Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shape It Up- An Abstract Challenge

Today, we'll continue to explore the use of geometric shapes in art. Our mini-challenge today will be to create an abstract interpretation of what we see, based on shape.

Yesterday, we looked at one of Van Gogh's self portrait to see how he used repeating shapes in his composition. If you look back to the self portrait, you will see that it is interpreted somewhere between the reality of what we know of the human form, and a purely abstract view of portraiture. Our goal, in today's exercise, is to go past the semi-abstract, and elaborate on the shapes themselves to make something pleasing.

Today, using yesterday's post as a guide, dissect an interior scene or a photograph of something you like into its basic shapes. Do you like the way the composition looks when it is pared down to the basic elements? If not, consider moving some of the shapes around a bit to better balance the composition, without looking at the reference at this stage of the game.

If there is too much going on visually, edit out a shape or more than one shape until it looks good to you. Once you have your basic drawing the way you like it, take the reference away completely. if it is a photograph, turn it over. If it is a scene you are part of, ignore it, or move elsewhere to finish your drawing or painting.

Now, look at ways to integrate the shapes into something that works. Use color and value. Most of all, put your own twist on the art but creating a mood or feeling with the piece. Consider the way color and pencil or brush strokes can support the way you are feeling- an emotion you wish to convey. At some point, you may wish to return to the reference to gather some reaction to it, and translate that reaction to your abstract view.

Try to create a dance of darks across your page, to keep the eye interested. Add light values at the end, either by adding pure white sparingly or erasing to the paper's background to highlight areas you would like to draw the eye to. Remember, the person looking at your work will be drawn to the area of the lightest lights and darkest darks. Use this information in a way that will make your piece work better.

As we progress during the course of this art journey together, I will try to empower you as an artist to make your own decisions about translating what you see. It is great to have the technical skill to be able to render something accurately, but the greatest power you will have as an artist is to learn how NOT to be faithful in reproducing exactly what you see, and how to use movement, composition, value difference, line, and color to create powerful work.

It is my belief that we are not cameras- devices created to record an image exactly. Photographers know the power of using the tool- the camera- and manipulating depth of field, focus and point of view to get the viewer to see something special in something that might be ordinary otherwise. It is our job, as artists, to bring a special view to others who look at our work.

So today, create a masterful abstract! Try it in your art journal. I think you'll have fun with it.

Here's the first step for my abstract, just showing you some of the shapes I will plan to abstract out of this portrait of one of my dogs. Tune in later for an update with the actual art created from it....

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