Motifs and Submotifs

Don Farrell - Three Blocks - 1998 - 15 x 25 cm - 6 x 10 in - egg tempera

This small painting is an excellent example for showing the importance of shape motifs. The composition has a rectangle motif, supported by a sub motif of rhythmic loops.

Let me take you to the top area first.  Note how the area is made up from a series of subtle rectangles.  They must be subtle in order not to compete with the focus of the painting.

The chair seats and the three blocks are other notes in the rectangle motif.  The blocks, being the focus, are supported by slightly emphasizing the two rungs just below, (another rectangle.)

There is a very important small rectangle above the middle chair, which echoes the blocks.  In compositional terms this pulls your gaze gently from the blocks.  Pulls are wonderful compositional elements, if they are in tune. They musn’t disrupt the viewer’s gaze or compete.

I will be mentioning and showing more pulls and pauses in the works of many notable artists in upcoming posts.

The sub motif (the loops) which are the shapes of the chair backs, are repeated in the top area as shown in this detail.

These Integrate the chairs with the background, which is very important.

Another important note is how each chair is painted as if you are directly in front.  Very important, as this frees the viewer’s movement as mentioned in the post on Cezanne’s painting “Receptacles, Fruit and Biscuits on a Sideboard”



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