Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Posts Tagged ‘shape’


Posted Friday, May 7th, 2010
'Every Day is History in the Making'
"History in the Making"

Tension in a painting can be interesting, as well as useful.  I like tension in a painting.  It can be used by the artist to direct the viewer’s eye where he/she wants it to go.  An example of what the artist does NOT want to do is direct the viewer’s eye OUT of the painting.  For instance, a profile portrait placed too close to the edge where the sitter is looking “out” – actually directs the viewer’s eye out of the painting.  Never to return.  Viewer moves on to next artwork.  You’ve lost your viewer!

In my painting, “Every Day Is History in the Making” it’s pretty easy to see the tension.  I was aware of it while I was working on the piece.  I decided I liked it, so I kept it and used it to my advantage.  It’s easy to spot the darkest dark and the lightest light.  That is my center of interest, which I established right away in the painting.  At some point, while studying my progress, I decided that the lightest light was TOO harsh.  It needed softening.  I felt that additional paint and/or brush strokes was not the answer.  I didn’t want to muck it up, so to speak.  So, I chose to use silver spray paint.  It softened the hard edges that were bothering me.  It kept it light (silver is very reflective).

The next thing I noticed while studying my progress was that there was a large dark area to the right that was competing with my darkest dark.  It had some other marks in it to break it up a bit.  And, it was slightly gradated from solid dark to a little less dark.  But, that was splitting hairs.  The fact is that it was really competing.  My eye kept being pulled from the center of interest (lightest light/darkest dark) to the very dark shape at the right…and, then, back again.  I decided I really liked that.  I liked the tension.  I also liked that it kept the viewer’s eye in the picture.  I wasn’t leading the eye out of the picture and away from my art.  Mission accomplished!

'Don't Suck Me In', 2010
"Don't Suck Me In"

Another good example of tension can be seen in my recently completed work, “Don’t Suck Me In”.  I started that piece with a challenge to myself.  I placed my lightest light and darkest dark as my center of interest.  Both are quite small.  The challenge was to see if it would hold up as the center of interest even though it was  small.  I did also use red right next to it sort of as an insurance policy.  Red will always catch the eye.

If you followed my previous posts about the evolution of “Don’t Suck Me In”, you know that the big sequins were the last addition to the work.  And, they really create some tension.  It’s pretty hard not to catch the eye with big, silvery, glimmering sequins blowing in the wind!  Yet, my intended center of interest is over to the right where the little bitty white and black areas (and some red) are.  Again, I find that my eye goes back and forth from the intended center of interest to the sequins.  This is great!  The whole meaning of the work is tied up in tension.  If you noticed the snakeskin under the paint near the center of interest…tension!  Then, the title suggests getting sucked in.  Sucked in to what?  Well, that’s up to you.  But, the words that are written along the right sight suggest some possibilities.  As long as the eye is kept inside the picture plane, I feel it has been successful.  The more time the viewer is kept inside the painting, the more time he has to find the more nuanced areas that may suggest more nuanced meaning.

So, now  you know some things I think about while working.  I hope you found it interesting.  Feel free to give me some feedback.  I know how the artist thinks.  I’m very curious about what the viewer sees and thinks.  What catches and holds YOUR attention?