Focusing On The Elements of Design

"A Cheap Trick"
watercolor on Winsor Newton Paper, 22" x 30"
As you know, Dear Reader, I teach art in the workshop and seminar environment. Moreover, I help artists learn how to think about their work. Not about how to put paint on the paper or canvas, but how to make sense out of what is happening with line, shape, color, value, direction, size and texture. It’s a giant leap for most of us artists to venture away from thinking about subject and to concentrate on whether the story of the paint is being told with sound design. Good art, be it sculpture, oil paint, watercolor or any other medium is simply a much larger thing than whether or not we copied an object, scene or face faithfully. (there are those who will argue this point vehemently)

I made this painting over a period of three days and twenty hours of work. Mind you, the work was in the thinking, not laying on gobs of paint. The time spent with this piece was about how to include a full range of values . . . white to absolute black and everything between and not have a choppy, excessively contrasty painting to look at. But a unified piece with beautiful harmonies and a few contrasts that would absolutely entertain a viewer. I concentrated on value transitions, variable textures, different kinds of line, opposing directions, pushing color from absolute neutral to intense hue, and arranging shape in a way to create tantalizing interest.

That is what design is all about. Making the elements (line, size, shape, direction, color, value and texture) create interesting relationships on the page or canvas to make unity, harmony, contrast, dominance, repetition, variety, gradation and balance. I know that is a mouth full, but if it is done right, any subject . . . .even a non subject . . . .will arrest a viewer and cause him or her to look past a mere glance . . . .maybe even study a piece of work for what went into it, rather than what or where it was.