Design elements for a stronger painting. Richard McKinley is known for his beautiful landscapes and the wealth of information he shared in his Pastel Journal column, Pastel Pointers, and his Artists Network TV video workshops (check out his art workshops here!). Richard often shares his painting tips for working outdoors, creating a pleasing composition, and balancing colors.
Using design elements for stronger Richard McKinley paintings
Whether still life, portrait, or landscape, no reference material can replace the experience of the individual interpretation of the topic. While it is never easy to move from painting from photographic reference to painting from life, special concentration is required to make it into the landscape with constantly changing lighting and conditions. Along with the overwhelming expanse of the landscape, it can hinder even the most technically advanced painter.
Over many years of working in the studio and on-site, both in pastel and oil, I have developed a technique that I call sketch painting in the field. It takes a certain amount of discipline and allows me to be concise. I manage to concentrate on the essentials for a successful landscape picture result: the large forms of the composition, the values , and the color temperatures. More elaborate painting techniques are kept in familiar places for repeated visits.
The first phase of field sketch painting begins with a series of small sketches in a sketchbook to develop a strong compositional concept. Once I’m satisfied with a cool drawing ideas, I stick to three other miniature sketches that are appropriate to the format of the final painting. Next, I’ll break the scene down into some abstract shapes. It can be difficult at first, and the key here is to focus more on value relationships than on individual objects for shapes. I try to have as few shapes as possible, no more than five or six, and I ignore the little accents.
Closing one eye and blinking with the other helps to diffuse details and colors, making it easier to recognize contrasting forms of values. Then I draw the abstract molding compounds in the three miniatures. The former is left as-is for future reference. In the next miniature, I combine the specified molding compounds with four values : light, medium-light, medium-dark, and dark. Three values can also be used. It is my value card. In the final preview, I depict the molding compounds, light or dark, and create an abstract black and white preview sketch. It is often called a sketch note.
No matter how beautiful the motif is
When we paint, it is easy to be seduced by the subject. We fall in love with what it represents, forgetting that we need to communicate our feelings successfully to paint a painting. It is simply not enough for painters to accurately represent what lies ahead; We need to organize and manipulate the visual elements to get a coherent result.
The terms work and treatment are often utilized synonymously. Although they appear harmonious, they represent several optical characteristics. Composition describes the arrangement of visual elements and design principles regardless of the object. The design elements are line, shape, color, value, tone, texture, and depth. The design principles are balance, contrast, movement, rhythm, emphasis, proportion, and unity. These elements and principles form the core of an artist’s compositional toolbox. Every painting is based on them, but some will be more eye-catching than others.
Organizing the elements and principles of design is like conducting an orchestra. One is based on sound, and the other is based on sight, but both are based on orchestration. Sometimes I have to mute one frame and turn up another like an orchestra conductor does when conducting an orchestra. How the elements and principles of the design are used will eventually lead to cheers or whistles.
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Design principles for artists
So I experiment with different design elements and principles in order not to become compositionally predictable:
Line: Changing the flow of visual components within a scene can focus the viewer’s concentration on specific areas and create a more impartial optic flow.
Shape: Changing objects’ relative width and height can affect their aspect ratio and greatly alter our relationship with them.
Color: The adjustment of the dominant color scheme or the emphasis in the direction of warm or cool colors can create unity and balance and a changed mood.
Value: Depending on the intention, the variation in the placement of light and dark within the composition can create emphasis, contrast, or balance.
Tone: The change in color intensity can create emphasis, contrast, or unity depending on the mood or mood depicted.
Texture: The emphasis on the perception of textures can create a rhythm and an emphasis on certain surfaces.
Depth: A change in perceived distance can cause an overall change in proportions and create a sense of intimacy or separation from the subject.
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