At times I'm the pot calling the kettle black. As I stumble my way through creating things I often see my mistakes and realize that I've done exactly what I warn my students not to do! Take the seashell picture below for instance. At first I wondered why it is not a big seller for me, even though typically my Florida art sells well. Maybe I was having a hectic week and craving order, maybe I was secretly dreaming of a clean, white beach cottage away from my busy life. Either way, I created a piece that is grouped into a very dull and static scene. Unfortunately, I had failed to take a lesson to heart that I teach. It's called The Gestalt Laws of Grouping. The laws suggest that it matters how we arrange and group objects.
The shells are often considered and compared alongside one of my best sellers, Surprise Catch. In this painting below, the Gestalt law of proximity was satisfied because the crab and the shrimp are placed close together. The interplay between the crab and the shrimp tells a story. Their position in the scene invites the imagination to create a reason for their closeness. The viewer can imagine a story that might have taken place involving the two creatures. I created this watercolor of a crab because my son kept catching him with the shrimp while we were fishing in North Carolina. It tells a story.
I'm often asked what paintings I have that can be grouped with the crab. I've had several requests for starfish, so I gave it a go this week. I made sure to include at least two of the Gestalt Laws this time, proximity and similarity. In this case, the 2 objects, while different types of starfish, do look similar to one another. Viewers will perceive them as a group, a family or a pattern. They might even imagine that there are more starfish beyond the borders of the painting. While the 2 starfish are both different, they will appear as a single unit because the two shapes have similarity. We just have to remember that there is a delicate balance between similarity that gives interest and sameness that brings boredom.
There is also the additional Gestalt law of proximity at play. They are placed close together so the viewer might subconsciously wonder why. Is one a mother and the other a baby? Do they know the other is there? Will they be friends even though they are different types of starfish? You get the point.
I'm always amazed at how much composition theory like this can improve a painting! Learn more about the classes I teach and the upcoming summer art camp.
Whether I am working with a client on their brand identity, teaching students or creating a custom watercolor piece, I hope to refresh and inspire others with my work. Read more ...