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Monday, June 26, 2017

What Are You Looking At?


LIVING IN ITALY and surrounded by spectacular beauty, I don’t just plunk myself down anywhere and start painting. I’m looking for a scene with some structure, that will translate into a two-dimensional image with some kind of compositional logic that survives the translation. Finding a good subject is half the battle in making a compelling plein air. Execution is the other half.

On a hot June afternoon I put myself among the tourists and hawkers around the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine to watercolor the latter. The en ressaut columns on the north side were just catching light, while the north façade remained in shade. I didn’t want the clutter of modern tourism to show up in the scene, so I looked southeast to catch the green of the Caelian Hill in the background, the side elevation of the Arch, and just one en ressaut column. It’s so tempting to want to paint everything in your field of vision, but cropping out inessentials is critical to being able to focus on a few simple issues: the light on the Arch, the texture of the weathered marble, the shadows and their values and hues. E basta.

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