Friday, January 22, 2010

Getting back to the game

I've started painting again. This time doing a small commission for someone who will give the painting to his wife as a Valentine's gift. How sweet!

Yet I've found out, once you stop painting for a while, you do get rusty. It takes a little time to get back to it and remember all those things you've learned previously. It's not quite like riding a bicycle, once you learn it you'll always know how to do it. The question is how to keep it up at a level you practiced before or even better. But after a few days of keeping at it, I do start to feel more at ease with painting.

Here, to help me remember, is a rehashing of some points I should always keep in mind when I paint.

1. 20% detail.
I read a book titled The 80/20 principle a while ago. It says 20% percent of population has 80% of wealth. Or in a company, 20% of employees produce 80% of work. It's a business concept, but the author used it to demonstrate how you can use the principle and choose to work on that 20% of work that will produce 80% of results. It's the same in painting. Your attention should never be evenly distributed to the whole painting. Devote 80% of your attention to only 20% of your painting. That 20% area in the painting is the focal point, where you want the views' eyes go to. Details everywhere means no focus, and it's only confusing to the viewers.

2. Masses first.
Too often I get caught in details (again!), and forget the whole picture. But before painting details, a foundation has to be laid, and masses established. It's the structure of the painting, the underlying pillar, that will hold the painting together even after it's added details and finished. This ties into the value plan of a painting. Establish the value patterns.

3. 20% empty space.
The same 80/20 concept. Not really empty, but a relatively quiet area. A painting needs a calm area for the viewers' eye to rest. It cannot be action everywhere.

4. Paint what catches your eye.
Painting is a response to what I see. I have to feel something about what I paint.


  1. So happy that you are back painting again!

  2. I like your "things to keep in mind while I paint" comment. I use a list also, a kind of Preflight checklist for painters.

  3. Hi Steve, thanks for stopping by. Yeah I like the checklist idea. I just have to remember to do it every time before I paint!