Watercolor 15 x 22 inches
Most people look at a painting like the one above and what they see is a clothes line with clothes hanging on the line in sort of a poetic rhythm. That is right where most people cease to see what is happening design wise.
This painting came from a group of photos taken in Italy . . . and most of those were taken looking straight at the clothesline in a nearly 90 degree frontal view. Put on the canvas or paper that way, the line would have been parallel to the edges of the paper, which would have been very commonplace and stilted, if not boring. Stretching the line from off the top left edge of the page and sliding it over to the upper right edge made for a degree of tension or movement across the piece. The challenge, though, is that lovely oblique movement could rifle the eye right off the paper into nowhereland. And that little fact was the prompt to put the two very dork shapes there at the edge of the work . . . to stop the eye . . . . and their vertical alignment offers a directional contrast, while the dark-light contrast with the upper right dark shape and white shape holds the eye.
There is another gimmick being used to insure that there is a connection to the left most edge . . . and that is that two pronged shadow on the left edge of the wall that connects to the laundry shadows. That little ‘move’ provided an edge to edge connection of a pathway of darker colors all the way across the page. Now, all the darks form a pattern that supports the smaller congregation of light shapes (laundry) hovering just above the long passage of darks. And, notice that the aggregate of darks are larger than the aggregate of the “lights” (laundry). (Larger meaning amount of space covered on the painting space). So, not only do we have dark / light contrast between the shadows and the laundry, but also a large-small contrast between the two value extremes.
What the lay person doesn’t see is the mental gymnastics that every painter must work through to establish a great design and to make a painting compelling to look at. All the above named contrasts establish that sort of excitement to what could have been a very mundane image. Our job as painters is to (and you can write this down in your journal) “Exalt the mundane to the extraordinary!”
The last consideration was to impart some color excitement in the shadows of the laundry to exaggerate the feeling of reflected light.
There’s more to write about, but you get the idea. A great painting isn’t really about whether the image is pretty or ‘charming’ (or if it manages to go with the furniture), but whether the design is strong and compelling to look at. It is the not so obvious stuff that makes a painting exciting and interesting.