Composition: Deciding on an Approach
After deciding on a subject, the next decision is how to approach the subject.
Should I paint intellectually, emotionally, or subconsciously? Should I paint what I see, what I imagine, what I feel, or what I want to see? Should I paint realistically, romantically or abstractly? Should I control the process, or should relinquish control to my subconscious, my client, or should I paint what the composition tells me it needs? Should I paint the details or the essence of a subject? Should my focus be on lines, planes or masses? Should I paint in vibrant or subdued colors? Should I paint a story? Should I paint a scene or a poem suggested by the scene?
The images below represent a variety of possible approaches to any subject.
Classical: Paint with clarity, logic, and order, favoring line over color.
Baroque: Paint imaginary dramatic scenes with rich color, intense lighting and dark shadows.
Caravaggio (1571-1610) and Lorrain (c. 1600-1682)
Neoclassicism: Paint history and myth emphasizing line quality and detail over color, light or atmosphere.
David (1748-1825) and Ingres (1780-1867)
Romanticism: Paint passions, emotions.
American Romanticism: Paint fantastic, symbolic scenes full of unusual effects of grandiose space and theatrical contasts of light.
Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
English Realism: Paint natural landscapes from ordinary life within the compositional structure of the Old Masters.
John Constable (1776-1837)
American Luminists: Paint the spiritual, mystical component of the scene.
Realism: Paint what you see, not what you think you see.
Courbet (1819-1877) and Degas (1834-1917)
Barbizon School: Paint realistic scenes with a restrained palette domiated with browns and blacks along with dark and silvery green.
Impressionism: Paint your impression of the momentary, transient effects of light on ordinary objects, rather than an actual depiction of the objects themselves.
Post-Impressionism: Paint planes of color with small brush strokes that build up to form complex fields.
Post-Impressionism: Paint vibrant colors with swirling brush strokes to convey your feelings and state of mind.
Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Post-Impressionism: Paint with tiny dots of color applied according to the latest scientific theory of color.
Post-Impressionism: Paint imaginary scenes and dreamscapes in a primitive, child-like manner.
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Post-Impressionism: Paint the spirit of an era with broad areas of color, asymetrical design, simple countour lines, and flat, two-dimensional objects with no shadows.
Fauvism: Paint with wide, choppy brush strokes of pure color, creating primitive, brutal, violent and brilliant paintings.
Cubism: Analyze objects, break them into basic shapes and re–assemble them in an abstracted form.
Cubism: Paint from multiple points of view simultaneously.
Expressionism: Paint the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse rather than objective reality.
Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Matisse (1869-1954)
Open Color: Paint broad bands of color independent of line. The colored design shapes overlap the thing shapes (people, trees, buildings) that are defined by lines. The design shapes serve as the chords and the lines serve as the melody of the composition — independent yet related.
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Synthesis of Art Movements: Synthesize the art forms of Cubism, Symbolism, Fauvism and Expressionism, and paint a distillation of your imagination, memories and experiences into images at once immediate, simple, and symbolic to which everyone can respond.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Biomorphic Abstraction: Paint simplified biomorphic shapes that are suggested by your inner vision unemcumbered by conscious reason.
Gorky (c. 1904-1948)
Lyrical Abstraction: Paint primal, emotional, metaphysical ideas and states of mind.
Surrealism: Paint visual imagery from the subconscious mind without the intention of logical comprehensibility.
Minimalism: Paint less to achieve more.
Frank Stella (born 1936)
Color Field Painting: Paint with pure color and pure geometric design.
Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Pop Art: Paint common objects from the popular culture.
Jasper Johns (born 1930)
Magic Realism: Paint every day objects and scenes with overtones of fantasy.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Jack Vettriano (born 1951) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Personal Vision: Follow the advice of Georgia O'Keeffe: "Let them all be damned—I'll do as I please"
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)