Monday, May 27, 2013

Diptychs and Natural Dividers

A Walk in Springtime 12x24 oil/panel
On my recent hikes, I've been taking my camera and composing scenes with it.  My Canon Powershot SD780 IS can shoot wide-angle, 4000x2248 photos, which is a little wider than a 12x24 panel.  Since a 1:2 format is a natural for the landscape, this wide-angle framing helps me plot out ideas for compositions.

I know that this sounds obvious, but it wasn't until recently that I began to walk with just the camera and no painting gear, and with the specific goal in mind of composing paintings on the LCD screen.  Thinking hard about composition - and not about color - makes a difference.

One idea I'm playing with is the diptych.  With the camera, I try to find a natural divider to split the composition.  Most diptychs I've seen are two paintings in the same frame with a piece of moulding for a divider.  Or, they may be framed separately with wall space as a divider.  Eitiher way, in my mind, the two halves never read properly as a unit.  The wood moulding or the wall space seems to affect the aesthetics negatively.  (As a reminder, in a diptych, each of the two paintings should be well-composed, but they should also make a good composition together.)   I find that by keeping the diptych all on one panel and by using a natural divider - a fence post, a tree or some other prominent feature in the landscape - both halves are unified and my aesthetic demands, satisfied.

To show you how this works, at the top of the post is a piece I created based on a photo I took on a walk last week down by Cranberry Point.  Below are the two halves.

For those of you interested, I used an unusual (for me) palette:  Burnt Umber, Thio Violet, Phthalo Green, Cerulean Blue, and three new colors from Gamblin, Green Gold, Cadmium Chartreuse and Nickel Titanate Yellow.

This weekend, I will traveling down to Pemaquid Point to join about 30 members of Pastel Painters of Maine for a few days of painting.  I'll also be presenting a plein air pastel demonstration to the group on Saturday.  I believe I have Internet access at the hotel, so stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

that's interesting, Michael. So when you frame that, will you have a center vertical bar?

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Robert. No, it will be framed with a simple 12x24 frame. The tree will serve as the divider.

Charles Eisener said...

OK, now let's do that as a triptych. . one central and two peripherals! Do not often see this type of composition done very well; they typically look rather artificial. Nice job!
I have always prefered the Canon line of pocket cameras. Their color balance and tones just seem to be more pleasing than most other brands; probably a function of their sensors.
When I saw the painting, I almost gasped - that's the photo Michael posted a week ago!! Oh no! A plein air artist working from photos!
Think I'm over it now . .


Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Triptychs! You've got the idea. And yes, working from photos! But don't tell anyone, or my membership will be revoked.

violetta said...

For me diptychs often give a sense of confinement. Some good ones are abstract paintings and others I find work really well are 2 canvases of different width. I recently had a triptych of mine framed with each piece in a narrow box frame style and it actually still works as a whole, so that was a learning curve for me.

Sonja Funnell said...

The trees all have such a beautiful organic life to them. When I look at these paintings I can feel them growing beyond the borders of the composition.