Every picture you’ve ever looked at has been designed with your travelling eyes in mind. Here’s an exercise for the next time you’re in a gallery: Scan paintings one-by-one in a half squint. Without over-thinking, give each painting’s eye control a score from 1 to 3, with 1 being average, 2, good, and 3, excellent. Are you travelling around within the picture’s edges, enjoying a balance of visual excitement, places of rest, satisfying weighting, depth of field and an intuitive tension and resolution? Are you feeling a sense of paucity and getting adequate information about the subject? Is there an ineffable sensory pleasure? Are your eyes held and also moving? To avoid a low score, the painting must not, as my dad would say, “shoot your eyes out of the picture and over to the other guy’s.” Here are some more ideas:
Contrast: Darks and lights are not only fundamental to pulling off a convincing and natural realism — contrasting values satisfy a need for balance and weighting in all styles. Masters of eye control use contrast to anchor parts of the composition, to give order to shapes or to guide the eye along a storyline.
Curves and angles: There’s a reason why fruit and round bottoms keep making it into masterpieces. The eye will instinctively follow a curve. In geometrics or architectural subjects, a pointed end or the connection to a new line is a visual pleasure point.
Horizon: The universal signal for uprightness, a horizon helps to ground the viewer and organize a place. In abstraction, a horizon-like line can provide a tether to an otherwise cacophonous symphony of form.
Colour: The mother of all languages, colour is the first signal of where to look, where to linger and where to get lost.
Gradations: Dad said, “Why paint a flat when you can make it a gradation?” In art school, my prof called them “suckerblends,” pejoratively implying they sucked the viewer in with their good looks and charm. The point is, the eye wants to take in that whole, beautiful suckerblend — and you can direct it.
Flats: Dad said, “Give the eye a place to rest and stay awhile.” A flat, or even a super-flat, offers a void-like space in which to get lost in the materiality of pigment. In realism, flats punctuate and frame distance, drapery, reflections, cloudscapes, light bursts and wet noses.
Foreground: A wide-angled, receding landscape without the counterpoint of a human-scaled foreground is a trip to the country without a picnic basket.
Floaters: Objects floating in space can effectively contain the eyes as long as they avoid homeostatis and use breath and variety to tell the story. Be daring and poetic and don’t forget to play what’s not there.
Gestures: Gestures are moving marks that pull the eye where they want it to go. They need to be understood for their primal power and also checked for misdirection.
Left to Right: Or right-to-left, depending on which way you read your native alphabet. Unconsciously, we may arrange objects to “read” like language, and when doing so, lock our viewers into the same routine. If overused, we can miss the winding road.
PS: “Even in front of nature one must compose.” (Edgar Degas)
Esoterica: Lastly, the king of eye control. “Perspective,” wrote Leonardo da Vinci, “is to painting what the bridle is to the horse, the rudder to a ship.”
“The composition is the organized sum of the interior functions of every part of the work.” (Wassily Kandinsky)
Come and paint with me in Lucca, Italy, May 2019!!
My painting holiday workshops are all about the fun of painting in a supportive group environment and is suitable for all levels. Mostly, we’ll be painting en plein air (a nice quiet locale in which to play with our paints!) and enjoying the fresh air. I know Lucca like the back of my hand and will take you to some of my favourites spots!! Each day will start with a short theory session, with an emphasis on quick value sketching then a demonstration of the day’s painting subject out on location. We will also explore subject selection and strategies to tackle complex subjects. After a lunch break, I will let you loose to paint and then come and help each student in turn throughout the afternoon.
After a well-deserved siesta, we’ll meet up for aperitivi and on to dinner; Lucca’s favourite dining spots will be waiting for us with a special menu just for us!
Tuition, meals, luxury en suite B&B accommodation, on-ground transfers and excursions are all included!!
E1895 Euros per painter, no single supplement
For more information email Amanda