Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #6

This is the sixth  installment from the series of posts that will describe my thoughts and  technical insights from selected works included in our newly released book, “Not Far from Home”….Enjoy!


Connected Masses and Design

Design at its simplest, in my opinion, should be an arrangement of shapes that have a dominance of either dark or light and should be woven together with a thread that lyrically carries the eye to the focal point and around the canvas.  This thread is often comprised of the least dominant value that is either literally connected to or leading to the next progression of shapes that follow the pattern.  In other words, if the painting has a dominance of dark values, then the thread should be the lights that carry your eye around, or vice versa.

Notice how the lights are connected in the painting “Amaryllis”, page 39, and inversely, how the darks are connected in “Hollyhock and Eden”, page 158. This was no accident, but was an intentional design choice from the outset to group the lights or darks to carry the viewer’s eye.  This massing of shapes helps to create a more dynamic design which will give a painting its visual impact, particularly at first glance.  Great movie directors pay close attention to this detail.  One can freeze frame Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” at almost any point and see a master designer’s work.

As I sought to understand this concept, I studied the work of the great illustrators Howard Pyle, N.C Wyeth, Dean Cornwell and others and found that doing little pencil sketches of their abstract designs was very beneficial in understanding the importance of this principal.

Other examples contained in “Not Far from Home” that help illustrate this point are, “Amethyst”, page 144… “Summer Table”, page 121… and “Backlit Peonies”, page 75, among others.

Rememberconnect your lights and darks if possible, your designs will have more unity and power if you do!

Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

Not Far from Home… click book for more info.  Thanks!

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2 responses to “Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #6

  • Esther J. Williams

    Daniel, thanks for writing this technical blog, I read all the posts and truly felt a light bulb go off. Several things I can use to bring my paintings up to the next level were noted by you. I can see the highest level of excellence in your art. It hits my eyes just right and provokes emotion. Thank-you again.

  • Loretta Fasan

    Your figures are very sympathetic.
    I like your paintings very much, and I appreciate your insight and helpful hints and instructions.

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