The last few days I've been getting high. Not what you're thinking...no drugs or Plymouth gin or anything like that. I rented one of those big dumpster thingies and started pitching out stuff.
It's liberating. The activity produces great neuro-chemicals, I can tell you. If enough of it builds up in my system I may even have the energy to clean the new empty space where all that junk once was! It seems some of that stuff, like me, put on weight over the past 20 years.
Anyway it got me thinking about the same thing in painting. It IS liberating to leave out useless stuff. Though a lot of time this doesn't mean actually eliminating something so much as letting it melt into its surrounding zone of value. Especially the farther back in space it is. Nothing flattens space like having everything in the scene rendered to the same degree of finish. Sometimes I get that right. This oil pastel sacrifices a lot of foliage detail (especially on the far bank) to emphasize the day's color and the nice shapes.
This watercolor suggests everything and defines almost nothing - but I think one can identify what's what and both images convey their weather and light.
When I first started out, it was hard to shake the notion that "if it's there I should paint every bit of it...and leave it where it is". I knew good paintings when I saw them...but assumed REALLY GOOD artists just lucked into better composed, more paintable scenery than me. I drove around a LOT looking for the ideal vista. Fortunately gas was 93 cents a gallon back then.
Now I'm getting excited about simplified compositions that let value or color or shape do the talking. As our culture becomes more photo-centric, perhaps painting should become more "painterly"...its own kind of thing. Maybe not to the point of total abstraction necessarily...just indicative of human perception, as opposed to device capture.