A painting is theater.
With all the hype that came out recently with the release of “Hamilton” on the Disney channel, my daughter and I have been binge-watching musicals. Ohh man, so good. And it was while watching “Newsies” that I was reminded of how a painting is just like a theatrical production. I have talked a lot in my workshops on how a good painting is really a well-choreographed story.
In the beginning of the musical “Newsies” the main characters are all introduced and are dancing around an amazing and elaborate set. Figures go whizzing around each other flipping and bouncing around, and yet I found that I could always keep track of the main lead actor. No matter where he went around the stage. Why?
Well, because everyone else was dressed in the rather same neutralized colors. Lots of textures and even funky socks, but only the main guy had on a cobalt blue shirt. A bulls-eye. So no matter where he went on the stage you can easily find him. Even if you were seated in the nosebleed seats (before Covid) you could still easily follow him around. You understand what he is doing especially when he is talking because of how his clothing and his actions draw attention to him- as the director and the writer planned it. Yes, this is very deliberate planning.
I have found artists rarely think of themselves as in control of their images. Guess what? You have all the control in the world right at your fingertips. Maybe that is one reason why I am in love with painting so much. (closet control-freak that I am.) When I have no control over my life or what is happening around me, I can control the chroma of a color to suit my story. I can control my compositions to make you look where I want you to look. My main “opera singer” is on my stage and she is being heard in my images because I make the other elements – the other actors – secondary to her and look to her while she is belting out an aria.
What if everyone on stage were singing at the top of their lungs? All screaming to look at them?
That is what most paintings suffer from in my humble opinion. Chaos. Be the director in your musical. Choreograph your “dancers” so they don’t conflict with your love story. I dare you to take control.
Watch that your backgrounds aren’t taking over the image. Are your edges supporting where you want the viewers to look? They may not have tickets to the performance, but they are looking for the principals in your image anyway. Can you channel your focus through color? Through shape? Through a story?
Intention. Start with that. The rest of the theater will follow.
Christine….this is a wonderful blog post. You have made the Hit. Thank you. Really enjoy reading all your posts. You are also such an amazing writer.
thanks! I just spit out what is on my brain….
Good message. I have been trying ti remind myself in intention as I paint. You can’t arrive at a destination if you don’t know where you want to go.
Love your weekly posts!
Love this, Christine. So true!
Nicely said!! Thanks
Very insightful and I understand what you’re saying. While working on a portrait of a 4-year old, I was happy with it until I added the background, a park setting with trees and and a lovely iron fence post. Her sweet face suddenly disappeared. I learned the hard way to pay attention to the background as I eliminated it and put in a neutral one that didn’t overpower the portrait. Many thanks!
exactly! an important lesson!