Bank of Lake Wawaka

Bank of Lake Wawaka, watercolor, 14×6 in., originally uploaded by ahtravis.

Sources of inspiration–shape of the support

Last week my watercolor students and I worked with the idea that the shape of our paper support could reinforce the strongest shape present in the subject we wanted to paint.

We were positioned before one end of narrow Lake Wawaka looking toward the reflection of a house on the opposite bank.  No, the strongest element of the scene before us was not the reflection; it was the long dividing line between the water and the shore stretching as far as the eye could see.  The feature cried out for a long, narrow piece of paper!  (This particular shape is called “landscape” and may be purchased in a small size but more often the artist must make it.)

Of course, we could have painted the house with the mountain and sky behind it and the reflections of all in the lake water.  That composition would have been lovely and fitted the more traditional rectangle with room for many landscape features.  The long, narrow shape really focused our minds on that dividing line, the physical element before us that was most dominant.

Watercolor artists are very familiar with “cropping” and it often improves our paintings.  In effect cropping is simply isolating that feature of the painting that is strongest.  Our paintings are improved by cropping because the support on which we are painting should have been different shape to begin with.  Watercolor paper comes in standard sizes and we tend to feel that we must use that size and shape and fill it up. Hence we often dilute a strong beginning by adapting everything to the standard rectangle. Our puritan upbringing compels us to not “waste” any of that expensive paper!

For our second painting the class turned the remainder of that long, narrow paper to a vertical and looked for a tall, narrow subject. It could have been any of the erect summer flowers in radiant bloom but we found it in the space between a telephone pole and the house across the street.  see flickr images

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2 Responses to Bank of Lake Wawaka

  1. lesliepaints says:

    I did the same thing last week and posted my long tall one two days ago. I like this painting’s colors. It says just enough.

  2. Rachel says:

    you know this is my favorite shape of paper- but now after reading your entry, im wondering if it isnt what the shape reinforces inside the painting that attracts me?

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