Why design is so important in your artwork?
I have had the luxury of being on an amazing painting course which started in May and which deals predominantly with design in our artwork. The course has reinforced all the things I have ever been taught about producing good art but is delivered in such a way as to feel different and new, giving me another way to approach my artwork going forward.
I am also the daughter of a very talented and highly-respected interior designer, lighting expert and former university lecturer; with my other parent also being a very talented artist whose day job was working as a graphic designer.
Growing up with these two people, I see now, that the love of art and good design is in my DNA, even if I didn’t appreciate any of it growing up, It was just there. Looking back, I now understand and recognize what my parents were doing in their approach to decorating our different homes, arranging items in areas within them and giving them a very different feel to the homes my friends lived in.
Good design is all around us if we know what to look for. Actually we don’t have to look for it, we all instinctively know if something is a strong design. We are drawn to it, often not knowing why we enjoy something but if you can start to notice why, then whether you are producing a painting, decorating a cake, taking photographs, arranging flowers, decorating a room or setting up a new garden, understanding and using basic good design will set your finished product apart from the rest.
So how do you go about doing this?
- Guide your viewer’s eye around and through the entire artwork.
You do this by making sure that you have enough interest to make people want to look at it. Making the elements on your painting flow and lead your eye from one thing to the next whilst remaining within the parameters of your surface. Keeping their attention.
- Don’t over-complicate your design. If a painting is busy or cluttered it isn’t easy to look at. I am not suggesting you over simplify; finding the right balance is the most difficult part of the design. Use different shapes, large and small, try and avoid repetition, you need contrast.
- Consider having a focal point. This is the primary area of interest, where you want you viewer to look. People have abysmally low attention spans, shifting focus in seconds if there is nothing more to interest them.
People will be drawn to where the greatest differences are within your work. The darkest dark and the lightest light. But in order to have the viewer continue to look at all of the painting, to give greater interest, you need to use light and dark throughout the rest of your piece.
- To grab your viewers’ attention, the most important aspect, after good design, is tonal contrast. Throughout your work there needs to be dark, mid and light tones and the shapes need to be different in that loud tonal conversation. You need the tonal differences to be visible across a room, to draw your viewer in. Once close, within the different tones, keep interest with similar tones being having detail within them. You can afford to have a busy design sitting quietly within a tonal area of lights, darks or mid tones but keep anything busy within their own tones, busyness within tones e.g. lots of light dots within a black area can become confusing and distracting.
- The last thing you need to think about is colour. Only when you have your design and tones sorted should you start to think about colour. Yes, there are colours which, set against each other, cause great interest but if the design and tone are strong, then the colour will enhance that.
Using a grey scale will help you to understand where colours sit tonally to strengthen your overall design. If you are having difficulty doing this, take a photo of your work with your phone and then desaturate the picture in the edit function. For your artwork to stand out as something visually appealing the darks and lights need to be interesting.
These principles can be easily applied to taking photos, redecorating a room or setting out a new flower bed. Clearly with the latter you are working in 3D so will also need to incorporate height and depth into your design. The flowerbed immediately below is pretty enough but is also typical of seaside planting which is nowhere near as visually interesting as the second flowerbed which has height, different flower and leaf shapes, lights and leading your eye through the bed, being far more engaging.
If you can ultimately keep in mind that you need a good design, strong tonal differences, a variety of different shapes and sizes and then consider colour, it will help to improve the final outcome of the artwork you are aiming to produce.