Thursday, August 5, 2010

Form and thrust

Here is an Edgar Payne. I am going to use the sky in this painting to talk about thrusting forms. A form is a shape in a painting and by thrust I mean its capacity to suggest directional movement. A form that is round has no thrust, a form that is arrow shaped has a lot. Artists often use thrusting forms to carry the viewers eye about the canvas, or to counteract or interact with other forms in a design. You are probably familiar with this concept in lines, knowing that a line may convey the viewers eye in a direction, well, a form can do the same thing. Look at the picture below with cryptic lines and numbers on it.

Number 1 is a cloud that points inward toward the center of the painting. Number 2 is another. Number 3 is a sky hole that carries the viewer around the turn. That is , when you look at it the semicircular shape carries the viewer through that part of the painting. Above 3 the cloud points inward and to the right. Number 4 is a big inward, and downward pointing shape. I think you probably get the idea. Almost every shape in that sky is designed to be directional. Would you go back to the top and unaltered picture and look at the sky, see how many different thrusting cloud forms there are and their direction of thrust?

This idea can be used in fields, architecture, surf, whatever is in your painting. This is one of the keys to getting vitality in your shapes and controlling the viewers course through the painting.

Here is another thing I want to point out. I have numbered the blue sky holes in the painting. This is a great example of variety of shape. Each of these numbered shapes is as different as can be from each of the others. They vary in area and in shape. Number 1 is for instance, shaped nothing like number 5. This was not observed, or copied from a photograph, but designed. It is an abstract arrangement that has particular and deliberate qualities that the artist thought would look cool.


willek said...

There is an interesting arrangement of the three main darks in the land mass. Any comments on that? and on the placement of the riders?

Bill said...

The largest rider is about dead center in the shade at the bottom of the picture, violating the "rule" about centering a point of interest, but he's counterbalanced by the two smaller riders to the right and the larger shadow to the left. The dark hills in the background further balance this out. When you look at it is all sems carefully contrived.

Philip Koch said...

Let's face it- skies are a lot of fun for landscape painters to play around with. One can blast in the simplest drawing of abstract shapes and then work with it to turn it into a sky. There can be great freedom for the painter up there.

When it's done right one can get great expressive power from the abstract shapes AND a wonderful light-filled dome over the land itself.

Mary Byrom said...

Very nice post! I've been up to my ears in cloud designs lately...

Anonymous said...

Hi Stape,
What I understand from this and your other design examples is that even though I get frustrated with the results of my outdoor painting, I need to do it. So that when I want to use these compositional devices I will know how nature works. So I can rearange and the elements (clouds,Waves,people etc) will look authentic even when they are not what I see. In other words it's ammunition I am piling up for all my future design choices.
Yesterdays post was the clearest yet about connecting darks, or I am just starting to get it!
Thank you,thank you, Terry

jade said...

beautiful painting; thanks for the comments on the design. These are very helpful (and entertaining).

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill has a comment on that though, I have moved on......

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

There is that dance of realism and arrangement, hopefully with the two in balance. It is a dialogue.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

I spend a lot of posts driving home a few simple ideas.
Maybe too many, but I can't gauge whether the readers get them or not unlike in a classroom where I can see them.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I bet that is not a good picture of you.