How Painting In Oil May Need To Exclude Things

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When a photographer takes pictures he or she has to include whatever is in front of the lens (notwithstanding the limited possibility of some tricks to avoid things). In oil painting, as in the use of other mediums, that is definitely not the case, and many of our great artists of the past left things out of their paintings or made changes to their appearance. For newcomers to painting, a particular scene may seem quite daunting at first. But you do not have to paint everything that is there! The following seeks to give some helpful advise on this.

Certainly, in a quite complex subject one can choose to leave certain things out and simplify others. There is a good deal of skill and judgment involved in selecting what to include and exclude. Make the wrong choices and the painting may look unbalanced or unconvincing. Do not be worried if you make mistakes in this respect — we probable learn more from paintings we throw away than those we keep! So again, it is better to start with a simple composition and even exclude elements of that before trying to reduce complexity in an intricate subject.

Take a seascape oil painting for example, and how one might make exclusions there. An example might be my painting of a which uses the suggestion of mist to reduce the need for detail.

So it may be advantageous at first not to include details of trees, bushes, fields, etc in your work of art. Instead, start by drawing a line for the horizon. Then try to represent a cloudy sky: include some quite light blue but then clouds of varying degrees of darkness. When that looks something like, try to produce an area of land, which is no more than grass or heath. Do not divide the picture exactly in two. Some really excellent paintings have been accomplished where there is almost nothing but sky, and paintings of nature do not have to include everything.

One of the easier aspects in which to reduce complexity is in the background. Photographers often do this by selecting speeds and aperture values, at which to shoot which will sharpen the focal area of a picture while blurring the background — sometimes to a degree where it is impossible to see what the background consists of. In a painting, the same is accomplished by selecting colours and tones for a particular background, which enhance the subject matter we are really interested in.

Colour and tone may be all the background consists of, nothing actual. A white flower, for example, may be placed against a very dark background of deep reds and/or browns, according to one’s choice. Complexity in itself is not a necessary condition for a quality painting, so start by keeping everything simple.


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