Monday, July 20, 2009

The Z or S compostion

Here's a Fredrick Waugh. Waugh has used a Z or an S design to lead your eye through his painting. The lines of the composition take you through a series of switchbacks to the crashing wave.
The Z is really a classic composition and artists use it routinely in the landscape. Sometimes the Z is in the form of a receding road, that's been used so much it is sort of a cliche. If you do that one, you have to hide it a bit. All of these design stems work best when they aren't too obvious.

Here's a painting of Vermont, by Emile Gruppe. Every time I go to paint in Vermont the weather looks like this. Those mountains around Jefforsonville are gathering places for gray weather. Gruppe "bent" this landscape into its Z configuration

It may have suggested this treatment, but I am sure he made this design happen.

Here is an example by William Wendt, the California impressionist. And below you can see the Z in his design.

The S design is particularly compelling and will lead the eye of the viewer through your painting nicely. It also has a rhythmic quality.

If you are currently painting from photos, and want to go on to the next level, imposing a deliberate design on an image will improve your work. When you look at the photo, ask yourself, how do I want the viewer to move through this painting. Where within this picture do i want to lead their eye? If you could draw that onto your photo you would probably have the root of a good, effective design. The Z design is a good one tom begin with if you are just starting to add some subterranean geometry to your paintings.

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.

The details are being finalized for a workshop to be held the weekend plus one day, either Friday or Monday ( so it will be a three day workshop ) of the 19th of September in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. September will be beautiful in the rolling hills of southern New Hampshire. More on that soon.


Gregory Becker said...

Great Post. Being deliberate with design as well as concealment is a weak spot for me and these are good examples. I tried seeing the z before scrolling down on each photo and I wasn't immediately obvious to me as to where to place the z. The seascape was especially well hidden. It was difficult to see it at first. I am going to have to spend some time with this.

Deb said...

I'm so excited about this workshop in the fall! There are some great places to paint in the region, but, as we've seen, Stape can make a painting out of anything! Just think of getting all this great instruction in person!
wowee wow wow.

"extre" What they call "more" in
southern states. As in,
"I got me some extre helpin's of Ma's corn fritters. said...

Hi Stapleton,
Yes! it is that lack of structure from strict observational work that separates the Masters from the landscape painters. I can see that now. Eureka! I also think many landscape painters don't give themselves enough time out in the field to work through all the problems in a particular view. Many painters now cut too quickly to the photograph to "solve" problems. I have been guilty of this is the past with landscapes. They end up being thrown out anyway. Never again.

We had a little trouble accessing the views at Annisquam. I wanted to paint that lighthouse..who doesn't? That will have to wait till off season.We ended up at Lainsville Cove, in honor of your blog. I spent all day with a painting sketch; moving elements around, eliminating background noise, watching what the design did when I changed something, where the eye went...etc. I do not have a painting but I had great fun learning letting all these ideas seep in. On another note:that abandoned Cape Anne Tool Company that has stolen my heart. Love to work up a series on site.

Bob Carter said...

Waugh seascapes are hard to beat. The tipped horizon line in this one took me by surprise. I'm thinking he did that to solve the uninterupted horizon line problem that usually needs to be solved in a open seascape like this. When I mentally "fix" it, it has that problem of dividing the canvas into bands. Tipped like this works with the vey active scene, almost as if you were viewing it from a bobbing boat (dangerously close to those rocks!). As it is, the division is into two unequal shapes, rather than bands. If that's his purpose, it's very clever. What's your take on this?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I never look at a painting without looking for the geometry of it.It becomes automatic. Develop that habit and you will see a lot of them. There are artists like Inness who are nearly unfathomable.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks for that. I will write more about the Jaffrey workshop tonight.

extre= an extreme for some one else, leave me out of it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are painting in places that artists have worked for generations.Onr of these days I will go over to Rockport Gloucester and do a post on those places and shoe historic paintings of them.I remember when the tool company was still running,pounding out parts for tanks.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe the photo is crooked. I think the Waugh had a level horizon.But you never know. Waugh did everything you can do to a seascape at one time or another. Deeply religious man by the way.

willek said...

I find doing seascapes on site is a good way to force yourself to create some kind of structure and rational into a picture. You cannot paint what is there because it is always moving. At one time or another in the surf zone, much of what you are looking at is either foam, froth, reflection of sky and rocks, bottom colors, shadow and glitter. So you are forced to plan where all this will go in your picture. Then make sense of it pictorially. I wish I was better at it. WillEK

Stapleton Kearns said...

That so true. Painting seascape in the studio from sketches and photos is also a good way to build design skills. seascape is the abstract design section of landscape painting.