As is pretty evident from the images of the last two works off the drawing board, I have spent a bit of time recently, composing within the square. I have talked about working within a square field before but thought, since these most recent works are fresh in the wind so to speak, that it might make sense to revisit the idea of working within this interesting geometric shape.
Up till about five years ago, I might have counted on the fingers of one hand, all the works that I had done in the previous twenty years working within a square format. Long time observers of my work will have noted some time ago that my preferred compositional format tends to be in long, horizontal rectangles. I've made mention, often, of the Golden Rectangle and its adjunct ratios and proportions and how it has shown up time and time again in both art and architecture over the centuries. I certainly have availed myself of this sharp compositional structure in many of my works over the years. It is rather fool proof in establishing a very appealing position for main and secondary subjects in a work of art.
But when it comes to working out an interesting composition and assemblage of subjects within the bounds of a square, I have tended to stay away until quite recently, and now have a better feel for ideas that seem to suit a square field.
Just as it often has taken repeated study of and constant reference to certain subjects, which I have not had a long history of working with, before I hit a comfort level of knowledge of that particular animal say, I have needed to challenge myself every once in a while to tackle an idea in a square. As I jokingly say quite often, 'I think I have reached a point where I can draw elephants standing on my head, in my sleep!' This, simply, because I have drawn them so often and spent so much time observing in nature and at zoos, that the subject is now almost second nature to me. On the other hand, since I don't often draw moose and have only a minimum of first hand reference to cull through, I need to spend more time making decisions on how I might incorporate that particular subject in a work as I know it is going to take a bit more thought, sketching and prelim work before I feel comfortable introducing a moose to my drawing board!
In intentionally deciding to have, in inventory at any given moment, a nice range of square frames in different sizes, I've set a goal of not only making use of this expensive inventory but also, as mentioned before, of setting up a challenge to find ways of working within the square.
In these last five or so years, using this challenge to refine ideas and become more comfortable working within a square, I now feel pretty confident that when I go to my stock of frames in the basement to pull out three or four varying shapes and sizes to act as sparks and starting points for thoughts about upcoming works, I will generally add at least one square frame to the lot. As an aside here, when you have as many frames in inventory as I usually do (and all my artist friends know just how many that might be!), digging around and pulling out a random selection of frames to haul up to the studio before doing any initial sketching out of ideas, forces me to make use of that huge inventory and often prods me to rework old ideas that have sat around for ages, refining them, reworking them and refitting them to suit a frame on hand.
So, with all that background, I wanted to post a sampling of works that have come off my drawing board in the last few years, all within the square format. This first group are primarily portrait pieces and small in scale, maybe no larger than five inches square in most instances. Portraits are very easy to work into a square and for me at any rate, often act as finished prelim ideas for larger works. Since all of these were relatively small works, the compositional ideas are quite spare, interest level laying with the expression or the play of light and shadow.
This second group of six works are all larger pieces, ranging up to about ten inches square. Since these are larger pieces and there was more room to work out ideas, they are a bit more involved and not all just portraits. Other than in the top two works, the raven and the tiger cub, the subjects of the other four works are all off center, in most instances positioned by making use of the Rule of Thirds .
In this last group of four works, these are larger squares yet again, allowing for even more development of ideas and interest level. A bit of study will reveal again, a good use of the 'sweet spots' of the 'Rule of Thirds'. You can't go wrong in using any one or more of those four focal points as placement for subject matter.
I have no doubt that there will be many more squares in my future on the drawing board but for now, it is time for me to get back to work on the current piece, which has about four hours of work so far and many more to go!