In this 14 minute video I mix some of my favorite color combinations showing how you play with warm and cool colors, and how to tweak some highlights by the color you add.
Some Guidelines For Great Compositons
In my workshops students have plenty of time to compose the work, the line drawing set up before painting begins. The following tutorials show techniques you can focus on as you map out the painting’s composition.
The lesson in three words: Make interesting corners. In this tutorial I show how some of greatest artists of composition, Vermeer, Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, Diebenkorn, and Velazquez make fascinating shapes and lighting in the corners. It is a very simple way to get the most out of your composition without having to remember a million rules!
Though this tutorial is not strictly about composition it will be helpful to see how one can organize abstract shapes in a compositional way. Using Rembrandt, Kline, and Monet I show how they group things into broader abstract shapes. This is an extremely powerful technique that gives the viewer an epic journey through the big picture.
A very surreal artist’s perspective but indispensable to give life to your painting is accenting the negative spaces of things. I go into detail showing how Monet, Rembrandt, Vermeer, myself, and William Wray manipulate negative space to create a sense of movement in the painting. If you can take a few seconds, while composing, to check the negative spaces it will add tremendously to making a powerful painting.
This is a very helpful article on how Picasso and Hefferlin arrange their compositions, and how Melissa manages to do so in a realistic way.
When you are taking a workshop with me you don’t have to hold all this info in your head, that is my job, but it is good to read up on these tutorials. I hope you enjoy them and I guarantee you that adding them to your technique will feel great and raise your art up a few levels.
For more about studying with me please introduce yourself and your work via email, mtnewberry at gmail dot com.
The Problem: A Bright Sky
In real life the daylight sky is bright, much brighter than the landscape’s trees, vegetation, mountains, and water. Think of it as a large lamp. But when you paint a landscape truthfully the effect backfires, the sky will be bright but the earth part will be dull and muddy. Light on the green trees, stone buildings, and red flowers can’t complete with the sky’s light. Even though you are seeing a sun filled landscape, your painting won’t feel that way, but you’ll feel disappointed with your skills.
I have noticed lots of artists including myself are drawn into drawing abandoned places, scruffy landscapes, weathered shacks, and stone ruins. While a manicured lawn or polished mahogany conference table inspire a blau reaction. There is something visually exciting about the chaos of ruins but what is it that is triggering our vision? And why are paintings or drawings so boring when they are of pristine subjects? Vision scientists Jan Koenderink and Andrea van Doorn (a link to their abstract on pictorial space) talked with me over beers in Glasgow pub about how the eye goes blind if it cannot move about and compare and contrast tones and hues. Using my artist’s logic it makes sense that on the opposite end of the spectrum the eye becomes excited when each hue and tone is varied. My pastel of a rickety courtyard gate in Rhodes, Greece illustrates this.
Notice the gate is drawn with all kinds of unrepeated colors. The plastered gold side of the wall has countless hues ochre, and medieval stones are equally varied with its shifts between brown and gray. It seems like a lot to try to do in a 50-minute drawing, but I was helped along by all the setting’s details were all extremely varied. If you are an artist looking for something interesting to draw look for differences in everything. That will keep your eye busy and excited and the viewers’ too.
True Lies: Warp Negative Space by Michael Newberry
“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”
With this tutorial I will show how to shape negative space by warping it, thereby creating a believable 3-D image on a 2-D surface.
Painting is made up of positive forms and negative spaces. Think of planets and the empty space between them. In this Rembrandt, one example of negative space is the dark triangular space between the bust, the back edge of the table, and the folds of the man’s sleeve.
Lost in Space
Many artists spend a great deal of energy on making the forms of the solid objects, such as people and tables. But when it comes to the space between the objects they tend to get lost in the emptiness.
Warping the negative space into a shape is the way to go.
This is a detail of the above painting’s negative space. Rembrandt has warped the negative space by a subtle tone shift. The triangular dark shape is more diffused, softer, as it goes back towards the sleeve. And it gets darker as it comes closer to the edge of the bust.
This change is indicated by the gray and black stripe.
Here I isolated the negative space, and stylized it a little bit to show that it is not a flat space. Rather, the negative space curves to come forward, towards the bust, then it goes back towards the sleeve.
This is my favorite Vermeer painting. The back of her head is turning away from us and the collar of the wrap is coming towards us.
Here is a detail of the negative background space.
Notice how carefully the space changes: the tones get cooler and darker as they rotate back around the hair, and they get warmer and lighter as they rotate forward.
Another favorite work of mine is this Monet.
Here is a cast shadow inside the cavernous entrance to a doorway. It is a little tricky to discern Monet’s shifts of tone due to the ornateness of the building, and to Monet’s style of mark making.
But the tones do change and do warp the space. The front edge is flicked with darker tones, shifting the right edge towards us.
Here is a little demo of the idea.
This is a painting by one of my contemporaries, William Wray.
If you think of the rocks as planets and the reflective sand and water as space, you can see how he warped the shape of the water–it comes zooming towards us on a dramatic diagonal.
Vermeer uses infinitesimal changes in tone to carve out space and light.
Yet, he manages to warp the negative space of the back wall with very little changes of tone.
She has the slightest halo of light, which comes towards up to the edge of her headdress. The light then dims imperceptively, receding a few feet back towards the map.
Here again I stylize the concept. The tones of the back wall change to bend the space forward.
Rembrandt, The Blinding of Samson.
I wanted to use lots of examples for showing how negative space can be warped. It is really a very difficult problem. But once you have the idea of it, it makes it easier to isolate it when you visually study real life.
The sky in the tent opening changes dramatically in tone to shift the shape of the space.
It follows the inner flap of the opening from some distance away and increases in light vibrancy as it wraps around and swings towards the soldier’s back.
In closing I would like to share one of my own.
This study of the problem gives a good idea how much I warped the space.
I had to shift the space quite some distance from her arm and the back wall to come against the edge of the bust.
Again many artists would simply think that the back is a flat space somewhere back there. But to be true to 3-dimensionality it is crucial to warp the negative space.
I hope you enjoyed seeing true lies in a fresh way.