In preparation for “the big race” in the movie National Velvet, Mickey Rooney coaches Elizabeth Taylor by trying to tell her “the order of the jumps and the tricks of race”. Elizabeth Taylor asks him not to say anymore—everybody will know more than she does. “He says a race like this is not won by luck.” She says, with stars in her eyes, that it will be won by knowing that her horse can win and by telling him so everyday.
You might be asking “how does this relate to painting, you crazy fool?” For me, almost anything relates to painting. I find the process so illuminating that the metaphors fly. In this case the conversation represents the struggle of the artist’s process. Belief, desire and connection opposed to understanding the tricks of the race.
We want to create paintings that reflect and resonate. Which means they need to be “about something”? But there is also the mystic of the aesthetic and its commonly taught rules. It can be boiled down content and composition.
What makes a good composition? What makes a painting resonate? Is one dependent on the other? The one thing you can be sure of in art is that for all of the rules purported to be essential in creating a “successful” painting, there are many examples of why that is not true.
So what do we do? In the simplest terms, which of course belies the complexity, we find ways to connect while we practice the formal elements.
This week will be emphasis upon the formal with a composition exercise.
The elements of design are:
- Line – the visual path that enables the eye to move within the piece
- Shape – areas defined by edges within the piece, whether geometric or organic
- Color – hues with their various values and intensities
- Texture – surface qualities which translate into tactile illusions
- Form – 3-D shapes.
- Value – Shading used to emphasize form
- Space – the space taken up by (positive) or in between (negative) objects