Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why is design important

Joseph Decamps, The blue cup

deepbluehue asked;
I'm interested in learning more about concealed geometric arrangements. How do you decide what kind of geometric arrangement to use? I'm guessing that you design your landscape, still life, etc. to express that arrangement but subtly.

The design IS the painting.
Tonight will be I guess , a restatement of one of the basic ideas of this blog. That is the idea that design is where the art is, in a painting. The art isn't found in the subject matter, and the technique must of course be there, but it is in the artists unique decision making about color, handling and arrangement that the art happens.

Creativity implies choice. If you are merely transcribing what is in front of you, you are making no choices, that is not art. Art arises from the artists decision making. A drum machine may play a rhythm, but it is not making choices about that rhythm, therefore a drum machine is not an artist. Even though, at a glance it seemingly does what a drummer does.

Transposing the landscape onto your canvas is not art until you make decisions about how it will be arranged intelligently, colored poetically and handled expressively.

When a painter sets up on location, they decide on their subject matter in a minute or two. I will paint this, not that. All of the rest of what the artist does to the painting is not about subject matter, even though they might work on it a thousand more hours. All of that time goes into the presentation of what the artist decided was the subject in the first several minutes. Almost all of what the artist does is about that presentation.

The scaffold upon which the artist hangs his image is the design or root. There must be dozens or more basic "stems" but a dozen or so are most common. The circle is one, a balance (steelyard) is another. Often a picture has some combination of several different design stems. The artist, familiar with a great number of these design ideas, sorts through his library of arrangements and finds one that seems to promise an orderly means of presenting the subject at hand. Imagining that scaffold onto the canvas and using it to "order" the picture is how the artist begins to bend the randomness of nature into a conscious arrangement.

I am terribly tired ( posting everyday has a marathonness to it sometimes ) and must close, however I shall begin in the weeks ahead to lay out the basic design stems available to landscape painters and show how some of them might be used.

I am still collecting images for the next reader critique, please send them to I will of course remove your name from the art and not reveal whose art it is that I am critiquing.


Deb said...

Another stellar post. You have a great way of getting to the essentials; concise, yet still conversational.
I am up way too late, seeing as how the little munchkins will have me up at the crack of dawn. I have a book which illustrates about a dozen of these compositional formats - the book is sort of dorky in a way, but it is a handy reference for some basic design ideas, and for that I find it useful. You all would probably find it more useful if I could actually post the title and author, but that would require me to go upstairs in the attic of the barn, where my studio is, and I just don't feel like running up there tonight. I think the title is something like "14 Fabulous Formats for Landscape Painting", but I"m not sure.
"torou" French for " Come here, bull!"

Gregory Becker said...

That is such a strightforward way of thinking about it. It's funny that when the information is presented in a concise way how much sense it makes.
You are so lucky that I dont live next door to you. I would be at your house every day knocking on your door.
"Stapleton, I know you're in there."
"I have 999,999 more questions about landscape painting."

willek said...

Selfishly, I hate to think of this fine series ending or even slowing, but I think you have the nuts and bolts of a book or three here. I can't imagine doing something like this myself and, at the same time you have been dashing all over the countryside painting on site and cranking out paintings in the studio. You have to have a very supportive family to do simething like this. You have made a lot of sense out of a lot of confusion by cutting through tons of BS and presenting well thought out analyses of the subject. I would like to see you do more presentations of artists YOU are taken with and present more of their works. A painter's take on a painting is a lot more valuable to me than a scholar's, and your use of this tool has been very helpful. WillEK

jeff f said...

If people want to work on design and composition the book by Edgar Payne, Composition of Painting is highly recommended.

As is Carlson's book.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks,How about telling us the name of that book when you run across it next.

torou= the opposite of falce

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. If you lived next to me you would pay no state income tax and no sales tax, and your license plate slogan would be live free or die!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you also. This blog isn't ending soon. I a couple of large categories of things I still want to write about, and I want to continue with the personal history.The snakey stuff is yet to come.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Quite right. I intend to recommend that again. I am however deliberately not reviewing it as I write on design. I don't want to echo it.