I posted this little watercolor the other night and I want to back track a little and pick apart its design a little. I think it very clever and charming, but beneath its subject is an abstract arrangement that is very calculated. Here is some of that.
The young girl in the foreground wearing the ocher colored dress is the fulcrum of the painting. The other children are balanced on either side of her position as a central pylon. Those to the left are placed further away from the fulcrum to counterbalance the more interesting figures on the left. Like on a child's see-saw placing a weight further from the fulcrum will balance a heavier weight placed nearer that pivot point. This picture has formal balance.
The most commanding figure in the picture is the girl leaning back against the rock on the left. The angle at which she leans back is countered by the line implied through the forms of the bush on the right. The two are balanced, like a visual equation. This, of course, didn't just happen, it was installed.
But the thing I liked most about the composition was the pattern of bright whites and black shapes arrayed on a line across the middle of the painting. It begins with reclino girl's white bucket, placed against the dark shape of her skirt. Just to the right of that, the boy with his back to us has a white shirt placed against the black shape of his pants. Fulcrum girl has three white accents the most dominant of which is her collar that Homer has contrived to place against the black notes of the boys pants behind her to achieve maximum contrast. The boys to the right are really just hats sitting on dark accents. This is a device which I have pointed out before and called value stacking. I made that name up because I couldn't find an existing term.
The girl holding the bucket and leaning against the rock is the only figure with a face. She is allowed this because she is the main actor on the stage. The ribbon billowing from her hat is a jarring, eye catching shape that makes sure we see her and take notice of that face.
I know that watercolorists like to preserve the white of their paper but this watercolor really harnesses that effect, it has a bit of what is sometimes called the glare aesthetic. That is the lighter colored items are "blown out" by the light. The big rock on the left and the white accents I mentioned above are all pushed to a high key that is as white as the paper. That gives a sparkling, sun blasted look that is typical of the coastal moors along the north shore above Boston. It is also major key and all of that contrast gives a joyous, weightless look to this happy painting of children. Homers design and value scheme carry the feeling of the painting more than its subject matter.