Painting The Dominant Theme - Painting As Music Part 1: Secrets of A Modern Painter
Secrets of A Modern Painter: Painting The Dominant Theme - Painting As Music Part 1

Painting The Dominant Theme - Painting As Music Part 1

Use the elements of music to add power and continuity to your paintings.

Try to have every aspect of your painting 
relate somehow to your theme.

As a composer, you're not going to give each instrument equal parts and they're not going to play all at once. You're neither going to give harmony and melody equal weight, nor will the whole piece be the same volume. Of course, there are many other variables, but the idea is to limit the variables as necessary to say what you need to say.

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." 
Hans Hofmann

And though your work may vacillate between emotions, the original melodic thrust, the motive, will begin the work and be returned to at the end.

What is the Dominant Theme in your painting?

For me, no matter what the subject is, the dominant theme is often transition and light. 
I want my paintings to be like memories.

What is the most significant element?
It could be shape, color, line, value, or another design component.

How do the supporting elements affect the dominant theme?

Your painting can be about many things, yes, but to make sense of complex ideas, harmonies and variations, consider allowing one aspect to clearly dominate.

In a typical classical piece of music, a motive is stated - a melody, or a fragment of a melody that represents the theme- and that phrase is repeated and varied throughout the piece.
It may start on a piano, flute, violin, trumpet, or any other instrument and be passed along to others. It may expand or contract, fall or rise in pitch, and modulate otherwise in countless ways,
but that initial motive is ever-present, always referenced and returned to throughout the work.

First of all, ask yourself why you are including everything; what is your painting about?  Maybe you should isolate one aspect of the scene and only paint that, subordinating all else to minor roles, or eliminating them entirely. 

For this example, let's have the light on the yellow fields be the main subject (Contemplation of the transition from fall to winter be the theme) and have the trees and mountains receding in the distance.

Each subordinate subject begins to project onto the picture plane its own identity and ask to be given space to grow and maybe be the overall theme. But, the fields are the dominant subject- so you must push back against the trees and keep them in their place for fear that the struggle will end in a 50/50 split - a truce- in art, the worst of all outcomes.

Every aspect of your painting, whether it be a sharp line, a particular color, or one of your subordinate subjects and shapes, 'will have a tendency' to call attention to itself and take over the artwork if it is allowed. The struggle of forces that is left in the work as the dominant aspects (shape, color, line, etc...) reassert themselves, is what will give your painting breath and life.

What happens when the mountains start to dominate the fields, and the theme begins to change?  The fields must push back, the sky takes over, and what is left of the mountains is only a fragment of a memory, disappearing into the air like a dream.

In my new cityscape painting video, you can see how I constantly move up and down and back and forth across the canvas, putting the ideas of theme, harmony, and melody before subject.
Click here to view the New Painting Video
Empire VII  

Painting the Dominant Theme is Part 1 of the Series Painting As Music.
The Series began with Painting as Music - An Introduction

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