Brian Bailey, Into the Fog, Oil on Canvas, 10″ x 8″, © 2015
I’ve been thinking more about how important the relationships of shapes are in each painting. It’s not only the shapes themselves that create a certain feeling within a composition but their relationship to the borders of the surface. A shape very close to the edge of a plane can feel tense, as though it’s ready to fall off or it’s unwelcome. Shapes with edges that are tucked in about a third of the way from the edge feel comfortable and settled. The edges themselves change the way one shape relates to another. A softened edge welcomes and blends with an adjoining shape. One that is crisp can push away other shapes and divide the surface. The more I think and learn about composition, the more the elements on the page have a narrative quality. There is still so much to learn and, I think, that’s what keeps pulling me back to paint again and again.
I painted Into the Fog from a photo I took of the Golden Gate Bridge while in Tiburon, across the bay, through the cloudy sky and fog. I’m still working on several paintings on small panels, like this one, and started a slightly larger work yesterday. I’m still considering what to do with the 36″ x 36″ canvas leaning against the counter behind me. It’s interesting to think about, having painted small works for quite some time.
Brian Bailey, Golden Gate Bridge, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″ © 2015
I’ve spent much of the last week thinking about composition. Over the last year, I’ve mostly painted scenes from around San Francisco with a focus on buildings, streets, and city life. The compositions are dominated by sharp vertical and horizontal lines. Shadows and trees are often the only soft and organic elements. I went back to Baker Beach and did this painting of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day. There are still vertical and horizontal constructed elements but it feels more relaxed than my paintings of the city. The curve of the shoreline, the groups of trees, and the color shifts in the sand all create a pathway through the painting that I feel really good about.
I’ve been trying to see things in terms of major color groups along with light and shadow as I walk around the city. In the past, I’ve spent lots of time on paintings without thinking about the structure that underlies the work and those paintings end up in a pile with others that “just don’t feel right.” I’ve never been drawn to instructional materials that resemble a recipe or formula for creating art but reading about composition and looking at the way successful paintings are put together feels empowering and fascinating. It seems that lines and the weight of visual elements can make your eyes move in and out of a picture and create balance or unbalance in an unlimited number of ways.