||In Vermeer's Woman with a Scale, the focal point
of the painting is accentuated with nothing more
than a glance and delicate hand position.
Good painters don’t merely re-create what is in front of
them. An experienced artist knows how to create a successful painting no matter
what situation or model he or she is presented with or the materials being worked with, from mixed media painting or collage to pen and ink or oils. Of course, this often comes after years of
practice and experimentation—as well as the development of a unique artistic
voice—but there are some basic characteristics that all good paintings have in
1. A strong focal
point. A focal point is not like the big bold ‘X’ that marks the spot on a
treasure map. It can take on any shape and size. It can be bold but it can also
be subtle. A dappling of light, a pop of color, an expression or emphatic
gesture—any of these can become a focal point in a composition. Regardless of
how it is created, its purpose should be to engage the viewer or act as the
culmination of the momentum built in the work.
2. Layers of color.
Color makes a painting tranquil or vibrant, dramatic or stark, and this comes
about not only in color choices, but how you build passages of color over one
another or side by side. Warm and cool colors in a sky create a sense of
atmosphere and space more than any one swath of color, no matter how perfectly
matched it is to the sky above.
3. Changes in direction.
In many great paintings the image is realistically rendered, but brushstrokes
are clearly visible; you are aware of how
the painting is painted. Think about how the paint application of Jan van Eyck
versus Vincent van Gogh perfectly reflects or resonates with what the artists
painted. The way a brush moves paint around makes a statement that should be
taken advantage of. You can start by being mindful to changes in the direction
of your brush, literally working on a painting with different strokes and from
|In Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein,
the colors are muted but quite varied
and establish an introspective mood.
When you look at works of art that you respond to, always
ask yourself why. Keep those characteristics in mind as you develop your own
pieces, too. That awareness is what drives the instruction that Jean Pederson delivers in her DVDs, whether it’s Mixed Media Portraits, which delves into the details of how to capture
a person’s likeness; or Wet Glazing Watercolor Techniques, in which you'll discover the subtlety and finesse of this watercolor painting technique. Pederson couples artistic inspiration with
instruction so that you can come away with a better sense of where to go on your
own path as an artist. Enjoy!