What is Essential?
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hoffman
How many times have we said: “I should have stopped and hour ago” or “I wish I had not put that in.” For some reason, many artists believe if they don’t work on a piece for a long time, it is not good, or it is not done. We as artists have a message we want to impart to our viewer, so keeping it simple, so the message or center of interest is clear. Simplicity speaks to the essence of the subject!
Emerging realistic artists are taught to block in the big shapes in the painting first, keeping it simple, saving the detail and strong value changes for the center of interest. The emerging abstract and non- objective artists, are taught to lay out a format, or 3 to 5 large underlying shapes, using a limited color palette. I explain these processes by using the analogy; you must bake a cake before you ice it.
However, overtime we forget these simple processes we learned, and find ourselves with an overworked complicated composition with no center of interest. We don’t all need to turn into “minimalist artists” to practice simplicity. We do have to; learn how to get down the essence of what we want to say in way that appears fresh and not overworked.
A Little Bit of Spring
I read an interesting quote once I clearly remember, and say to myself frequently. “The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity”. It is just that for an artist, at times. A large dark shape can be very complex in its subtle texture, tone, and color changes. Making a background area interesting, but keeping it subtle, as not to distract from the subject, can be a complex issue.
Figuring out what is essential is important. How you get there will be different for everyone. For some it will be in the process of editing the reference material, for others it will be a process of putting in and taking out, for as long as your medium allows. Yet, for others, it will be the conservation of line and mark, or other element of design.
There is power in a well-placed, thought out, and developed, center of interest, with strong value or interesting texture, with little else to distract from it. Your visual story should have one main character and a subtle supporting cast.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo de Vinci