tcrmine which planes can be in full light, which in half-light, and which in shadow. Failure to recognize this principle has cost many an artist the difference between a brilliant and mediocre piece of work.
If there is more than one light source, the problem is that much more difficult, since two general sets of values must be considered. When there arc more than two light sources, the artist is almost certain to get lost, and had better either wait until the light situation changes or select another area or subject to paint.
If we have brilliant light, the reflected light will usually take care of overly dark shadows. Reflected light in a painting can be infinitely more beautiful than direct light. It has a way of bring ing out form, especially in contrast to the more flatly lighted bright planes.
If we recognize the qualities of direct and indirect light and translate these accurately onto canvas, our painting should have unity. We may say that if the light is right the values are right and the picture will be given unity by the light and valuesS^Light establishes texture, and color too. If the light is right but the picture persists in being bad, then the fault must rather be in the design, the drawing, or the pattern.
Ever}' painting should display a consistency of style. Abstract painting should be consistently abstract, and realism should be consistently true to life. Though there may be exceptions, I question whether these two approaches—or any other ones—can be mixed satisfactorily in a single painting.
If a picture has an idea, let the whole picture be consistent with that idea. However, to avoid monotony—and the completely orthodox picture can be trite and very ordinary—liberties may be taken to give greater pictorial interest. Planned contrasts have value. In a still life, an exquisite piece of jewelry combined with some faded and worn slippers might stir the viewer's imagination. But it would be altogether too inconsistent to paint a portrait of a woman wearing such jewelry and sitting on a stool peeling potatoes.
Lack of consistency in design will detract from beauty. As stated above, abstract forms belong with other abstract forms, realism with realistic-forms. Where realism has been reduced to the abstract, then all the realism of the subjcct should be treated likewise. Realistic hands growing out of inanimate material can be little more than glorified cartooning. ^ From the mental or emotional side, consistency is plain good taste and common sense. There is nothing to stop anyone from doing the ridiculous, and if he does so he naturally does so on his own. Wc all have the same privilege.
Another kind of consistency relates to the treatment of a subject. Flatness of treatment is one approach, and the round or modeled another, and the two do not seem to belong together, though we see many paintings in which such an attempt has been made. We see rounded figures emerging from flat planes, like heads poking through a piece of cardboard, bodies emerging from stone walls, or modeled clouds rising above buildings that have no third dimension. I have seen round smoke coming out of a perfectly flat locomotive, round heads rising above perfectly flat costumes and bodies. This seems hardly a matter of artistic license, but plain inconsistency. Were the heads also painted flat, as in early Egyptian art, there would be some logic in the whole.
It is frequently to be observed that pictures - when painted toward the flat gain something by having a belter relationship to the flat canvas than those which are excessively modeled in the round. For the same reason, in architecture bas reliefs usually have more beauty than completely rounded sculpture, because they are more appropriate to the flat planes of the building. Only when a sculptured figure is separated from the flat plane, as a memorial figure on a pedestal, does it seem to call for the complete third dimension.
There is always the danger that a subject may be so rigidly designed that it becomes static. Here is whore one or more accidental effects can provide pleasing contrast. Accidental-looking effects can also, in reality, be planned. They can be achieved technically by not finishing every part of a picture completely. Just as a sculptor often leaves traces of his chisel in places, especially in garments or draper)- where the lack of finish adds rather than detracts, so the painter can do the same kind of thing with his brush. In a portrait, the garment may not be as finished as the head; in a still life one or two flowers may carry much more detail and finish than the rest, or the drapery behind objects may be less completely painted than the objects themselves. Planned contrasts thus have a very important place in painting and need not detract at all from the unity of a picture.
An instructor once told me that a picture should suggest that the painting was stopped while the painter was still having a good time. This is difficult, as we all have a natural tendency to carry the finish to the last fingernail or pebble 011 the ground. When the value within an area is correct, and the color harmony is there, we can be a little brutal with the form, before it gets to the point where it vies with everything else for finish. In order to have form that we can leave unfinished, we must approach the form simply at first and in simple planes, and work all over the subject, bringing it to completion simultaneously rather than piecemeal. Finishing one part at a time more or less excludes the possibility of a spontaneous and lively looking picture. If we can, we must think of the whole picture all the time, and of every part as it fits into the whole design.
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