Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Some people are great at telling stories. They can recount a real-life event in an interesting way, embellishing certain bits and leaving stuff out that would spoil the story all together!
On the other hand, some of us have no idea how to tell a good yarn. Whatever focus there may have been, soon gets lost in peripheral details about their second-cousin's next door neighbour's cat and we fall asleep while listening!
You probably know where I am going with this because painting is just the same, no matter what the subject is.
It is easy to ramble on when verbally recounting an event and the same is true of painting. By cramming a canvas with as much detail as possible, the main thrust is lost. It's like the conversationalist that never gets to the point or just takes too long to get there. The rambling detail becomes the focus and the main event fades away. All this can been seen in paintings of many subjects and in abstract work too.
The most effective paintings are the simple statements with not too much colour and not too much detail
Even after many years of painting, the automatic response can still be to paint exactly what we see and often it's just not interesting enough. We need to be artists, not copiers and that means being creative and here are a few ways we can do it.
- Intent - before you begin painting decide what the intent or focus of the work will be. This will give you an idea of what to pay attention to.
- Simplify - Don't be afraid to change things, leave things out, forget trying to paint every single leaf on the tree or every skin pore on a portrait or every vein in a leaf - it's boring stuff and it will all distract from the bigger picture.
- Exaggerate - Just like a good story teller, embellish the things that will bring the painting to life. Make the moon bigger, the shadows darker and the lights lighter - whatever it takes to make the ordinary look extraordinary!
Finally, don't worry about the painting if it doesn't look exactly like the reference photo or even painting from life. You will not be deducted points from your artist's licence, you will not receive a fine from the perfectionist's club, but you will feel like you have control of your paintings and what's more you'll be an artist!
Caption: Brunswick Street is indeed a old-world street full of mystery. I've exaggerated the darkness of the building giving them no detail at all and the mystery deepens!