Sunday, November 28, 2010


Sure, I can tell you what makes a hit song:  A pleasing melody that sticks in your mind, lyrics that roll off the tongue, and a chorus that makes you want to sing along.  You know, like almost any Beatles song, or some of the old standards that have stood the test of time.  Quick-- sing the end of Hey Jude-- Na, Na, Na... NA NA NA NA...  (Now try to get it out of your head!)  Now that you know how simple it is, go out and write a hit and make a ton of money off iTunes.  You're welcome.

But what makes a hit painting?  I think the two most important elements are color and composition.  Skillfully done, those two ingredients add up to movement, and movement is like the "hook" of a painting.  It allows you to remember it.  What's movement?  Well, a couple of days ago I poked fun at my good friend Tom Eakins about his painting The Biglin Brothers Turning The Stake.

Really, these guys are just sitting there.  What are they waiting for, a tow?  I think if Eakins were to portray a modern football game, he'd paint the huddle.  (I kid with Tom, but it's OK, we're buds...)  Of course, a painting with movement doesn't necessarily mean one with people actually moving.  A still life can have movement.  A landscape can have movement.  It all depends upon the composition and the color, with a little help from brushwork.  Eakins' painting is still considered a masterwork because he used color and composition to move the viewers eye around the painting, thus giving it movement.  Let me coin a phrase:  Movement is in the eye of the beholder.

What brought about this line of thought?  Knowing that color and composition are of primary importance in a good painting still doesn't guarantee I'll have those elements in my paintings.  I have mentioned intermittently about a large painting I have been working on.  I'm still going at it between other projects, but I have a gnawing suspicion that it lacks serious pizazz.  I tried to make the figures in it dynamic by their postures and placement.  But the more I look at it, the more stagnant it seems.  I could try to fix it with color, but I don't believe that color alone will do it.  It'll just look like a colorful stagnant painting.  So I'm a bit stymied by it.  I've got it almost half-way done, so it seems a shame to call it lost and give up on it.  Since I'm not totally convinced it's beyond hope, I'll keep going and see where it leads.   

I also have an idea for a new painting that I think would be cool to paint.  I just need to be sure about the composition-- but it's really the same old story; they are all masterpieces...before I paint them. 

I just hate the thought of old Tom Eakins laughing at me while saying, "Ha, Ha!  And you thought it was easy?"



Karla said...

You have a way of writing that makes it very easy to understand the point you are making. Thanks!

Susan Roux said...

Ah, you've said a mouthful! Knowing all the rules and applying them correctly without looking forced or staged are two different things. Its what keeps us motivated to continue swatting paint around. We never quite hit the mark we're aiming for...

You're not alone in this respect.

Kevin Mizner said...

Thank you, Karla. Thank goodness at least one of us knows what the hell I'm talking about!

Kevin Mizner said...

Susan, yeah, knowing the rules and following them are two different things. That's why the Police make a living out of writing speeding tickets!