THINK ABOUT CROPPING
Think about cropping
There are some simple things artists can do that will help their work and some are so obvious that we just don’t see them.
Cropping is one of them.
For artists, cropping comes in three forms
1. Cropping a photo reference
2. Mentally cropping a scene while plein air painting
3. Cropping a completed painting
Cropping the photo reference
Consider a photo of something we really want to paint. There is a lot to be seen in the photo, probably too much, but we set about painting the whole thing anyway. There is a better way.
First, have a good look at the photo and think for a moment if there is some portion of the photo that will make a better painting that doing the whole. Often, it can be found, and it can be exciting when we find it.
This portion of the photo can still represent the subject at hand, but can certainly have a more interesting aspect. More than likely it will simplify the subject at the same time and that’s always good.
Mentally cropping while painting plein air
This is not as easy as cropping a physical photo reference, but it’s much the same. An outdoor scene can easily be overwhelming. Cropping can make us feel we are in control. Mentally cropping also requires us to magnify that smaller portion of what we see to get it on our canvas. This is particularly good because when we pick a small distant cropped subject we can’t see all the detail and we paint broadly. That’s great for plein air work. Using a simple cardboard cut-out viewer is most helpful in all of this.
Cropping a completed painting
Truly, this is the hardest crop to do because we are cutting up our own work. But it can be very rewarding if we dare do it. A number of years ago I went through a lot of old work and did the cropping thing and sold quite a few of them. I think we all have work were there is just some aspect of it that we particularly like – these are ripe for cropping! Even if it means cutting up a stretched canvas - because the useful bit can always be reframed under glass if need be.
Cropping, like other things in painting, is part of a mental process that can be developed and become part of how we do things. It expands the possibilities of subject matter and makes our artistic life even more interesting.