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Submitted on
December 3, 2013


246 (who?)
I've been painting for a few years now, but I feel like I'm only beginning to grasp the importance of this concept.  I'll quote Robert Henri (1865-1929) from his book, The Art Spirit, which is packed full of such profound wisdom.
Robert Henri stresses this point:

"Insist on the beauty of form and color to be obtained from the composition of the largest masses, the four or five large masses which cover your canvas. Let these above all things have fine shapes, have fine colors. Let them be as meaningful of your subject as they possibly can be. It is wonderful how much real finish can be obtained through them, how much of gesture and modeling can be obtained through their contours, what satisfactions can be obtained from the fine measures in area, color and value. Most students and most painters in fact rush over this; they are in a hurry to get on to other matters, minor matters."

"The beauty of the larger mass is primary to and essential to the lesser mass."

"Permit no hurrying on to the lesser masses before all has been done that is possible with the larger masses"

This is such a simple concept, and yet so difficult to fully adhere to.  Especially when drawing from imagination, it is tempting to skip on to the lesser details of an image. Sometimes I have to backtrack from a more detailed rendering, and re-establish the underlying form. It is so crucial to the strength of the painting.  
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VolomonArt Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Student General Artist
Sorry, I don't quite get it. Some explain in layman terms?
Wildweasel339 Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Professional Digital Artist

You may be familiar with the concept of working from "general to specific." This is basically saying the same thing.  Focus on the big (general) shapes, before worrying about the smaller (specific) details.

The big shapes can make or break a painting, whereas the smaller details are less important. 
VolomonArt Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you. So it's better to draw the basic/large colours and shapes, then slowly go into the intricate parts.
Why is that. Surely it the little things people notice and enjoy the most.
Wildweasel339 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Good question. There are a few reasons, although as with all things in art, their value may be subjective. 

Small details, such as facial features, are where the viewer will focus. However, it is the big shape of the face that is the foundation for those small details. If the foundation is not solid, those small details will fall apart.  If the head is in the wrong perspective, then the nose will be as well.

Also, while small details may be the focal point, is is the job of all the big shapes to frame them such that they have as much impact as possible.  For example, big lines and shapes can lead the viewer's eye to your focal point.

From a more practical standpoint; It would be counter intuitive to work from small to large, as that would require a lot of constant reworking of details when things like anatomy don't fit together as they should.  I've fallen into this trap countless times.
VolomonArt Featured By Owner May 3, 2014  Student General Artist
That makes sense. When drawing facial features; I'm okay. However, when it came to bigger objects like anatomy, then a suffered. It always looked ill proportioned.
I notice on DA as well that people with created the perfect fact, but the rest of the image is vague.
Creating detail like they did in the 17/18 early 1900's is really difficult. I guess they less distraction then we do now; which helped them.
VolomonArt Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Student General Artist
*someone :D
LucasParolin Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
thank you!
KevinBrownArt Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2014
Words of wisdom! Thanks for this post!
Peatchoune Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
your journals are always a good opportunity to learn something! Thank you!
ChristopherWillmot Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks (a) for the reminder, (b) the thought you put into choosing the examples and (c) for evidently caring enough to make a first class journal entry.
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