Monday, May 3, 2010

I suppose I will order these posts from informal to increasingly mathematical systems. The post yesterday and many of my prior posts on design, (searchable under design in my archives) explain how I approach design. Mostly I used logic systems often based on obtaining variety of shape, line direction and proportion. But I have also studied the writings of Edgar Payne. His methods center about the use of what he calls design stems. These are stock compositional arrangements that artists use to assemble paintings. As I write this is it sounds rather uncreative, but I don't believe you will find it so. They are sort of skeletal armatures that help you think about a paintings design, rather than a template you build a painting within.

Payne draws pages and pages of little thumbnails showing the major design stems that artists have repeatedly used in landscapes. After enumerating these stems, he shows how dozens of artists have used them to create paintings.

Here is a design stem. The balance beam, or steelyard. As you can see this is a pretty basic arrangement. Payne lays out about a dozen of these. I suggest you find and read his book, "Composition of Outdoor Painting". I have written extensively on these ideas in earlier posts that you can search in my archives. This book is very popular today and has had an enormous influence, particularly on painters west of the Mississippi.

These design stems are simple relatively loose schematics to suggest the arrangement of paintings. They are not the complete scaffolding that the more formal mathematical approaches install.
Tomorrow I will ratchet the formality up a notch and discuss the ideas of Cyril Pearce, a late 19th early 20th century artist who wrote on design. He has a series of principles that I will enumerate and discuss. That may actually take a few days. I am betting that few if any of you know about this guy.


willek said...

Mama Bear Papa Bear and Baby Bear. That is the most fantastic advise. I will never forget it. Why didn't I ever think of it! Thanks.

Mary Byrom said...

Keep going Stapleton! Yes, you are so right about Payne being popular west of the Mississippi. Any and every design concept you can share will be appreciated. I love this stuff.

jeff said...

You can get Payne's book from Derus Fine Arts. It's a great book and I think every painter should have it even if they don't paint landscapes.

jeff said...

Sorry it's DeRu's Fine Arts.

The book is $48 and is printed on very nice paper.

Susan McCullough said...

I'm am really glad you are going to discuss design- thank you so much! And you are right- I have never heard of Cyril Pearce.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape, you sure can feed a hungry appitite!
You just keep serving up things from the kitchen, you bring a lot to the table! Thank you!
(I like my Edger over easy)

Philip Koch said...

The design of paintings is one of the great topics!
Don't think I'll ever tire of chewing on that bone.
If I had to say, I figure "design" or "composition" is really the heart of painting. Color, brushstroke, etc. is just the delicious icing on the cake.

Was wondering if the illustration (I guess that's a Bougereau painting) is from the Payne book you recommended or if it's a Stape original.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Really enjoyed the posts on design.
It is time to get to the nitty gritty. The three bears have been my friends for a long time. Something I first learned in commerical art. However I don't always use them. Do you feel it is the "glue" that holds the design
together? I really must get the
Edgar Payne book before the rush

As always, thank you Stapleton for
something good to chew on... said...

In the second painting, the scale shows the wonderful balance of that composition as you said. Also the women to each side of the Cupid make a parenthesis (cupid)design. A nice way to "book end." It's like the hugging of the child is echoed in the hugging composition.

(By the way,Yes, I was laughing so hard when I was able to get another you-know-who reference into my last post.)

Stapleton Kearns said...

That idea comes from Edgar Whitney who wrote a design book for watercolor.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Well here comes some more.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks for that. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have written a lot on design if you want to hunt the archives.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I also bring the table itself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That lovely graffito is mine the painting is Bouguereau.
Design grows larger and larger the more I paint.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You NEED the Payne book in your library.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I actually drew a diagram of that in a long ago post also.