Thursday, May 5, 2011

A foreground dilemma!


A foreground dilemma!

Above is one of a pair of recently discovered paintings from the trove found quite by accident in the Nevelson wing of a large and important American museum. This sorry painting by a deservedly forgotten tyro from the seventeenth century, is a fine example of an artist placing the "footlights" too close to their viewing position. He believed by dint of hard work, soft edges and careful arrangement he could paint all that stuff around his ankles. But, up close, nature was teeming with legions of little assertive details that jostled for his attention. Somehow the whole foreground became its very own picture, with a cast of thousands!

If we only had our eyes set one above the other in our heads, we could see the picture at a glance. But since our eyes are paired side by side we must "lift" our eyes to travel from the foreground to the middle and background assembly area. This unpleasant 'lifting" of our eyes bothers our attention spans, and in that brief unconnected synaptic instant in which we are transferring our vision upward to the middle ground and beyond, our whole concentration is lost!

Below is a second painting, identical to the first, except on his second attempt the artist left out the first fifty feet in front of himself! Simply did not place it on the canvas at all. He didn't try to ameliorate its edges or rearrange it's twining complexity, he just frickin left it out!

What a better solution then, to the problem of bristling irrelevant detail ALWAYS splotching the bottom third of a painting? What if I want em looking elsewhere, perhaps at the little boats or the passing river? Why should my subject have to compete with, or indeed, wait behind a thicket of beckoning thorns and vines, and some little rocks. and that clump of grass over there, and the bush, there's the bush! ..............and its shadow.

Turn again to your pamphlets, and look at the broad history of landscape painting to see how able artists working with measured thought produced a better yesterday.


Painting Tips and Tricks said...

This is a great painting! Thanks for sharing!...Daniel

Philip Koch said...

Good post,

Stape, seriously you might want to moonlight producing faux 17th century landscapes. I think you had too much fun with this series.

stapeliad said...

I'm so glad the Dutchman came out of the quicksand. :)

Libby Fife said...

So, I see. It does seem like you would have to wade through a bunch of junk to make your way to those boats. I suppose I will just stop looking at my shoes then:)

Thanks for the sound explanations. said...

Back up into the sunlight for a bit. Splish-splash.

These have been great posts on basic landscape design and so important. I have a close up eye. That makes my still lifes interesting but it has always given me big problems in the landscape. I'll have to start using my far away eye.

Maybe THIS year will be the year I will paint a landscape painting that I will like and won't just throw away. Hope dies last.

Lucy said...

What a terrific series. Though, it seems difficult for you to make a really bad painting, even when you are trying.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Stape, this is a good one for me since I tend to get caught up in foreground clutter.

willek said...

Terrific teaching, Stape. Your demo pictures are VERY Rembranty.

Poppy Balser said...

Stape, I have been looking forward to these since you first proposed to cover dumb design ideas. Definitely worth the wait. These are wonderfully helpful and amusing to boot! Thank you so much for the effort that you put into this blog. I am learning from your teaching and am grateful.

clarkola said...

Adding more gratitude to the comments! I am having fun repainting bad paintings now that I understand a little better WHY they are bad.
thanks upon thanks!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Painting Tips and Tricks ;

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have been having fun doing this!

Stapleton Kearns said...

The Dutchman is in for further problems.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You get it now,right?

Stapleton Kearns said...

In the land of the myopic the astigmatic is king.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have made thousands of bad paintings. If I were going to be REALLY good at this, I would already be REALLY good at it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

This is the key to losing the foreground clutter.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks you, they are a bit of work to do.

Stapleton Kearns said...

All the mistakes are out there, waiting to be made. They preexist their commission.

Camille LaRue Olsen said...

Was trying to find your exact post where you advised not fencing out the viewer. I just corrected that error (foreground fence) in one of my paintings and it now looks much better IMHO. Thanks!

Camille LaRue Olsen said...

On the other hand, the painting may still be guilty of some potation... ah well, we live and learn!