Thursday, August 20, 2015

Band aids

One of the toughest composition problems is dealing with horizontal bands of stuff that make a "flag" of your picture plane. This tends to flatten the space we work so hard to suggest. Landscape painters the world over wrestle with this but Iowa has to be the equivalent of the Russian Front in this. Endless bands of corn or beans throw up a repoussoir at every turn (a barricade or fence-like obstruction to the viewer's visual passage into a picture...ooh la la) And - if I may show off a bit more here - the French word for landscape is PAYSAGE. (Auto correct tried to give me Pat Sajack there...sack ray blue!).
If you try to paint a river, same deal...unless you stand in it and look up or down stream.
Below is a view from Ely Ford on the Des Moines river which I want to do large - 42x36. This reference photo shows what a festival of horizontals I'm faced with...
.BTW, check Jessica Kirby and Carlene Atwater's posts at right. They're wrestling with the same problem on the Mississippi, near Nauvoo (ironically, when the Mormons left there they forded the Des Moines at THIS spot).
Below is an oil pastel study which I will use for color as the greater variety (read more than green and blue) will hopefully break up the bands a bit...or at least provide SOME distraction.

I'm also going to go with the vertical orientation - it lets me "pack" the top band with more junk. ANY ASYMMETRY HELPS IN THESE SITUATIONS. Here's the drawing in charcoal: 2/3 water, 1/3 trees...and hopefully the reflections cutting into the other "bands" will interlock them a bit as well.

In subsequent posts I will show the progress of this picture


  1. So, there are four 'aids' to utilize with 'band'ed subject matter . One is vertical orientation allowing one to stack the detail. Two is using asymmetry dividing the band width. Three is color variety. Four is overlapping the bands. Yes??

  2. ANYTHING that counters or distracts from an even horizontal symmetry helps. Think through your "vocabulary ": position, size, shape, color, texture, etc. Something, even several options may be appropriate to a particular image.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I look at the photo and am really challenged as to what to do. You have a great handle on the process and theories behind a successful painting. Looking forward to the next post in this series.