What is the role of an artist? Is it to record as we exactly see the world, or is it to interpret a scene and tell a story?, or perhaps its a little bit of both. My own opinion falls very much into the realm of storytelling, and my own creative influences tend to be artists that do the same. I don’t feel the need to be a Xerox machine and just copy exactly what I see, rather I look for opportunities to design. I no longer make random brushstrokes, but rather ones that are more considered and with a bigger plan in place.
There is no one glove that fits all here, and my own approach may not be to the liking of others. There are certainly artists out there that will only record exactly what they see and its not wrong per say, its just not how I would approach it. A case in point is aviation art. When a scene is recorded its often considered to be better if its exactly historically accurate. Exact time of day, exact markings and model of aircraft, every little detail recorded, down to the moments weather. I love painting aircraft, but I prefer to mock up a scene loosely based on what happened, rather than purity of the moment. I guess that’s just my background in industrial Design. I have been thought to tell a story, entertain the audience, give them something to connect too, so that’s how I try to paint in all that I do.
The other area where I have found artists to be more purists in their work is landscapes. Often they don’t want to change elements or add things or take them away as they were not there in the scene. The whole scene becomes about recording exacting details of the moment, rather than trying to engage the audience to stop and stare at their work, to become inspired and to connect. Some of the greatest landscape painters, all move elements, and add or subtract objects to be more appealing. They make deliberate design choices to lead you into the picture and engage your attention. Its often done in a subtle natural manner that one can never tell if that was the “exact” scene, but with trying to study and understand the masters we can learn how they went about creating carefully crafted compositions. Take a look at the work of James E Reynolds below as an example.
As you can see from above, James E Reynolds created a visually interesting design by moving or adding elements into the scene. Its highly unlikely that he wandered into a random scene that had all the elements needed to lead our eye and balance the composition in such a manner.
Learn to use that artistic license, don’t become a slave to a scene. Hollywood and the multi billion dollar entertainment industry does it all the time. Gladiator is a perfect example of well shot and entertaining movie that is a very very loose version of actual history, but its a great film. Its enjoyable to watch. Director Ridley Scott said himself, its about storytelling not producing accuracy. Entertain your audience. So bear this in mind and consider it in your next painting. Until next time, happy painting. If you found this article helpful or appealing, please like and share and help me out! Thanks.