"That's the Way it Was. It was THERE!"

"Pont Valentre"
watercolor 15 x 22 inches

Ever since first seeing this fortified medieval bridge for the first time, I have wanted to paint it.   There is something stirring about the vision of this amazingly old structure, built in 1350 AD, standing over the Lot River in Cahors, France!   It is the last standing fortified bridge of this age in Europe.  

History aside, the painting challenges presented by this structure and the river would entertain any painter . . . accomplished or otherwise.   There were, originally, three towers on the bridge . . .one at each end and one in mid river.   Should the artist paint the whole bridge?   I mean "one must paint what one sees, correct?"   I don't think so.   After all, whether the viewer of the painting has or has not seen the actual location, the viewer is still confronted with all the vagaries of the painting itself:   There must be a strong composition.  Dark and light shapes must be considered and how they are placed inside the picture plane is what holds a viewer's attention.   It doesn't matter if the correct colors are used . . . .or if all the bricks and limestone blocks show up or not . . . .It really doesn't matter if the details, like the shapes of the windows in the towers, are shown.   It boils down to the composition.   Yes, reflections and that sort of thing make the painting entertaining, but, if one really looks beyond naming aspects of the picture, those reflections are still part of the light / dark arrangement of shapes in the picture plane.
So, I omitted the mid span tower.   Why?   Well, it served the composition better to omit it.

Then, someone will remark about the ripples in the water . . . . .Originally, those ripples didn't exist in the painting.   It was originally set to show the water as a flat mirroring plane.   But, alas, the eye fell right out of the picture as those long reflections led the viewer straight down and out.   As we read left to right, there was nothing to halt the eye from wandering off the page to the right side.   So, the ripples were put in to break up those straight verticals.   And they were sloped upward, as they moved to the right, to slow the eye and to hold the eye in the picture.

Trickery, you say?   I suppose you could even say "cheap tricks."   Fact is that the artist must resort to these sort of design considerations in every painting he or she makes . . . .even if it doesn't look like what's there.   The artist's job is to make well designed paintings . . . .not a photograph using paint.   Just because it was "there" doesn't mean that it needs to be painted