• Carolyn Land

Simplify, Simplify

“Good composition is like a suspension bridge; each line adds strength and takes none away…making lines run into each other is not composition.  There must be motive for the connection.  Get the art of controlling the observer, that is composition.”                                                                                                                       Robert Henri

You know those days when life is so hectic you forget what you need to do next; the list of “to dos” is so long, you are on emotional and physical over load?  Well, that can happen to a painting.  Just like we sometimes need to stream down our lives, we need to stream down our paintings.  The expression, “less is more” comes to mind here.  If you are painting realistically, it is all about editing your subject matter.  Knowing what to leave out is an art in itself.  By keeping the colors and composition simple and fresh, a spontaneous look develops.

underpainting by FL artist Carolyn Land

An under painting for river picture.


Don’t be tied to your reference.  Crop, so you take out what is not necessary to make your message a clear statement.  If you are painting out of doors, limit what you put in.  Narrow your space of vision, and remember you do not need every blade of grass to tell the story. What you need are 5 -7 interesting underlying masses of different sizes and values.  Under every realistic painting is a good abstract.

“No matter what the illusion created, it is a flat canvas and it has to be organized into shapes.”                    David Hockney

Pastel painting by FL artist Carolyn land

River at St Christophe


A good way to start is to ask yourself… “Why do I want to paint this? What is it about this scene or object that is meaningful to me?  Is it: the light on a specific object, the shadows, the line of a building, or just the feeling I am getting being here?  Concentrate on that being the center of interest, and just add a few other things, to move the viewers eye around your painting.

If you are abstracting a scene, it is the same.  Keep the color and composition simple, and remember every painting needs a quiet spot.

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