which suits my temperament), ensuring continuity in my work.

Thank you Cezanne for this beautifully open consideration!

 

 

My Work – (Painting a Consideration)

Don Farrell - Direction V (Moving Square) - 2008 - 137 x 137 cm - mixed media

In this painting I was exploring how to provide movement with a square within a square which was an interesting challenge.  I reworked this painting many times before I had the feeling of achieving my initial intent, which finally appeared with the two parallel lines and the sense of an arrow at the right of the painting.  I hope you can feel the integration of the lines in the square with the two parallels and how they pull you towards the arrow and then beyond.

Movement is the subject, or in other words, this painting is about something rather than of something and the viewer provides the movement!

This is truly a wonderful open challenge for artists to explore.

My Work – Shape Motifs, Parallels and Rhythm

Don Farrell - Blue Stripes IV - 2004 - 21 x 29 in - mixed water soluble media

This is a composition which I will continue to revisit as I feel it has endless possibilities for refinement.  I think it is very important to establish a personal and recognizable feel for my paintings.  I have learned this from painters such as Morandi, Mondrian, Matisse and many others.

I am intrigued with the possibilities presented through reduction, and I usually find myself focusing on spatial considerations. This requires removing the superfluous and bringing the composition to the forefront.

Using shape motifs is a great way to establish the foundation of a composition.  In this painting I provided a rectangle motif supported by an oval sub motif.  And I rearranged their sizes and spacing a number of times before I was satisfied.  The white oval above the table appeared late in the painting and I felt it provided both balance, and a little competition, for the shapes and colour on the table.

The three small white lines just above the left edge of the table provide rhythmic movement and keep you in the composition.  There is a vertical at the right directs your eye movement, connecting to a subtle line which loops over the white oval, returning you to the three white lines and then to the shapes on the table.

I must mention the line in the white oval which parallels the blue stripes.  This provides a very important rhythmic integration.

In composition all of the above should be “sensed” rather than seen.

My Work – Spatial Considerations

Don Farrell - Special Place - 2000 - 34 x 52 cm - mixed water soluble media on paper

The seed of this painting was the feeling of the space between the chair and the collection and sorting of the black objects, which are intentionally open for interpretation.  This is more interesting for the viewer.

I usually begin compositions by dividing the space which, in this painting, are the bands spanning the background.  I have now quickly established a rhythm of horizontals which is the foundation of the composition. I was very careful with the rhythmic vertical movements of the chair, the triangles and the floating shape to ensure they will not compete with the horizontal movements.  The primitive animal form appeared, to my delight, after the triangles found their way into the composition.

I was very careful not to loose sight of my initial consideration, the feeling of the space between the chair and the white square, and I don’t mind saying that I like it very much.  The warmth of the chair also feels right, as I wanted it to relate to the white cloth but not dominating.

I think a successful painting is a combination of knowledge of composition and play.