Painting Difficult Subjects

This wedding-themed painting features some subjects like lace and cut crystal that may seem difficult to paint.
This wedding-themed painting features some subjects like lace and cut crystal that may seem difficult to paint.

Some subjects freak people out.  When faced with trying to draw or paint someone’s likeness or a panoramic view or a complicated (or seemingly complicated) object the “I can’t do this” thoughts can fog our brains.  This is when we need to take a step back and literally forget what it is we are trying to artistically interpret and look simply at the visual information of what we see.  Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

  • What are the main geometric shapes that are before me?
  • How do those shapes connect with each other?
  • What does the negative space look like?
  • Are there shapes I need to make more pleasing to the eye?
  • What can be omitted?

As my color theory teacher, Jim Faber, used to say:

Forget what you think you see and tell me what you really see.

We can get caught up in the enormity of the task.  But simply putting the brush to the canvas, asking ourselves some questions to see the subject from a different perspective, and going forward one stroke at a time yields some exciting results.  Things that look very complicated, like the lace above, really are not all that different to paint from something simple looking like the groom’s tie.  It’s a matter of rethinking, and taking it one step at a time.

Life Application:

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a beautiful prayer we commonly think of as the Serenity Prayer.  This prayer, like the principle above, causes us to look at the subject from a different perspective.  In this case, it is life itself.  The prayer is deep with meaning and is recited at Celebrate Recovery meetings for this reason:   if one really seeks God about putting these words into practice the results are life-transforming.  Here is the original version:

Serenity Prayer
Serenity Prayer (Photo credit: Zach ‘Ragz Rejected’ Shell)

God, give me grace to accept with things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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