My goal is always initially to paint things as they appear. This is crucial if I’m to achieve the effect and illusion of reality. Without reality, my paintings have no soul or immediacy, and wouldn’t evoke a feeling of recognition in the viewer of “Ah! This is the world as it should be!” Working this way takes careful observation and is sometimes frustratingly difficult. I try to observe the exact color of light and of shadow, the darkness or lightness of objects, and they way their edges appear. For example, I’ve usually painted soft edges on a sphere because the edge is just apparent: In reality, the sphere just keeps curving away. A crisp edge implies a sharp plane change on the object. A cube, for instance, would be painted with sharp edges. Of course, if the cube is in shadow, all of its form would appear to be muted, including it’s sharp edges. However, there are times when I choose to ignore reality in order to improve my composition. As important as detailed observation is, I must never loose sight of my ultimate goal, which is a beautiful painting. For instance, if a sharp-edged object isn’t my focal point, I might paint it in a softer way so as not to draw attention to it, since the eye is attracted to sharp edges. Similarly, there might be a strong value contrast between two objects in a setup. The eye is also drawn to this. If I want to draw attention away from that area of the painting, I might choose to mute the contrast. In almost every painting I do, I blatantly eliminate or add effects not seen in the setup, for composition’s sake. I have noticed, however, that if I veer too much from the natural appearance of things, the painting suffers. If I can lead the viewer’s eye where I want it to go, and deliver the goods on that, then the areas outside the focal point can be manipulated without destroying the effect of reality. It’s trickier to change the appearance of the focal point- that has to look real! So, I must know not just how an object appears, but how best to represent it according to my purpose.
Click here for a blow-up of Greek Vase and Onions
In the painting above, the round parts of the onions are painted with soft edges while the stems are painted with hard edges, as is the top edge of the metal bowl.