Change That Contrast!

As artists, we are all different. I like to paint all things because I enjoy painting techniques more than I enjoy painting objects. Last night I had a few hours to paint before I had to go get Martha from work so I thought I would make a teaching painting.   I enjoy passing on the ability to “see”.   So I thought I would share some technique this morning with my blog readers.

First let’s make a rule and understand an important point. We are all different. Artists must understand that painting is not about painting what you as the artist likes. If you do that, you will only “see” what you like. You must expand your vision and learn what others “see” as well. It is about capturing images and presenting images different ways. We all like different things. To become a beautiful artist, you must step beyond what you like and paint what you don’t like, you will learn more that way. So many people come up to me and say “I like this one” or “I don’t like that one”. That makes no difference to me unless I am painting a commission for you. If you are an artist, don’t paint what you like, paint for differences so you can show everyone you know how to paint. If that is your goal 🙂

Let’s look at the left painting. For this painting I wanted to show just what subtle changes can do to the background and teach you to see. I started the painting as a warm grisaille painting. Light Grey and Yellow Oxide in the background. I then began the flowers adding warm and cool greys. This will keep them soft. I added a warm side (top) and cool side (bottom) to the center rose and then added the petals. The background is kept simple and the painting become soft. I took the picture.

Now, let’s say you need to add more contrast to the painting, not a lot, but it needs some more. Do you add more light and dark colors to the rose? Yes, you can, that is the obvious way, but not always the way an artist will do it. What if the rose is perfect and you don’t want to change it? The artist then turn to the background because everything relates to the background. So, to add a little more contrast to the painting and make the rose a little more important in the painting, here are some things I changed.

So I made the rose look different without changing anything in the rose. Here is what I did.
1. First you can see the lattice in the background. I also added a some impression of a back rose. This give a little more dimension to the painting, push the main rose forward.
2. I added warm greens to the grey background. This also add more color variation, and although warming the background, it will also contrast the cool color in the center of the rose.

  1. Adding more negative darks around the bottom side of the main rose gives more petal definition and pushes the rose forward, increasing its contrast.
  2. I added subtle little dark tones around some flower, just a touch to “pop” them. For example the rose bud on the left side has a new touch of cool brown to the leaf. You see it?
  3. The bottom rose now has less distinctive leaves around it and some additions of dark tones to keep it off the background. But, by reducing the leaves, I force a little more interest to the main rose.
  4. Dark tone is applied all along the left edge of the main rose. Between the rose bud and the outside petals. Negative painting technique.

The changes took me less than 10 minutes and changed the look of the painting. Which one is best? NOT IMPORTANT….. Learn how to control your painting and colors. Learn new things. See with new eyes. I really like my students to change my paintings in class. I teach for variation and how to make change, I don’t like to teach how to copy.

So we have a change.  Not a dramatic change, a subtle change.  You can make even more, I make make the rose really pop, without touching it!  That is what I am saying.  There are many roads an artist can travel.  That is the fun part!

When you watch my DVDs, and read my books, listen closely to what I am saying. I like to teach how to do things. They are ideas, some you will like, some not, but that is not important. Learn how to control the painting and then you will be happier with what you paint and be able to paint what you like or others like. Have a great painting day!

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