|study accordion book October adaptation 14" x 18"|
The piece above is based on one of my paper sketches done last week. While I don't totally love it, I'd like to share my thought process (such as it is) when trying to find out why something doesn't work. Remembering that these are aesthetic choices, I offer up my guidelines with that caveat in mind.
When something doesn't look right to me (based on what I think is right), then I look for three things: contrast/value, chroma and hue. My overarching guideline is the idea of proportion. If the above areas seem OK, I'll move on to things like line, shape size and mixture, repetition, direction, texture, visual weight, and variety. (I check these last things regardless but to my eye they are more subtle and I like to check obvious things first).
Contrast/Value: Is there enough? Too much? Spotty linkage between lights and between the darks? Weird linkage? What does the overall pattern look like from across the room? For my piece, I liked the darker brown shape quite a bit. No problem there then. I did feel that there was too little contrast in the light cream shape as compared to the larger and slightly darker cream shape. How to fix that though? I elected not to repaint since the shape was already affixed to the background. I moved on to chroma as a possible reason/solution.
Chroma: For me, chroma means level of saturation of a color, particularly as it is compared to the rest of the colors in the piece. Fine if you can balance that color standing out so much but let me know how you did it please! I tried fixing the above mentioned shape via a darker value which didn't work (it was oppressive, bearing down on everything else). I also tried holding up some colors that were much more saturated (more intense in their chroma). This was very overpowering. I finally hit on a solution based on my concept of "tone". For me, I use the word tone to refer to the use of line to create value shifts or even texture, much like a print maker might employ. I tried holding up various thin strips of different colors. Nothing I held up really grabbed my attention. So, then I turned to hue.
Hue: For me, hue refers to color relationships, particularly with regard to the color wheel. Analogous, monochromatic, complimentary, etc. Or any combination that you deem to be pleasing. My original color idea for the piece was to play blue in several forms against what I think of as a golden yellow-sort of a yellow that is more red based than blue based. I wanted blue violet paired against the golden yellow. I waffled quite a bit here and had to pull it together. Once I firmed up that idea, I revisited the chroma idea and a small dose of a more saturated golden yellow made sense as a "tonal" solution.
My overarching objective guideline in these decisions is always the idea of proportion. Is something really off? Too much or too little or any one thing? My overall subjective guideline is normally how far from my original idea have I strayed? If I have strayed far am I OK with that? (I also frequently ask myself if I can stand to look at the finished piece for any reasonable length of time.)
So, this is just how I do it based on what I know to date. Up until this last year I haven't really known how to approach this problem. So, I thought I would just pass along the info. Use it if you can. And while these are my Libby-style opinions, I think it's a good basic way to approach the problem of how to proceed when your painting is not gelling.