Whenever I write about painting ideas or methods, just to let you know, I'm only speaking about my own ideas or methods, and how I proceed with them. There are many other methods and at anytime I may be using one other than what I'm discussing in any particular post.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend, who had taken a look at a lot of my paintings, and noticed that I frequently employ the use of a 'lead in' to the picture in the form of a road, shoreline, fence line, or some other linear idea to add a diagonal entrance into the painting. This is true, they are great compositional tools for doing just that. She also noticed that I often place that entrance to the right side of the composition. I looked at some of those and realized she was accurate. It was a surprise to me, so I began to think about it.
I am right eye dominant. You can do a simple test to see which eye is your dominant eye. Hold both hands out if front of you gripped together as if holding a pistol grip, straight armed, and point your index fingers out in front. Aim at an object in the near distance in front of you, put the two fingers on the object. Now close each eye, one at a time. The object will stay lined up with your fingers when your dominant eye is open, it will move when your dominant eye is closed.
Back to my right side roads... I don't know this for sure, there are others who have probably studied such things, but I think that because I am right handed and right eye dominant, I tend to favor that side of the composition when it comes to drawing or painting a diagonal, or near vertical, entrance into the composition. This is all subconscious, I don't purposefully, nearly always, place these entrances on the right side. But, it would be more awkward for me to reach my right hand across to the left to draw in the same entrance on the left side of the canvas, unless I think about it (which I can guarantee you that I will be doing now) and make that conscious choice. Also, my mechanical paint applier, my arm and hand, are on my right side...
This seems to be a mechanical issue because I don't have a problem with placing other dominant compositional items on the left side, it's just this placing the entrance in on the right side that is interesting to me.
A side note that may be related... When I was younger and skied, I taught skiing and did some casual racing and was coached. I was always told that my turns, when on my right side downhill ski, were beautiful, very well done. But when turning onto my left side downhill ski, I was told that I was "blocked" on that side, I don't perform a right hand turn as well. Could that also be because of a dominance favoring my right? Don't know.
Enough on that for now, but the way our brains work without our being aware of what they are up to sometimes is fascinating. And thank goodness for artist friends, our 'third eye' contingency, for being honest in relating what they see in our work. It's always helpful.
Getting back to the topic "The Abstract of the Block-In"... To me this is the second most important stage of a painting, be it in the studio or in the field. The first most important step is forming a Concept, an idea about what you're going to paint. Without that, you have nowhere to go, not even enough information to get to the Block-In. Concept is a blog post all by itself.
I use the block-in as the abstract break up of the blank space, the visual reminder of my conceptual idea about where I intend this painting to go. It can be very complicated, or very simple, very specific or very loosely defined. Either way, it sets the stage for the next steps in paint application to come.
This is the way that I am able to see the 'big picture' of my idea for the painting. If these big idea shapes aren't working, not proportioned in a pleasing way, not balancing each other, not providing a color scheme (loosely stated) that I am happy with, I will never improve the painting past this point.
This is a critical stage.
I'm asked often about using a toned painting surface. As you can see in the photos of block-ins here, these are all painted on an untoned surface, linen on board to be exact. That's one way. I also sometimes tone the surface ahead of time and paint more directly and opaquely with out this same kind of a start. Having many methods in your technique bag is never a bad thing.
The other thing about beginning to place your Conceptual idea on the canvas in this way, is that it's a fluid situation, it can still be changed, moulded, wiped or continued at anytime. The paint is thin, like a water color wash, nothing is locked into place yet. This is the time to make the decisions...
If you normally get out the small brush or charcoal and begin to draw the little pieces of the composition instead of going for the large masses, try this way out, it might fit in some cases.
Thank you... Marc
These area few examples of slightly more drawn out block-ins. In the one directly below, I began to use the middle to dark values that made up the road, weeds, treeline and buildings, to paint the negative shapes of the snow on the ground.