Why Thinking of Things as Shapes Will Make Your Paintings Better

September 25, 2019 1 min read

How to use Shapes to Create Stronger paintings

As we've talked about here before, as painters, we aren't trying to paint the pure reality of the scene. That's what cameras are for. We are trying to create a painting. A painting doesn't necessarily include every detail from our reference. 


This can cause a little bit of a challenge for us. Watercolorist Joyce Hickssuggests students think less about things and more about shapes and relationships. 


For example, instead of saying, "I see a tree, a house, and a road," you'd say, "I see a triangle, a square and a squiggly line that runs between the two."


At first, it feels a bit arbitrary. Why would changing how you think about these things matter? 


It matters because, for whatever reason, it gives your brain permission to put the painting's needs before the reality of the scene. That gives you the freedom to compose better paintings. You might be worried about moving the tree ("That's not how it looked in the photo!"). You'll be less concerned with moving a triangle around. And sometimes, moving the triangle will make a better painting.


Have you tried thinking less about things and more about shapes and relationships? How has it changed your work? Or has it? We'd love to hear your thoughts below! 

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