We hope you can join us for our YouTube Live Chat, tomorrow January 23, at the usual time, 2 p.m. Eastern. The topic is Visual Paths, a continuation of this series. Have your questions ready!
One thing we see consistent among works by Rembrandt, Leonardo, Sargent and all those master painters whose works continue to fascinate us is not just the subjects they chose, or how well they
interpreted those subjects, but how they composed their works so that every inch of the painting surface plays a role in the painting.
The master painter always guides the viewer's eye. The route they create for the eye is the visual path. All the visual elements can play a role. Each one of them
can be used as an eye guide by the way they play their role.
Look at this fascinating painting by contemporary artist Mary Whyte.
Mary Whyte Pearl Watercolor on Paper
Let's examine the strategies Whyte used to guide your eye. Notice the difference in how your eye looks at the painting in this next version compared with her actual
painting. (Apologies to Mary for the hash I did.)
That bucket and pile of oysters I took away were isolated images emphasized by their value contrast, playing the role of pulling eyes towards them just enough to
make that space important to the whole painting. The bucket being taller than the pile of oysters stops the eye, and with the oysters connected to the bucket in that area, create a sort of arrow, pointing us back to the woman. Without it, our eyes don't go to that space.
Look what happens when I remove the window.
The space behind the woman becomes just background space and has no other role in the painting. Our eyes now land on just the woman and the stuff immediately surrounding her. That window
plays the role of taking the eye upward into that negative space and, by catching the movement from the bucket and oysters on the extreme right, enables all the space to participate in the painting. The empty space between them serves as traveling space, or places to pause between active elements.
Notice the triangular movement within that pattern. Within that major triangular movement, as we look more closely, we see other triangular movements repeated. The visual element of
value contrast is causing most of these patterns in cooperation with the visual element of direction.
When we switch our attention from what it is to what makes it do what it's doing, we can find within any image all kinds of tools to use to create a visual
path that encompasses the space of all the painting's surface.
Below are three paintings by John Singer Sargent, each using as it's eye guide, the triangular path. Most artists who use the triangular path will include within a major path several smaller
triangular paths. Find all those paths in these Sargent paintings.
During my Language of Painting series, I explained the role of our visual elements. If you'd like to review those roles to better understand
triangular paths, here are the links to each of those discussions: Color --Value -- Shape -- Texture -- Size -- Line and Direction
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