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Artistic License

Posted by Gayle Levee, 08 March 2011 · 922 views

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Sometimes I'm a slow learner. I know artistic license has to do with moving things around and leaving things out. I know we can't paint every leaf and twig, so we only paint something that serves to remind us of what leaves and twigs look like. Also, maybe our landscape is marred by litter. Well, we don't have to paint the litter just because it's there!

For a while, I felt kind of like I was lying when I left out things like litter. It was as if I was showing a place as more beautiful than it really is.

It took me years to realize that all these details -- twigs, litter, etc. -- are really nothing more than elements of design. A tree, for instance, can be a mass or it can be a collection of lines. The leaves can be a mass or perhaps a pattern. The litter itself can serve as a pattern in my composition.

This cottage is inhabited by people who like plaster lawn ornaments. I am not a plaster lawn ornament person, so my first inclination was to leave them out. But as the composition developed, it became clear that it needed more than just the house and tree. This is a loosely-rendered painting, so that gave me the freedom to include spots of dark or light where I needed them (inspired by the lawn ornaments)... and the viewer can decide what they represent.

I used another bit of artistic license in the foreground. In reality, this was entirely asphalt. There is nothing wrong with that -- many Impressionist painters have used wet asphalt to great advantage. The problem with the asphalt in this case is that it covered about a third of the picture with a large, blank, flat shape.

This composition needed a dramatic sweep upward to the tree, so I just put that in. Who cares what it is... you can decide.

Hello Gayle, this is very interesting (although I could never 'discover' with my mind's eye any ornament to be found), I am delighted with the way you have painted here. Is this called 'impressionist' painting?

Before I purchased your course I discovered a great artist who lives in Sydney, many hours from my home, and I fell in love with his work, so went to meet him and decided to devote my live to painting his way. I'd bought his book and intended to follow his guide. However, in the meantime I found your course and in doing so I was studying something more realistic, a way of creating apples that needed to be eaten right away, a candle that may actually melt if I set light to the wick, sort of thing, and I felt a little let down even though I actually love painting details.

So I love your lessons, have learnt more in a couple of months than I'd expect to learn in years otherwise, but still, I wanted to be able to do quick paintings that gave the viewer much to discover by themselves and yet they looked completed. This painting of yours is exactly that, so may I ask where and when we will learn this simplistic (and difficult) art style, with the thick quick brush stokes?

The artist I speak of is Don Gallagher, into his 86th year who was taught by the late and well known Australian master artist Max Meldrum. Don has been an art teacher and 'Brother' at a Catholic School just about all his life, and even now retains the gallery, opening and attending it 7 days per week. Don gave up teaching just over a year ago so the gallery is open for his exhibitions only. Like you Gayle, his paintings light up one's life, his portraits (including many nudes) are magnificent. As you say, artists are at liberty to leave out of their painting anything they so desire, Don emphasizes to leave things out but never to invent something that is not already there -- he says God is the artist so if he didn't put it there then it shouldn't be added.

This is the first painting of yours I've seen in this style so I'm interested to know how you decide which style to use for a certain subject.

Thank you again for your incredible guidance.

Clarky :biggrin1:
I am planning to teach a workshop soon, in which we will study that type of painting. Some people call it Impressionist, but I call mine Oil Sketches. Not sure yet where or exactly when it will take place, but I"ll keep you posted.
I call it loose, and painterly... and very nice. Something, I, too aspire to.

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