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The power of differences to make your art stronger

The power of differences to make your art stronger

The information in this post comes from Nicholas Wilton’s Art2Life and Creative Visionary Programs and is published with permission.

Vive la différence!

Nicholas Wilton, the founder of Art2Life and the Creative Visionary Program (CVP), talks a lot about the power of differences to make your art stronger.

One of the overarching ideas in this course is differences. How can what we include in our art, not to mention our life, make us feel more alive? Understanding the juxtapositions of opposites in our art will allow us to better exploit and communicate our own particular point of view more powerfully. Putting something next to what it’s different from—even its opposite—makes it more like itself.

Nicholas Wilton

Differences between shapes and forms make our art interesting…not just to look at, but also to create. If everything’s the same, it’s boring for the viewer and for the artist.

The juxtaposition of opposites:

In art-making, the most powerful noticeable difference is value contrast (light/dark). But there are many more variations that we can use in composition. Here’s a list to get you thinking about the juxtaposition of opposites.

  • light/dark
  • big/small
  • loose/controlled
  • thin/thick
  • opaque/transparent
  • squiggly/straight
  • single/multiple
  • colour/grey
  • soft/sharp
  • rough/smooth
  • density/spaciousness
  • repetition/random
  • hidden/exposed
  • deliberate/accidental
  • realistic/abstract

Evaluate your own work

Last year I took the Creative Visionary Program, and now I’m better able to evaluate my own paintings. When I look at paintings that I am proud of, I know why they worked, what makes the design strong. And that’s not all, I can also look at the paintings stacked in the corner of my studio and, by applying the CVP principles, I can see ways to improve them.

We all tend to make some of the same marks over and over again. Look at your paintings and ask yourself if you are making a lot of marks that are the same size. If so, vary the tool that you use. Reach for a larger brush or a much smaller one. Adding a tiny line next to a really big brushstroke will feel great.

Going too far with Differences

It’s not necessarily true that more differences are always better. Sometimes just one simple exquisite difference can be profound and beautiful. If things are so different that they do not relate, then this principle no longer works.

In the CVP course, Nicholas Wilton uses the analogy of a garage sale. In a garage sale, everything is thrown on the table and nothing is curated. In order to fix this, you need to look at your painting and choose the elements that you want to make the most noticeable. This can be accomplished by making those elements have the biggest value differences. Remember that the most powerful noticeable difference is value contrast. The shapes and/or areas you want to be less noticeable should have less value contrast.  

The solution is to organize values

So, the next time your painting feels too busy, try painting half of the high contrast shapes a value closer to the value of the background. Suddenly your loud conversation will change, and you will have more visual room in the painting.

In this post, I refer to Nicholas Wilton and his courses. The Art of Your Life Free Workshop with Nicholas Wilton is a free week-long online video series delivered to your inbox. Nick will teach you how to harness the principles of Design, Value, and Color to REALLY ramp up your art… and, have a lot more fun while you’re at it.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

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