Not quite through with Vermont

Last week’s blog describes my painting weekend in Vermont, and refers to the then upcoming Demo Day at East Colony Fine Art Gallery.  My demo time slot was 1 to 3.  (The gallery closes at three p.m. on Saturdays.)  Perfect timing, because it meant I was able to attend the Saturday Life Group as usual, which ends at 12:30.  Fifteen minutes to pack up and get from the Institute, across some major intersections, to the Gallery, another fifteen minutes to get set up at the Gallery.  One tiny glitch.  I had dropped my smart phone in the toilet the day before, and I had to order a new phone ASAP, but I had no phone from which to make any calls to my provider (Credo).  I had to use the Gallery phone and my setup time to do that.  Since everything I do anymore seems to take me twice as long to accomplish, compared to when I was younger, I estimate that I didn’t get going on my demo until 1:15, at the earliest.  I didn’t have any way to check the time, since I have become habituated to relying on my phone for that too.  Whatever, whatever. . . . Sigh.

I did get organized beforehand for the demo.  Which only means I printed out a photo of the subject I intended to paint (unless something more inspiring came up at SLG–it didn’t), and taped a piece of oil-primed linen to a board, a la Richard Schmid.  For my subject, I decided to paint a view of Waits River, Vermont.  Apparently it is oft painted.  It is perhaps as well known in Vermont as Motif No. 1 is in the Northeast.  I wasn’t aware of that fact until several of the visitors to the Gallery on Saturday were able immediately to identify my painting as Waits River.   One commented that “It’s on every calendar”.  Okay.  Well, I did two versions of Motif No. 1, so I’m  not opposed to painting icons.

Even though I had less than two hours to work on WR, in public, with conversations, I finished it before three o’clock.

Here is the photo I worked from, and the painting that resulted:

Waits River, the place

Waits River, the place

Waits River, the painting

Waits River, the painting

Note that I changed very slightly the location of some elements.   I believe that was my compositional instinct working.  If I had had more time to work on the painting, with the knowledge that the scene is something of an icon, I might have tried to be more accurate, and the painting would probably have suffered.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (but access is limited to patients and health care workers).  One painting is still hanging in the Boston Arboretum visitor center, another is on display for the month of October at Manchester’s Radisson Hotel–selected as Manchester Artist Association Artist of the Month.  My two cemetery paintings (seen here) are on view at the Arts League of Lowell, 307 Market Street, Lowell, Massachusetts.  And in Portsmouth’s Levy Gallery, you can find 8 of my newest 6×6’s as part of the annual Women’s Caucus for Art 6×6 show.

You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply“, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Plein air painting in Vermont

What a glorious weekend it was!   We (Sharon Allen and I) took the scenic route to Bradford, Vermont,  to stay with Nancy Griswold, an artist who recently relocated to Vermont after living in New Hampshire and Connecticut.  She didn’t know me at all, and had met Sharon only once before, yet opened up her newly restored farmhouse to us as an “artist retreat.”  Women artists’ retreat.  I can’t say enough about the classy accommodations and the welcome she gave us.

I hadn’t painted in Vermont since July 2008, when I took a workshop with Albert Handell in Putney.   I was so new to painting then, so green.  It has been a long journey in only six years.  Nancy has had a longer (lifetime?) career as an artist, but hadn’t been out painting en plein air, or even in her studio, for many months due to the press of other urgencies.  Sharon, of course, is also known as Plein Air Gal, and runs our NH Plein air group, and shows up at practically every outdoor event on our calendar.

Fall foliage had arrived in Vermont seemingly just in time to meet us there.  Color blazed up in vivid patches against backdrops of shifting shades of green:  a crazy quilt of purples, roses, vermillions, reds, oranges, ochres, lemon yellow, yellow green, emerald green, sap green, with stitches provided by white birches–not better than New Hampshire’s foliage feast, but earlier. Whereas New Hampshire scenic views tend to be mountain- and waterfall- focussed,  the Vermont locations relate to farms.

Though separated only by the Connecticut River, the two states are surprisingly unlike each other.  And not even that separated either.  Bridges between the two were plentiful–seemingly more plentiful than the bridges New Hampshire erects over, say, the Merrimack River.  (Manchester is divided between the East side of the Merrimack and the West side, with only three bridges to connect the two.)  Vermont has no city of comparable size on the Connecticut River, but it seems as if every little Vermont town has a road to New Hampshire.

Nancy had arranged for the three of us to spend a day with Robert Chapla, an artist now of Newbury–a few miles north of Bradford–but formerly of San Francisco.  Robert is a magnificent colorist–for example:

Directed Crossings, by Robert Chapla (his San Francisco collection)

Directed Crossings, by Robert Chapla (his San Francisco collection)

Robert is restoring the farmhouse and barn and outbuildings on a large, hilly stretch of land overlooking his neighbor’s pond and green grass.  I chose for my first painting that pond, viewed from the road.  For my second painting, I went back up the hill to capture one of the outbuildings and the “driveway”.  A truly bucolic version of a driveway.  Sharon chose it for her second painting too.

Sharon and Aline, painting the driveway

Sharon and Aline, painting the driveway

Me and my two Chapla paintings

Me and my two Chapla paintings

For better views of the paintings, look for them on my “New England Landscapes en Plein Air”.

On our way home Sunday, we stopped by a store in Quechee, Vermont, called “Scotland by the Yard”.  By way of illustration, I guess, they keep a flock of sheep in the front, between the highway and the store.  After stocking up on Christmas presents for our Scottish family members, Sharon and I set up our easels and painted a landscape with sheep.  Here is my version:

Sheep

Sheep

This Saturday I will be demonstrating how I paint as part of the East Colony Fine Art “Demo Day”.  Eleven of our artists have agreed to show how they do what they do.  Here is a copy of the postcard we are sending out to advertise the event.  Image 6

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (but access is limited to patients and health care workers); and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com).  One painting is still hanging in the Boston Arboretum visitor center.  And in Portsmouth’s Levy Gallery, you can find 8 of my newest 6×6’s as part of the annual Women’s Caucus for Art 6×6 show.

You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply“, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Aftermath. What is the value of a painting that you love?

So, last Saturday was Art in the Park, which I was anticipating in my previous post.  The weather “cooperated” beautifully.  I chose this unfinished oil painting on paper (9×12) to offer for my (free) raffle.

Grey-eyed cat (wip)

Grey-eyed cat (wip)

You might remember Grey-eyed cat as one I painted during the Art in Action event last April.  The raffle rules were, to be eligible to enter, you had to answer this question, “What medium did I say in my blog I tried last week for the first time?”  The answer was on my website,  so anybody could look it up on their smart phone.  A few did.  A few guessed (wrong).  A few didn’t bother with that detail.  One little girl was so determined to win the painting that she got her mom to take her home to look it up on their computer.  I’m happy to report that her extra effort was rewarded!  Congrats to Rebecca; I know my Grey-eyed Cat will have a loving forever home.

My tent was situated across the path from the Entertainment:  three musicians playing folk songs together and performing solo.  I had brought my plein air painting gear, so I set up and painted a scene of the musicians.  Mind you, the only one who stayed in one position for any length of time was the middle one, Michelle.  It was a test of my memory and experience.

The AITP Musicians

The AITP Musicians

The aftermath of this painting was a little weird.  The next day, or maybe it was later Saturday night, Michelle posted on Facebook that she wanted to buy the painting and asked the price.  I replied, on Facebook, that I wanted her to have it, but we should discuss it privately, via email.  Unbeknownst to me, she jumped to the conclusion that I was going to give her the painting and spread that all over Facebook.  Meanwhile I tried to find out what she would be comfortable paying, and I thought we had reached a resolution (half the usual price, payable over five months), but she later backed out, saying she couldn’t afford it.  No counter, no hint as to what she could afford, so I guess her original offer to buy was impulsive.  It just makes me sad –after being so happy.  I don’t mind giving a painting away to a friend who appreciates it, but I feel that a stranger who is not  willing to put up some bucks does not really value it.

What is the value of a painting anyway?   To the artist, a painting’s value has little to do with “market” value.   [I'm not talking about "investment" grade paintings here--a subject absurdly foreign to the experience of most living artists.]  The paltry few hundreds of dollars on a painting’s price tag doesn’t go far toward covering an artist’s costs when you take into account the years of learning and practicing.  A painting is created with joy, and you could say once created, it has no further value to the artist.  It becomes the remembrance of joy.  Sure, it could be exhibited, perhaps win an award, enhancing the artist’s reputation, etc.  None of this has anything to do with a “market” value for a painting.

I had a similar inquiry recently from the exhibit of my paintings at the Cancer Center–a patient would have bought a particular painting if the price I quoted was within his/her expectations.  I guess it wasn’t, even though I knocked a hundred off the usual price.  I can imagine the patient’s disappointment to learn that the painting was not “affordable”.  But why not?  Why not negotiate with the artist, try an installment plan?  What is it about paintings that they are so little valued, even when loved passionately?

Before I started making my own paintings, I bought other people’s paintings.  I remember how hard it was, especially in the beginning, to screw up the courage to spend hundreds of dollars on a painting that I fell in love with.  When you consider how much can be spent on a restaurant dinner these days, isn’t it ridiculous to expect a painting, which lasts forever, to be cheaper than a gourmet meal for two couples?  I never regretted what I paid for paintings, or for the cost of framing them (usually more than the painting!).  But that is hindsight.  How to convey this perspective of value to someone who has never before thought about paying for a painting?  I have no clue.

To offset that glum discussion, I want you to see two paintings from the Monday group, last week and this week.  Last week, we asked my daughter to pose clothed in Dee’s garden, and we enjoyed the experience of working from the clothed model so much that we had Robbie keep his clothes on yesterday:

Poolside

Poolside

 

Sneaker

Sneaker

This weekend I am off to Vermont for a weekend of plein air painting in the Upper Valley, with Sharon Allen and others.  The result should be a bunch of new paintings to love.  And value, perhaps.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (but access is limited to patients and health care workers); and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com).  One painting still at the Boston Arboretum.

You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Art in the Park

Before I get caught up in narratives of what I’ve been doing in the recent past, allow me to tout the upcoming event, “Art in the Park”, this Saturday, September 20, at Veterans Park in Manchester NH (rain date is the next day, Sunday, September 21).  This is an annual art show from the artists of the Manchester Artists Association.  We put up tents;  we put up racks; we cover said racks with artworks.  We wait. . . for people to come by and ooh and aah and maybe buy a piece or two.  Many cards and prints will also be on sale.  I am sharing my tent and racks this event with Linda Feinberg, who writes poetry to go along with her cards and other artworks.   This year The MAA is also sponsoring a children’s art show in conjunction with our own, in order to support the value of art making in the schools and to encourage potential artists to carry on.   If at all possible for you to visit us at this event, I beg you to do so.  It’s important for not just me, but for all the constituencies involved–artists in Manchester, artists in New Hampshire, school children, and the general public– who need more art in their lives!  To encourage high attendance, I am going to give away a piece of art–probably a drawing–via something like a raffle (not really a raffle because no payment will be required).  To qualify for the gift, you might have to answer a question about the artwork I am about to post in this blog.  So pay attention now!

Mostly what I have been doing this past week is tweaking the paintings of the past month, hopefully for the good, but I have also been drawing at my life groups.  The Monday life group has a new model, Robbie, whose face I found to be more interesting than his body, and I tried out a new medium:  pastel pencils.

New model, Robbie

New model, Robbie

Robbie, 2

Robbie, 2

Our Saturday group got together for our first meeting of the Fall, for our standard short poses followed by a few longer poses (but not long poses by the standards of Monday’s group).   I used charcoal.

5-minute pose

5-minute pose

10-minute pose

10-minute pose

20-minute pose

20-minute pose

40-minute pose

40-minute pose  (my favorite)

40-minute pose

40-minute pose (wish the edges were more interesting)

Finally, here is your first view of “Nap, Interrupted”.  I started it a month ago, then had to leave it alone while I pursued my landscape paintings.  Yesterday I tweaked it a little, but not so much as to make it worth another round of photos.

Gracie Portrait, WIP

Nap, Interrupted  (WIP)

This painting of my smallest cat, Grace, who, by the way, has an earlier post entirely devoted to her (see it here), was prompted by (1) the sale of my other gigantic cat painting called “Fur” (hmmm, I thought, cats sell!), (2) a great photo of Grace I had been saving to paint, and (3) a 2 by 4 foot canvas (dimensions that match the photo) just lying around.  Also in my mind was something Paul Ingbretson said, to the effect that you should paint every painting with the hope that  your painting will be the one to first draw the eye of anyone who enters in an exhibit space.  I am certainly doing the hoping here.  Whether the hope is ever realized . . . , well we can only hope.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (but access is limited to patients and health care workers); and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com).

You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Double courses, Double helpings

I’ve been painting so much lately that I have not had time to blog.  Today’s blog, therefore, will cover a lot of activity.  On the menu are three pure landscapes and three figures in the landscape.  You have seen earlier versions of two of the latter, so we’ll start with those even though my changes to the originals represent my most recent activities.

The Black Kimono, Take 2

The Black Kimono, Take 2

I felt I had to fix the arm in Black Kimono.  That is kind of a dangerous thing to do, especially since I had no photo reference, or if maybe I did take one, I forgot to look for it.  I just plunged ahead, building a right arm where I felt it should be, given where the left arm was.  The right arm still disappears behind her thigh, but the angle is more natural, and the plumpness of the forearm conveys the message better.  I am not declaring Black Kimono “done” yet because I am considering whether to add some pale streaks of lights reflecting off the kimono, so as to better delineate the leg underneath.  I hesitate because the result will be gray, and that can just look messy.

I have not had much experience with black.  In fact, I used to not carry a tube of black with me at all.  If I needed black, I would just mix the darkest available colors, usually ultramarine blue and burnt umber.  I learned that in one of the first courses I took at the Institute.  Peter Dixon was teaching color theory and Renaissance painting, and combined both of them in the same room at the same time.  So I picked up basic color theory along with grisaille and glazing.  Black was not used for either course.  Since then, I have encountered many other teachers who make “black” with their own combination of darks.

Yesterday morning we met again in the Lessard garden with our nude model.  You’d think with another three hours to work on something that seemed really close to finished after the first three hours, that it would be perfect now, and I even could have started a second painting.  Alas, not so.  I’m less happy with it now than I was last week.  Maybe happiness is a function of the number of hours expended on something.  Longer generates higher expectations, perhaps higher than achievable.

White Floppy, Take 2

White Floppy, Take 2

Her new face is what bothers me the most, but I also see background “errors”.  And one of the reasons for spending the extra time–improving the patterns of light and shadow on the figure–just don’t dazzle like I hoped.  It seems that just when I feel I am making significant progress of that ladder of artistic proficiency, I come up short and get knocked back a peg or two.  Did I just mix a metaphor?  How embarrassing!  I used to be so good with the English grammar stuff.

While we are looking at figures in the landscape, let’s check out the Last Pose of Summer–the last one in David Curtis’ garden.  Our model Mary Ann brought a costume reminiscent of Gibson Girls–between Victorian and the Roaring Twenties.  On top of her filmy white gown, she wore a dusty pink lace coat.  Dusty pink is close to the color of skin in shade.  How hard will that be to depict!

The Last Pose of Summer

The Last Pose of Summer

I kind of think I nailed it.  I would have liked to capture more definite leg shapes, but it was windy and the fabric kept swirling around her so as to prevent any sort of definitive anything.  Go with the flow, I say.  So I did.

For the pure landscape selections, we have another local back yard, one to dream of, a trip southward to a vista of brackish marshes, and tree portrait from the Boston Arboretum.  However interesting these scenes might be to a viewer, to this artist they felt dreary for the lack of a human presence.  Or even a dog presence.  I have become quickly spoiled by my good fortune in David Curtis’ garden.  Still it is good to be outside painting:

Elaine's Back Yard

Elaine’s Back Yard

This really is in the back yard of a fellow artist, Elaine Farmer, who just moved to Amherst and invited us over to paint on her fabulous garden.  But we can’t resist water.  And there was a little foot bridge over the stream, whence I painted.

Cox Reservation

Cox Reservation

The Cox Reservation is located in Essex, Massachusetts.  David Curtis and a group of his followers meet up there regularly to paint.  I have actually painted this scene before, when Sharon Allen and I were exploring the Essex National Heritage Area.  As I was driving down, I resolved not to get sucked back in with this vista, but rather to find something interesting, preferably with flowers, to paint close up.  So much for resolutions.  I hate vistas.  They are so hard!   When I started on this one, there wasn’t even any water to paint, but as the tide rose, it got better.  But why was I even there?  I don’t know.  Something in my afterlife must have required it.  No, I have it!  I just compared it to the earlier one (linked above), and it seems my vistas have improved somewhat since 2012.  Yea!

Smoke Bush at Arboretum

Smoke Bush at Arboretum

Finally, the Smoke Tree.  I had to deliver a painting to the Arboretum anyway, so I decided to make a day of it and paint something.  No vistas this time.  I went looking for flowers, and found mostly flowering trees, which is not something very common at the end of summer.  This bush (“tree” is reserved for bushes that grow a lot higher) was located at the top of Bussey Hill.  Luckily, there was a road to get me there.  (They let me have a driving permit because I couldn’t carry my gear all that way, and I do have handicapped privileges due to the arthritis in my back.)  I labored over the Smoke Bush so much harder than I should have had to, and I suspect that is because I had the time to do so.  Had a model been present to paint, the tree gets abstracted in the background.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   a single painting is on view for one more week at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com). You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Continuing the Garden Binge

Encouraged by the success of the red parasol painting, I returned to the David Curtis garden in Gloucester two more times.  I have provisionally titled these two by the most prominent prop–a reflecting ball and a black kimono, respectively.

The reflecting ball was, to me, an annoyance, but I had to deal with it.

The Reflecting Ball

The Reflecting Ball

David advised us to paint portraits rather than a figure in the landscape, but as you can see, I ignored his advice.  Two weeks prior, I had already committed to painting that tree in the background.  Plus, the less real estate I needed for the reflecting ball, the better.  David praised (I think it was intended as praise) it as telling a story.   Why does mine tells a story and the others not?   A women in gypsy outfit gazing at a reflecting ball?  Must be a story in that, right?  The answer lies in the fact that I painted a figure in the landscape, not a portrait.  To tell a story, you have to back off a bit, gain some perspective.

Last Sunday we gathered around our model decked out in a black kimono and holding a fan.

The Black Kimono

The Black Kimono

This one I enjoyed a lot, almost as much as the red parasol.  It was allegedly the easiest of the Curtis Garden Series.  Certainly it presented nothing as complicated as that red parasol and cupid statuette;  the fan? –not even close.  Then why, when I could complete the Red Parasol with 15 minutes to spare, am I dissatisfied with Black Kimono?  Something about her right arm doesn’t look correct.

Yes, our model actually held that fan up for twenty minutes at a time (she braced the elbow against her side), but her feet would fall asleep.  Whenever the timer signaled her break, she would forget that fact about the feet, try to take a step, and collapse in the grass.  Gracefully.

We all enjoyed ourselves very, very much–including David, I guess — he invited us back next Sunday.  Since Bea is going out of town for Labor Day weekend, I shall have to drive down alone.

The Ultimate Opportunity in figure painting  occurred on Monday, when our life group left the studio to meet with our model in the Lessard garden.

The White Floppy Hat

The White Floppy Hat

We will meet again next week to work on the same pose.  I could almost call the painting finished, but it would be a pretty rough finish.  I think I can do better:  The head is slightly too large.  Some of the spots of light on her could be more delicious–meaning more contrast between light and shadow on her.

All three of these garden paintings demonstrate the benefit of using a dark (mostly burnt umber) ground.  I’ve been using previously painted-on panels, having sanded them down first.  The ground helps to hide the remnants of the original painting, which might otherwise be distracting.  The darkest ground provides the best cover, but my real reason for choosing a dark ground is the lovely foliage depth that occurs so effortlessly.  I can leave the ground showing behind her in the whole upper right section.

All that help, still not “finished”.  What magic took over when I painted Red Parasol?  And how do I get that magic back???

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   a single painting is on view for one more week at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com). You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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Essay on Composing Pictures

(Almost) No pictures this week, but lots of words.  My two CF card readers both died on me, so I can’t transfer my camera photos to the computer.  Luckily, I had on my mind that I should write something about the workshop I took last month with Paul Ingbretson, on the subject of Composition . . . of paintings, of course, but I decided that the material applied equally well to photography.  So I use the word “picture” throughout the essay.  At the end, for purposes of illustration, I’ll include a painting that I corrected a few weeks ago at Paul’s recommendation.  Yesterday, Paul met with us again to see what, if anything, we had retained from the workshop, so this is a good time for me to review and reconstruct my thoughts on the subject of composition.

I have written this up not from the outline Paul gave us, not from the notes written up by a former student of his and handed out at the workshop, not even from the notes I produced myself (radical happening, that–I never take notes).  No, this is mostly a mergence, a convergence, of what I absorbed from what Paul was trying to get across plus a few elements from my own experiences.  I hope it makes sense and somewhere in the prose produces a lightbulb of understanding for someone, an understanding that had not previously existed.

Composition of Pictures in a Nutshell

(Thoughts after taking workshop on “Composition” with Paul Ingbretson)

 The composition of pictures involves the harmonization of elements with respect to:

Arrangement/placement of shapes/objects

Color (hue—red, blue and yellow) given to the shapes and the background

Value (light, dark, all gradations in between) given to the shapes and the background.

 

The goal of good composition is to achieve Unity AND Variety—and to help get across the idea or mood that the artist wants to express.  It is VARIETY that makes the picture interesting, but UNITY is necessary to create harmony, loveliness, and the chosen mood.

Beginning with your choice of a subject and your selection of elements to incorporate in your picture, you are making compositional decisions. What colors, for example, and why?

 

ARRANGEMENT

After choosing a subject, and after selecting the objects or elements (or shapes) that you wish to incorporate in that subject, your next task is to arrange those elements or objects so as to distribute them in the picture harmoniously and interestingly.   Your decisions will have to be informed by the colors and values of the objects. Therefore, you have to be thinking about all three major concepts—arrangement, color, value—at the same time.

[Arrangement choices while painting en plein air in a landscape do exist, albeit limited by reality]

Rules: Create overlaps; avoid tangents. Avoid same sizeness of objects or distances between them. Avoid boring!

Placement of the arranged object(s) within the picture frame  involves cropping the picture for best effect—should the center of interest be in the middle, up, down, right, left, etc.?   Consider zooming in, or out.

Subtopic: LINE

However, the most important effect of arranging  is the line or lines that will be created thereby—of the objects AND the values (see below). The dominant line or “thrust” may be symmetrical or asymmetrical, simple or complex, straight or curved; can form a geometrical shape like a triangle or circle, or can meander, like the letter “s”. The dominant line had better not be boring!  Subordinate or counterlines add interest as well.

[One of the few rules--to be broken at your own risk--is: Do not place an interesting element close to the edge of the picture where it might distract from the intended focal point.]

Rule:  For the sake of unity, patterns need to be repeated, but for the sake of variation,may not  be duplicated exactly.  Patterns need to harmonize with one another.

 

COLOR

The initial selection of subject and objects/elements already goes a long way toward determining a color scheme.   However, you will need to think about a dominant color, and make sure that the placement of that color will unify (harmonize) the picture.

[Outdoors, the dominant color is blue. We don’t “see” it because our eyes seek out the reds and yellows.]

Weaving or spotting of one color throughout the picture tends to unify the picture. Discordant colors, like discordant music, if used, can succeed only if they are well placed and mean something. Background color is critical to harmonize the picture and to set off the subject.

Although one primary color should dominate throughout the picture, variations on the other two primaries should be represented. A monotone is (usually) not very interesting. That is not to suggest that any of the colors need to be high in chroma. Subtlety can be more fascinating than stridency.

If a color is used only once in a picture, that object tends to stand out in importance. Even if subtle variations of the color are “smuggled” elsewhere in the picture, that singular object will remain the most important one in the picture.

Rule of threes: repeat a particular color three times (in three different places) and repeat pattern three times (but don’t duplicate!)

VALUES

The distribution of values in a picture creates abstract patterns that intrigue the mind of a viewer. The eye jumps to an area of high contrast, or to the lightest area in the picture.

Silhouettes are example of extreme values—light and dark with little mid values.

Spotting of values (lights or darks) may create or support lines.  Hence the compositional element of “Value” is actually a subtopic of Arrangements.  Perhaps everything is a subtopic of Arrangement and we circle back to the concept that composition means Arrangements–of shapes, lines, colors and values?

 

MOOD

The mood of a picture is the narrative that the artist wants to express or explore. All elements of composition must be geared to serve the mood.

The End.  For now.

The corrected painting I have to show you is an example of the importance of color and the rule of avoidance of a singular color.  You have seen this painting several times before, as I struggled with colors and values in an effort to “make it work”.  The basic layout was pleasing to me, so I could not figure out why I was not totally happy with the painting.  Paul told me why.  Here is the most recent but not final version of “Three Turrets”:

Three Turrets, v1.3

Three Turrets, v1.3

Here is the latest, corrected version:

Three Turrets, updated

Three Turrets, updated (from the porch of the Currier Museum’s art school)

Do you agree that the added patch of green in mid left harmonizes the painting with the previously singular patch at bottom right?

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter; two paintings are hanging at the Bedford Library as part of the Womens Caucus For Art exhibit “Summer Bounty”;  a single painting is on view at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester for the summer; and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com). You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

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