What makes you stop and look at a painting? Is it the subject, the colors, the textures? We are all drawn to art for different reasons, and often, it’s on a subconscious level. However, a skilled artist makes conscious decisions about how to attract a viewer’s attention. There are techniques such as composition, color manipulation, brushstrokes, and even canvas shapes that can influence our reaction to a particular work of art. Of course, the best paintings look effortless, but don’t be fooled!
|Late for Supper,
16" x 20" mixed media on canvas
Peggy McGivern has an interesting way to begin a painting. She sketches with a blind contour line, which means she looks at her subject, not her sketchbook or canvas, and draws continuously without lifting her pencil. “With this technique, I can get interesting, exaggerated shapes from which to start my painting,” she said. “If I’m working plein air, I look at the scene, and what attracted me to it in the first place. I think that my viewers will respond to that initial impression.”
|Come in Out of the Rain,
72" x 48" (diptych) oil on canvas
Peggy told me that when she’s considering a painting idea, she first looks at big shapes. In her painting entitled “Late for Supper,” about two-thirds of her canvas is the large area of land. The two figures’ vertical paths lead us up the painting towards the village, where she wants our eyes to rest. Peggy also said that she likes to avoid typical horizon lines. Here, the paths create bold geometric shapes that contrast with the distant buildings, and they give us the sense that the figures are quite far away from their homes, in a hurry to get there.
Color choices and brushstrokes convey the message in Peggy’s painting entitled “Come in Out of the Rain.” In this work, she wanted the viewer’s eye to go to where the rain is coming down on the cattle, so she chose beautiful iridescent paints and energetic brushstrokes to focus on that area of her work. The dark sky and purple hills in the background add weight to the scene, augmenting the feeling of an imminent downpour. Although it might look spontaneous, these decisions are thoughtful. “I’m always looking for weird, wonderful combinations for people to enjoy,” she said.
|Split Rock, Melissa Johnson
48" x 60" Oil, Cold Wax, and Silver Leaf
48" x 48" oil & cold wax metal leaf
Melissa explained that cold wax also speeds up drying time and adds transparency to the color. With this product, she can keep working on her painting by scraping off and applying more paint and wax until she is satisfied.
Mailboxes are the subject in her 48X48” painting entitled “Manville Road.” I really like this composition – even though the mountains in the background catch our eye with their gorgeous colors and 3-D presentation, the five mailboxes command our attention, as the applied metal leaf conveys strong reflected light.
|Two Horned Cows,
Joseph E. Young
36" x 24" acrylic on canvas
Joseph likes to paint flat, and uses pattern to give the illusion of three dimensions. He juxtaposes colors that vibrate off each other. “If there’s no vibration, I add another contrasting color, until I get the desired effect. I want the colors to either work with or against each other to create excitement in the painting.”
|Five Doves and Flowers,
Joseph E. Young
36" x 36" acrylic on canvas
So, the next time you’re drawn to a work of art, consider what made you stop and look. What emotions did it elicit? What do you admire about the artist’s style, and if it really excites you, consider adding it to your collection!
See more art by Peggy McGivern, Melissa Johnson , and Joseph Young at Wilde Meyer Gallery.