My artwork lacks any spark – what advice can you give me?
Girty Felt, England
The key is graphic design. Painting still comes down to making a compelling image, which exists on a flat surface of some kind. It needs to hold up as a design. The shape, including the figure–ground relationship, is the first thing to tackle. Is it an interesting design? Have you used the negative and positive spaces to their utmost? This applies to all styles of art – look at Jamie Hewlett, for example. He’s a masterful designer of shape and negative shape. Who’s going to argue with his iconic Tank Girl or Gorillaz?
Once I have something sketched out, I look at its silhouette. Sometimes I even design a page of silhouettes first and pick the most interesting one. If it doesn’t work at this stage, it most likely won’t get any better, no matter how much you add detail and render it to death. Particularly when a subject is invented (not referenced), I work better with a plan. Happy accidents are great, but certainly when painting in oil, you can’t rely on them.
To minimise disaster I do a quick drawing to work out the major forms. I then paint in the traditional French Academy way of laying in flat colour and getting the form to turn by carefully modulating the values. Once the optical effect of turning form is right, I can lightly brush the tones together, barely fusing the edges. This way the strength of the form remains without the overly soft, ambiguous form you see so much of. The best painters control the form by controlling the value!
This fantasy portrait of an imaginary
nightmarish creature is done in oil, which is how I learned to paint. I carry the same process into my digital work.