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Friday, May 1, 2015

It’s All About Space

(The wide open spaces of the West -- original photo)
Space – there’s so much of it! We want to explore it, name it, and conquer it. Our curiosity knows no bounds when it comes to defining, understanding and controlling our vast universe.

Personal space makes us feel comfortable and safe. If someone invades that area or gets too close, we pull away. Space helps define the parameters we use in dealing with other people. We use different constraints with family members than we do with friends. The restrictions widen when we deal with strangers or other people socially or in a business setting.

In a crowded room or a queue of people, we may feel confined, but we deal with it. There are checks and balances constantly at play as we learn what is acceptable or tolerable. Sometimes there are no choices like on a crowded bus or waiting in line at the theater. This is when restraint and caution must help us counterbalance the situation.

"Fish Market" mixed media on canvas
Artists must control the space on their canvas and define its boundaries. Space can enhance distance and size, and help to explain shapes, objects and lines. To illustrate this point, a simple drawing of a tree is much easier to define when you focus on the space between the branches and in the background, not on the shapes in the foreground. The detail and the busyness can clutter your mind and vision. When you focus on the large and simple spaces and objects, clarity comes at once. Details should always come later.

Shadows may be defined, by analyzing the patterns of light on the ground. These shapes usually consist of circles or oval shapes between the leafy branches that are cast by the sunlight. Elongated shadows become shapes unto themselves as do the light spaces between them and surrounding them.

"Belly Dancer" 11x14 acrylic on canvas (with jewels)
When I created the “Belly Dancer’ I wanted her hair and costume to create movement. In order to achieve this, her hair had to move in the same direction as her hips, and her skirt had to swing in the opposite direction. Faded, extended color from both gives the feeling of motion. The space between her arms and around her body help to define that movement.

When my children were taking piano lessons, their teacher taught them about phrasing. Phrasing is like taking a breath between sentences or musical phrases. Phrasing helps to define the music in much the same way that space defines a painting.

Once your center of interest has been chosen, everything within the painting must draw the eyes to that point. The space on your canvas may also help you control eye movement. The adage “All roads lead to Rome” applies to the spaces, shapes and values of color on your map or canvas. “All roads lead to the center of interest.” If they do not, something is wrong with your composition.

(Belly Dancer - work-in-progress)
Gauge how your eyes travel and what they are drawn to. Too many colors and lines, or too much light may scatter your vision and allow your eyes to fly off the canvas. Fix it! There must be no distractions. Your composition must hold together and have continuity of purpose and direction.

White space on a page allows the reader’s eyes to breath or rest. In a painting, at some point, the viewer’s eyes must rest on the center of interest. That rest gives him or her pleasure, and keeps them from getting bored or wandering off to another painting that may better hold their interest.

A highway divides the "Great Salt Lake"