Tinkering with water

Here’s how I’m progressing on my little seascape.

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at tiny thumbnails of Waugh paintings, like these.

You can really see the brushwork on that last one. There are a lot of photos of breaking waves, but nature never has the imagination and composition of a painting. A painting is like the ideal. And plus, the splashes aren’t blurred.

James Gurney reposted an excellent article describing a teaching session by Howard Pyle. You can read the whole thing here, but here is the bit that I have been pondering.

The last composition to be criticized was the work of a pupil already famous in the art world. Mr. Pyle usually criticized such pupils with much detail, but with a respect which showed the high esteem in which he held their work. The present sketch was an illustration to a detective story, a murder scene.

“In the first place, it is a mistake to show gruesome and horrible things plainly in a picture,” was the comment. “The mind is so repelled that it instinctively refuses further attention and thus defeats the purpose of the drawing. Then, suggestion is always more powerful than a direct telling. Here we have the dead man, the knife, and the murderer, unmistakably shown. There is no mystery, nothing to puzzle and intrigue the imagination, and we turn away. How much more powerful would be a mass of men crowding around a slightly-seen object. Then there is mystery. We want to know what happened and who did it.

“Pictures should suggest so many possibilities as to set the mind to thinking, and thus hold the attention. We have all seen wonderfully painted groups in art exhibits – perhaps a vase and a bit of drapery, marvelously executed. The artist may have spent weeks upon the painting, yet it has little interest. We turn away, saying, ‘Very clever, but in heaven’s name why did he paint it?’”

Why indeed? So I’ve been considering how to inject more intrigue into my pictures.

2 thoughts on “Tinkering with water

  1. Hrm.Composing a picture can be a bit like writing, can’t it? You want to tell the audience enough to capture their attention but not too much at once… I think you’re doing fine. Your water looks like a relaxing potential prime surfing spot now. Lovely.


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