Two Recent Paintings and a Lesson on Simplification

I have decided to make 2022 a year of busy painting. I want my walls to be filled with color and life by the end of it.

Here are two recent ones plus the reference photos I took a few months back. They depict the turquoise waters and rocky shores of Noosa.

These paintings are a great lesson on simplification. The scenes are filled with detail and activity—crashing washes, snaking whitewash, ebbs and flows, rocks, reflections, shells, pebbles, algae, and crabs scuttling for safety. Trying to paint all this detail without any form of simplification would be tedious and counter-productive. It’s essential to narrow down on the few key details that drive most of the information. In this case, it’s the:

– Major light and dark shapes and the lightest light and darkest dark. Squinting at the subject is helpful for this. It simplifies all the tiny changes in value into large, simple masses.

– The hardest edges. Which edges stand out from the rest? Getting these right will give the painting that crisp and finished appearance.

– The strongest colors. Both scenes are fairly restrained in terms of color saturation, but there are a few rich oranges, blues, and greens to look out for.

– The broad contours and movements of the water. Try to feel the ebbs and flows of the water with your brush.

Focusing on these areas allows me to paint faster and with more direction whilst still being faithful to the subject. The end result also tends to be clearer and stronger.

Of course, you might prefer a more refined and detailed approach. That’s fine, but start by simplifying the subject down to the essential, then add as much detail as you like from there.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott