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Embracing Simplicity in Art: The Power of “Less is More”

Have you ever found yourself standing before a blank canvas, brush in hand, overwhelmed by the urge to capture every tiny detail of the scene in front of you? It’s a common feeling, especially when you’re just starting out in the world of painting. Many of us start with this desire to include every little thing, particularly when we’re painting from a photograph. I know I certainly used to do it.

But here’s the thing: “Less is more.”

Take this photo by Frank Bramley. When you look at it, it’s striking how with just a few brush strokes, the essence of the character comes to life.

We see an elderly man, his face etched with the marks of time, lost in deep thought under the harsh gaze of the sun. The magic lies in the minimalism – the painting isn’t crowded with details, yet it speaks volumes.

How Our Brain Translates the Marks

You might wonder, how is it possible to convey so much with so little? Well, our brains are pretty amazing at filling in the gaps. Just like with words, where we don’t always need every letter to understand the meaning, in painting, we don’t need every detail to see the whole picture. Take, for example, a painting of a field of poppies by Monet. At first glance, it’s a vibrant spread of red across the canvas, but a closer look reveals that it’s really just a collection of red dabs. And yet, we see a field of poppies.

This concept can be incredibly liberating for an artist. I know it is for me as someone who loves to paint in a loose and free way. It opens up a new world of possibilities where you’re not bogged down by the need to be meticulous with every stroke. Instead, you’re encouraged to be bold and economical with your marks.

Try this

Here’s a fun experiment to try in your next painting session: Challenge yourself to use as few strokes as possible to depict something. It could be anything from the simple curve of an apple to the complex emotions displayed on a person’s face.

You’ll be surprised at how little you need to convey so much. This approach not only streamlines your artistic process but also adds a layer of depth and interpretation to your work, inviting the viewer to engage and fill in the blanks with their imagination.

So, the next time you pick up your brush, remember that in art, as in life, sometimes less really is more. By embracing this philosophy, you can explore new horizons in your creative journey and discover the beauty in simplicity.

I’d love to see what you create with this approach so please do share it with me.

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