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?"