Paintings In Oil: How To Choose A Subject

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When paintings in oil, the subject one might choose to paint is determined by several things, including: the kind of medium to be used, the degree of complexity one can reasonably handle, the size and kind of support one has in mind, and so forth. Clearly, subject matter which will appeal to one person may not do so to another.

So if one looks at an artistís gallery where the painter has some experience, you are likely to find more than one kind of image. When choosing a subjectIt would be a mistake to restrict oneself to one kind of picture because we do need to progress in our art, and the development of skills and insight will not be furthered by restricting oneself to a limited range of subjects. For example, while there is an infinite variety of still life forms, always producing still life paintings will have a relatively limiting effect on oneís development to the extent that a wider range of matter will not.

Being Disciplined
So it is useful, on at least some occasions, to discipline one's self to attempt other forms of subject matter, which might not immediately be attractive. It is also instructive to ask oneself why this or that kind of subject is not attractive. Very often the answer will revolve around certain kinds of difficulties we have. If we always avoid such problems, these things are always going to form constraints of greater or less severity on our artistic capabilities. In some cases, even if there is a subject, that does attract us, we may be put off because it involves one of those areas, which we have difficulty with.

One way round this kind of problem is, of course, to force oneself to do exercises on those subjects, so that a whole painting, and perhaps much time and effort, does not depend on its outcome.

To start with, look for something simple. If you are interested in flora and forna, for example, begin with just one or two flowers and their leaves, etc. Very effective paintings can be produced in that way and it is by no means necessary to have masses of things in a picture. In fact, it is surprising how complex a flower or two can be when one comes down to painting them! For example, my painting of Peony In Vase has a lot of complications attached to it. Indeed, flowers in a vase will be easier to reproduce if the latter is a simple vessel rather than, say, cut glass or one with complex curves. Likewise, outdoors, focus on just a single flower, whether a plant or part of a bush. And donít worry about detailing the background; use one or two colours to merge together in a kind of out-of-focus way.


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