Geometric Shape Painting Study

Using Geometric Forms to Refine Process

Geometric Shape Painting Study


A big question in my work right now is painterly approach. By nature I am a loose painter. I like big bold strokes and I like to work fast.

A teacher of mine once told me that to be a great artist I needed to overcome style. He said that painting is like boxing and style can be a force but also a weakness as it makes you predictable.

So in hopes of avoiding a knock out I am forcing myself to slow down and trying to understand how to conceal my brush work. The idea is that in having both a loose and a tight approach I can create works that play with focus (pulling in on sections and letting others hang loosely).

Studying Form

For this first study I am working from a collection of geometric forms. The idea is to have a really concrete understanding of these regular shapes so that when faced with more complex form I can refer back to these shapes as part of my decoding process.

So as I so often do when I’m starting something new I cut colour out of the equation to focus on value in a black and white study of these geometric forms.

Value (light to dark) is the foundation of form. It expresses the direction of form in its relationship to a light source. So if a plane is light it is facing the light and if it is dark it is turning away from the light.

My process for this painting was a hybrid of my normal practice and that of the artists I was trying to imitate.

In terms of more refined painting style my main influence is the Grand Central Atelier where I’ve taken a handful of workshops. The main idea of their process is explained through an analogy of an ant crawling across form.

Modeling Form

Working on a mid-toned canvas I draw each shape and then mass in my darkest darks and lightest lights.

From there the idea is to to describe the path from dark to light using value scales that follow the contours of form. Scales are built in whats referred to as the tiling process. Paint is laid down in individual “tiles” of value.

The most important and (of course) challenging part of this process is understanding the direction or line that these scales need to follow to properly define form. The only way to really engage with this process is to work line by line.

On a first pass I quickly blocked in value shapes for my cylindrical triangle and my cylinder. Both had an angular feel to them and it was only by scraping away that work and following the circumference of the shape that I was able to smooth out the form.

Overall I was pleased with this first effort but I still need to learn how to clean up my transitions (really hide the strokes). I’ve decided to redo the exercise once more in black and white and then again in colour. Using a warm light I want to explore the shift in colour temperature as light moves across form. Stay tuned…

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