Pat Fiorello - Art Elevates Life

Art & Inspiration from professional artist and instructor Pat Fiorello. Pat is known for her romantic landscape, garden and floral paintings in oil and watercolor. Her paintings often depict beautiful places like Italy and France. Pat teaches painting workshops in the U.S., Caribbean and Europe. She is passionate about inspiring others to include art in their life. Whether creating it or simply appreciating and enjoying it, there are so many ways that art elevates life!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Desdemona ... and shifting from literal thinking to artistic thinking when painting

8 x 10 oil painting
by Pat Fiorello


This spring I ordered a new type of rose from the David Austin catalog, called Desdemona. It arrived in March and my husband planted it. It's doing well here in the Atlanta weather, but I was surprised when the flowers came out that they were so tiny. See photo below with my thumbnail for scale.

I was envisioning some big, beautiful cup/bowl-like flowers so was a little disappointed at the actual size. I wanted to paint them, so figured I could just make them look the size I had imagined in the painting.

When starting something that seems so complex, you really need to simplify to the major shapes and values. Don't get to the details/small shapes too fast. As one of my favorite artists and teachers, Robert Johnson often says ,"You have to earn your right to paint the petals". Meaning you have to get the structure of the whole painting and the flower first. The petals come later.

Or even better, forget about the idea of painting "petals" altogether.  A painting never succeeds because of the tiny details, but because of the big overall shapes and composition. You need to attend to that first. Just like if you're building a house.  You need to pour the foundation  and put up the walls before you start buying curtains and assembling doorknobs.

A student recently was struggling painting a rose. She was judging herself            (incorrectly concluding " I'm not good at painting flowers")  and getting very discouraged.  My advice to her was focus on the shapes of color/value you see and paint those shapes. Try to turn off your left brain that recognizes and labels everything as a petal, a leaf,  a stem, a rose and look for shapes. If you can paint those abstract shapes and put them in the right relationship to one another, you'll paint something that looks familiar to the viewer, the pattern of light and dark shapes we associate with a rose.  And they will interpret the spots of color you have put down on the canvas as a rose. You can never paint a real 3 dimensional rose, you can only paint the illusion of how we see a rose on your 2 dimensional canvas or paper.

As probably most artists have to, I had to go through this stage of moving from literal, left -brained thinking ( painting a rose) to artistic thinking ( painting the shapes of color that I see) myself.   Many students struggle with this leap and change in thinking, so I cover it in my classes where appropriate. Below is a copy of the material I often share with students to help them transition from a literal reproduction of things to a more painterly creation of a painting with "shapes of color". Hope it is useful for you.

   Shifting from literal thinking to artistic thinking                       
     (left brained/analytical/intellectual to right brained/visual/spatial)

   Which is more interesting, to read a love letter or an itemized bill? 
          – Sergei Bongart         
     Art should be a love letter!

Literal thinking
Artistic Thinking
Paint things
Paint Shapes
Describe details
Suggest details
Put it in if its there
 Select which shapes/ elements add to your painting and which can be left out
Copy as is
Create as you want it to be

Ideas for getting to more artistic thinking, more painterly paintings

--   Make sketches and work from the sketches rather than the photo’s
--  Turn photo’s upside down to focus on shapes and paint upside down
--   Put photos away altogether
--  Work from b & w photo or value sketch or Notan
--  Look for silhouettes of shapes, and make them more interesting
--  Give yourself permission to move things around, add or delete what’s needed for a better composition
--   Work from multiple photos’s so you’re not locked on one.
--  Be on the lookout for repetitive shapes/marks- cloning marks
--  Practice altering shapes. Modify boring shapes- -change dimensions, change angle (oblique), have it interact with space around it- interlocks/”incidents at the edge”
--   Be mindful of edges; hard, soft, lost, found; harder near focal area, less defined further away from focal area
--  Vary colors within a shape- no need to have one shape/one color
--  Use larger brush
--  Stand when painting, move from the arm, using the brush as a shape maker, not like a pencil
--  Instead of things- house, tree, think shapes of light, shapes of dark
--   Ask how the eye will move thru the painting, and if composition is static, add movement, connecting darks, path of lights, entry point, lines, pointers
--  Combine shapes of similar value into larger shapes

We are striving for an engaging painting:
-Unity with Diversity
 -Eye Movement

How the eye sees- focus in one area, blurry on the periphery

All rights reserved, Pat Fiorello 2015

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