JUST ONE THING
Just one thing….
Whilst looking at Turner's Snow Storm painting the other day, it struck me that there is one thing that sets up the whole work. The painting is wildly dramatic with its swirling snow storm and heaving sea, but the one object that makes it really work, is that little mast on board the steam ship. The slender pole is slightly bent in the gale, and of course, the flag is outstretched to its limit.
In the overall painting, the mast is a small object, but really it is the star attraction that draws us into the painting's drama! Not only is our eye magnetised by it within that seemingly small visual break among the clouds and waves, but it also indicates the ferocity of the conditions.
This painting by Turner contains secrets for every artist.
Drama - not every scene we wish to paint has built-in interest and drama, but I believe we should think about putting both elements in the paintings we produce – whatever the subject. Just one thing can transform a work from being okay to outstanding, and in some instances, just one or two brushstrokes can do it.
Interest - interesting subjects don't always make interesting paintings, and often it can be as simple as there being too many things to look at. Recently, I came across a painting of New York City and every single window in every single building was carefully painted in, including the Empire State. It was a monument to the patience of the artist, but it said nothing about the city. The drama of this amazing city was lost in the attention to detail.
Having detail in the whole painting will have us observing the detail, but it can block us from entering into it. It is better that viewers become participants rather than just observers.
In Turner's painting we are visually dragged into that point of interest on the boat, with the swirling blurry storm helping us in, without halting our little journey. It really is a masterpiece.
Like Turner's bending ship's mast, it’s worth our time to figure out what will change a painting for the better. It could be an addition, a subtraction, a splash of colour, or light, deeper darks, or simplification. Don't be confined to painting what you see – paint for added interest. Paint the drama of life, whatever it is.