Monday, September 5, 2011

The Forgotten Man, detuned

Above is Maynard Dixons "Forgotten Man": on below I have "detuned" it.
Here are some bullets;
  • The idea is to subordinate the smaller variations or details to the larger shape on which they ride. The passage above says DARK JACKET with shadows, rather than, dark jacket WITH SHADOWS. My bowdlerized version below says "DARK JACKET with SHADOWS". I have placed as much emphasis on the folds of the jacket as the larger shape of the jacket (the larger form) itself. I also revved up the shirt so it is overstated. It is no longer a variation on the value structure of the larger form. Now the shirt is over assertive and leaves its place in the structure. The shirt now calls too hard for our attention for it to stay on the surface and be part of the form of the "forgotten Man".
  • You can look at any scene in two ways, piecemeal, that is as an inventory of its parts, or you can see it broadly. Seeing broadly, detail is minimized and the whole scene is apprehended in its entirety. In my version on I have installed a "piecemeal" sort of vision. I have cluttered the scene up with lots of inessential details, that distract from the design. The surface of my version bristles with nasty curlicues and and insistent annoying doo-dads.
  • Vision is busier than the Maynard Dixon. His picture draws power from its spare and elemental presentation. This formalizing and distancing makes the image read as something special, an altered, more acute, and discreet vision. My version over on the right looks like head comix from the 60's. All of that visual "noise" reads as vulgar, dirty, and cluttered. How the image is presented........ is the picture, not the verbal description idea of image itself.


Jim Oberst said...

Stape, a very clear and convincing explanation. Thanks.

Philip Koch said...

I absolutely love this post! What malicious fun to "detune" a good painting. And your example makes your point so well.

An awful lot of realist paintings, particularly those done from photographs by artists whose drawing skills are shakey, can end up looking like your messed up version if one isn't careful or very lucky.

Now I can go to bed happy.

Ray Hassard said...

Nasty Curlicues! What a great name for a rock group!! I'm still laughing but want to say what a great post this is! Thanks!

Steve Pero said...

truly great post, Stape. And something I'm trying to really get a handle on at the moment, so very applicable for me. So here's a question for ya...
when simplifying shapes for a landscape, do you break 'em down into Carlson's 4 planes, or do you group masses by value regardless of what they are?

Unknown said...

oops. I accidentally posted from hubby's login... that last post was me.

Lampros Lampinos said...

i like the contrast of the sitting and the moving people...

jake gumbleton said...

great post Stape! It takes so much time to cultivate a good sense of simplification. This is a great little illustration of the issue.

Lucy said...

I totally agree with Philip about artists who trace from photos and put in every singly minute detail. It is quite prevalent in art school where the student brings in a canvas drawn at home from the projector ready to fill it in class.

As always this is such a clear, concise explanation of an important idea, beautifully executed. Thank you!

The NY on the fire hydrant! Is very funny!

Libby Fife said...

I have enjoyed these last two posts so thank you. Your explanation here reminds me of editing while writing. How many modifiers are needed? Have you made a main point with enough supporting points and without going overboard? Do you need to add more detail or rearrange elements to be understood? To me, that Maynard Dixon piece is elegant in its simplicity. (And appeals to me because of that simplicity.) The subject is that much more important because of the judicious editing.

Thanks agin for the clear explanation.

Robert J. Simone said...

I like that thought...."How the image is presented IS the picture!"

Begs the question, "Why do so many of the uninitiated respond to junked up imagery?"

Judy P. said...

Rats, I have to admit I looked at the mug, newspaper and can, and thought 'ooh, those little bits enhance the message!', even if they did mess up the design.
I have got to learn to stop myself!

colleen said...

Ditto the kudos for this post, adding the clutter was such a great way to show not tell what happens. Thanks said...


willek said...

Right on posting for me. Stop me before I clutter again!@!!!

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! You have hit me with the big picture!
I have always added "noise" to my paintings as condiments to a hot dog.

At a good steak house, they don't serve sauce!

Wow and thank you!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jim Oberst
Thanks Jim

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip Koch;
Maynard wasn't lucky though. I believe e nothing good gets into a painting by accident.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Ray Hassard;
I think I might start one. 4 drummers!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I do both, sometimes I have a number of different strategies

Stapleton Kearns said...

lampros lampinos;
Me too they really move along back there!

Stapleton Kearns said...

jake gumbleton'
Thanks Jake.

Stapleton Kearns said...

A projector won't help will it?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Libby Fife;
I know nothing about editing in writing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Simone; I am not sure but they do don't they. Wheres Waldo? as great art.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Judy P.;
I was laughing as I put that coffee cup in there!

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...;
Clutter= evil

Stapleton Kearns said...

willek ;

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sometimes noise is good but only sometimes. Accents are good though.