Pliable Shapes

posted in: Composition | 2

We read shapes. You’re  doing it now. Painted shapes as well as letters indicate meaning, and additionally signal orientation, spacial volume, contours, and location. Expressive or exaggerated shapes amplify emotion while emphasizing the particular character of the picture’s components. To explore this quality Van Gogh tested exaggerated shapes in his sketches using quill pens and brown ink. His painting later assumed the exaggerated shapes used in the drawing coupled to exaggerated colors. (See examples 1 and 2).

Example 1. Harvest in Provence drawing, Van Gogh, 1888,

Example 2. Harvest in Provence painting, Van Gogh, 1888,

Testing Van Gogh’s color harmony of intense blue vs. amber, yellow and golds I began a shoreline reed painting on brushed silver, laminated aluminum.  My examples 3 through 6 illustrate my step by step process. I applied the blue/amber color contrast later in the painting process. The blue/yellow contrast was suggested to neo-impressionists like Van Gogh from the physicists  Ogden Rood and Herman Von Helmholtz.

Looking at the Van Gogh’s ink and his later paint strokes you see a collection of autonomous marks. They aggregate to give a feeling of common direction in patches or larger areas. Their nimble pliability in the painted brush strokes infuses the painting with quixotic energy. My longer strokes are made with squeegees, fingers and brushes. They also give elasticity to the image by investing the work with a feeling of collective movement.

Example 3. Step one, Shoreline,

Example 4. Step two, Shoreline,

Example 5. Step three, Shoreline,

Example 6, Shoreline in present state,

I revised an earlier image (example 7) by continuing to explore the common direction of marks (a field of brush strokes) as a unifying effect.  I further felt the image was too dull in its color contrasts. I boosted the color contrasts and the feeling of atmospheric perspective in the revised version seen in example 8.

Example 7, Unrevised Meadow in Mist,

Example 8, Revised Meadow in Mist,

Unlike my previous examples (above) I next turned to softer, rounder forms laying on a flat field as opposed to those vertically standing in a field. I have three examples illustrating my steps here.  I begin with an amber lay-in (example 9) and follow with a more delineated set of shapes and color contrasts (example 10). But, the shapes appeared too brittle to me. To improve their pliability and better unite the visual field I blurred edges by applying scumbled lights (example 11).

Example 9. Step one, “River Sparks” oil on brushed silver laminated aluminum,

Example 10. Step two, more delineated shapes and colors,

Example 11. Step three, after scumbling lights across the surface,

I look forward to my workshops this coming weekend at Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh N.C.

I invite you to join me this summer at the Hudson River Valley Workshops in July for a week of plein air painting in the Catskills. See this website for details.

I also invite you to join me this spring at the Huntsville Museum of Art (Huntsville Alabama) for a Master Workshop there. See this website for details.



2 Responses

  1. Clive Kitchin

    Dear David,
    I am having trouble finding details of the Hudson River Valley Workshop in July 2018 – can you send me details please. I am a long way away in Australia but love your video lessons.

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