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Seeing Between the Lines

Painting is pretty simple, really, I mean materials can be complex chemically and all, and color theory on its surface is pretty strait forward... but as you dig below the surface, there is a vast well of information to take in. But, in painting there are only a few things one needs to keep under control:

Lines

Shapes

Edges

Values

Colors

It’s a lot to manage, but it’s pretty straight forward. There are lots of different kinds of lines:

Gesture

Layout, Sight, and Triangulation

Implied

Extended and Projected

Hidden

Vertical, Horizontal, and Diagonal

Pattern and Repeating

Straight, Angular, and Curved

Lost and Found

Thin, Thick, and Varying weight

Contour and Dividing

1, 2, and 3 point Perspective

Horizon

Object

Decorative

Stippled, Hatched, and Wavy

Just to name a few, and the list of lines goes on and on... Lines lead into some of the other controls like shapes and values, like in the case of outlines, contour, and hatching. I would even go so far to say crosshatching leads into light, shadow, mass and form drawing.

Some might say they cannot draw a straight line or can only draw stick figures. Well, Mesolithic humans drew men and women as crosses and triangles, so we could say lines lead into symbolism. I consider stick figures perfectly legitimate, and would encourage anyone to keep drawing and they will get better. Getting good with lines, and thus edges is important to creating focus and the perception of depth (blurry lines).

I was painting at Oatlands at a Greenhouse Studio Paint Out last weekend and have wanted to paint the mansion, which is beautiful. We were having a model pose for us, but she was set up outside my view of the mansion, which I had already started painting. I did some time lapses of my drawing of light and shadows on the canvas and one of colors and shapes. At the end of the day two plein air painters walked by and said I was brave for taking on architecture. I said it was just lines and angles. I looked at the blocked in painting when I got home and decided that the lines were off, the perspective lines. So I restated the lines with a white chalk pencil. I find I’m resistant to go back into paintings, sometimes, to fix mistakes and restate passages, after time has passed. I know all these things like getting values right from the beginning, but even after 25 years Painting, I still sometimes just jump in and make a mess that I have to clean up later.

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