Saturday, September 10

The Importance of a Good Motif

Original Reference Photo
Cropped Image

Actually a well thought out motif may be a better characterization of today’s blog title than "good." What may look like a good motif in your reference photo does not always pan out in your painting.

I thought today I’d show you a motif that I tried (and tried again) to paint, but one that I ultimately abandoned.

Today’s images show the two versions of my reference photo that I used. The one on the left is the original photo, which I touched up with the “I’m feeling lucky” button in Picasa. I really like that feature, and while obviously not as sophisticated as Photoshop or PS Elements, it is easier and faster to use.

After printing my photo, and transferring the main elements with a sketch, I began to paint. I painted and painted and painted. Did I mention this was watercolor? Nothing was working. The colors were drab, and it had no life. I tried adding contrast with stronger values and added some pigment for more chroma. Still nothing. I folded up the painting and put it in the re-cycling bin.

I decided it was the motif. So back to Picasa, where I played around with the cropping feature until I was satisfied with the results as shown in the image on the right. The format was now portrait as compared to the original landscape format. I had also gotten some suggestions on how to crop from an artist, and l was now wondering why I hadn’t listened to the advice first.

So I started the whole process over with a sketch of the cropped motif and an underlying wash of ultramarine. I painted and painted and painted. Talk about déjà vu all over again. Again the painting was not working--nothing good or well thought out about it. I even washed off what I had painted, thinking another fresh start would help. It didn’t. Into the re-cycling bin again.

This is the point where artists can go into a downward spiral of sorts with their work. I was determined not to let that happen and decided to figure out the problem(s).

To make a long story short, it was not a well thought out motif. Although I liked the subject  matter—buildings near a harbor and with palm trees—the composition was bad, and there was not a real focal point (other than that palm tree!) and not much depth.

I learned that I should spend (a lot) more time on selecting my motifs, remembering all of the artistic elements that make up a “good” painting. And I hope you have learned something, too.

Happy Painting!

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