5 Secrets to Stronger Paintings

  1. Get away from literal interpretations. A literal painting which may be technically successful may not do much to excite the viewer. Ansel Adams is quoted as saying "there is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept". Look for the mood behind your subject. Project past visual elements as items into what else they are. Look for the abstract shapes of the scene. Arrange these abstract shapes into an interesting composition. Composition is simply the working relationship of these shapes.
  2. Fill the frame. Look at older paintings you have completed and ask yourself how much "surrounding space" is useless towards conveying the mood and subject of your work. Zoom in closer on subjects and leave more negative space out of the design. Photographers call this "filling the frame". It goes a long way towards creating more interest for the viewer. Learn to get closer to your subject.
  3. Learn to edit you composition. Learn to focus on the essential items and delete the rest. As painters we look for symbols to convey our message. Too many symbols and too much clutter can get in the way of what we are trying to say. Too many unimportant areas in the painting can dilute the message. Ask yourself what has to stay in the scene and what can be eliminated? Don’t fall in love with an element in the scene just because you like it. If it helps tell the story it stays, if it doesn’t it goes!
  4. Work with more interesting light. When you use too ordinary of a light source the scene can easily become too ordinary and boring. Look for more dramatic lighting and utilize this drama to get across a more dramatic message. Defused lighting, muted lighting, strong diagonal lighting, bright sunlight and dark shadows, backlighting, are just some of the ways to increase the drama in your painting. What light source will best convey your intended mood? Think in terms of "anything goes" with your light source.
  5. Tell a story. Try to involve the viewer in your work by telling a story. What is it that draws you to that subject? What is unique about it? What inspires you? What is there that makes this scene unlike any other? In other words, what are you trying to say? Again, a technically successful painting that has nothing to say does nothing to engage the viewer.

Remember viewers of your work are much more interested in what you have to say than how well you can copy a scene! Become a storyteller!!!