Good painters don’t merely recreate what is in front of them. An experienced artist knows how to create a successful painting, no matter what situation or model he or she is presented with or the materials being worked with.
Of course, this often comes after years of practice and experimentation — as well as the development of a unique artistic voice. But there are some basic characteristics that all good paintings have in common. As you are thinking about just how to paint your next composition, keep the following three tips in mind.
1. A Strong Focal Point
A focal point is not like the big, bold “X” that marks the spot on a treasure map. It can take on any shape and size. It can be bold but it can also be subtle. A dappling of light, a pop of color, an expression or emphatic gesture — any of these can become a focal point in a composition.
Regardless of how it is created, its purpose should be to engage the viewer or act as the culmination of the momentum built in the work.
2. Layers of Color
When it comes to painting characteristics, color is key to keep in mind. Color makes a painting tranquil or vibrant, dramatic or stark. And, this comes about not only in your color choices but also how you build passages of color over one another or side by side.
Warm and cool colors in a sky create a sense of atmosphere and space more than any one swath of color — no matter how perfectly matched it is to the sky above.
3. Changes in Direction
In many great paintings, the image is realistically rendered, but brushstrokes are clearly visible. You are aware of how the painting is painted. Think about how the paint application of Jan van Eyck versus Vincent van Gogh perfectly reflects or resonates with what the artists painted.
The way a brush moves paint around makes a statement that should be taken advantage of. You can start by being mindful of your brush’s changes in the direction, literally working on a painting with different strokes and from various angles.
Remember What You Respond To
When you look at works of art that you respond to, always ask yourself why. Keep those characteristics in mind as you develop your own pieces, too.
And, if you’re like me and enjoy a lesson or two from the Old Masters’ playbook, then watch this preview trailer of artist Mark Menendez’s video workshop, Painting Techniques of the Masters.
If you’re intrigued, you can stream his entire video workshop with Artists Network Membership. Happy painting, artists!