Some artists have an amazing knack of making their paintings interesting. Actually, it’s more than a knack, they have learned how to do it and they know what to look for in the most ordinary of subjects.
It’s not something often talked about among artists and perhaps it’s because most of us churn out paintings that lack real interest – me included. The problem is that it’s really easy to miss and we don’t purposely do it and that’s because we don’t think about it much as we paint.
When we first take up painting, we can be more concerned about trying to get it looking the same as the reference rather than making it interesting. Unfortunately, this trait can stay with us for as long as we are painters, simply because we don’t think about the alternatives.
I always think that looking through an open art exhibition will teach us many things and one of them is what makes certain paintings more interesting than others. Some works draw onlookers like magnets – be an observer at the next open art show and see what people are attracted to and why.
So here are a few things we can help us generate interest in our work and it often mean escaping from the reference we use to paint from.
Contrast – contrast alone doesn’t make a great painting but it can certainly add interest. Also, there are many interesting paintings that have limited contrast but other things come into play like mood and serenity. Contrast often means good darks, which in turn can make the light pop.
Selective use of colour – indiscriminate use of bright colour all around a painting can have people walking quickly to the next work. Using colour as an accent really works in generating interest.
Colour harmony – this can be really effective in all genres. Paintings with colours that are comfortable with each other are very attractive and liveable – they are interesting and deliberately so.
Atmospheric perspective – this is missing in an awful lot of work. The greens on distant hills should not be the same as those in the foreground. The same applies to all distant colours. This one aspect alone can transform a painting from one of limited interest to one that viewers can walk into.
Focal point – not every painting needs one, but it does help to promote interest. Having the eye of the viewer drawn to a single point in the painting is a great way to grab attention. Not, every bit of a painting needs to be in focus or competing for attention. Most of a painting can just be a prop for that ‘star of the show’ which people just can’t help looking at.
Add life! Signs of life are the easiest way to give draw attention. Many artists avoid it at the cost of interest. A beach with no people, birds or boats – a jetty with no sign of life whatever, a landscape with not even a bird can make it look like a depiction of how life on earth could like the day after all life has been eradicated. Signs of life such as people, birds, houses and boats will have viewers identifying with what you have painted and they will be making up their own story about what they are seeing. That is what you call interesting and it is the work of an artist and not just a practician.
Happy painting in 2018!