Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Bottoms

Fresh off the Just Plein Fun show plus wrapping up my three-day workshop. I’ve noticed my appeal of a large simple weight at the bottom of a painting. As I study my contemporaries and look for my own compositions, this area interests me more and more as solution to not having a piece feel “top heavy.” I touched upon it briefly when teaching and thought I’d share my thinking.

While I enjoy low horizons in other artists works, I rarely find them appealing myself. I usually like to put my horizon in the upper half of the painting and use the weight of the land as an anchor. This has some built-in benefits that immediately work: One, the large shape gives the scene a simple bottom mass to rest upon (think of a matted painting .... the mat is usually cut with a thicker bottom width than the top and sides). And two, it creates a nice, easy entry up to the focus. I like to use some simple brush work or a directional line such as the buoy rope or mast reflection in the above two paintings to move your eye in. For me, this also creates a smaller focal area to worry about and plenty of breathing room around the subject. In the paintings above, it helped me from getting the boats too big and crowding the edges. It also allowed plenty of space for other items to support the boats, such as buoys, buoy lines, masts and rigging lines. I felt that including these better told the story especially when my subject matter was so simple.

In these two 12x9 paintings completed at the Just Plein Fun event, I tried not to get carried away with detail in the bottom portions. Trying to add temperature changes instead of value changes in the one with the large sand mass. On the single boat, I needed a bit more interest in the water since the boat was so subdued. I added a couple of highlights on the water ripples for added interest and eye movement.

So, in honor of Spinal Tap’s 25th anniversary ... “Big Bottoms, My Works Got ’Em.” Enjoy!

Next week: Paintings that go to eleven.


  1. Another instructive post... thanks!
    And as the recipient of one of your "weight at the bottom of your painting" lessons, I appreciate the reminder!!
    Thanks again for a very useful and enjoyable workshop!

  2. Greg,

    Great post and excellant musical reference. Now, can you crank your value scale up to eleven?

  3. Your title for this post is priceless! Another great lesson. Composition is something I'm always trying to improve on in my work.

    Good luck with your opening at Rainey! I wish I could be there to see everyone's beautiful work.

  4. Hey Greg,

    I just discovered your blog, love your work. Ill be stopping by regularly to see whats new.

    Best Jason

  5. Wonderful to see your work at Rainey. The large piece, was quite stunning. [Hope those of you reading this blog are able to see this one]. Craig & I very much appreciated the time, focus and content of your most recent workshop. Your thoughts and guidance on making decisions about temperature changes, such that the composition "reads" well - was most helpful. I had been wrestling with that issue for quite a while. Feels good to be more confident about those choices/decisions, rather than simply chasing them around the canvas. Until the next workshop, cheers! Craig & Michelle

  6. Thanks again for your interesting post, it's so great to get bite sized art lessons, they all make sense and are wonderfully illustrated.