One Way to Use The Silhouette Composition

Artists in flat lands face special issues. Indiana and other states have vast areas of flat plains. In my part of the state, the trees are in lines— often because they are growing up in fence rows and there’s nothing else for miles except open flat fields. The obvious solution is to exaggerate the small elevation changes, bring distant trees closer and find creeks and corners that are just not as open.


12x12 pastel on paper


The Pickings Can Be Slim

Having lived where I do for so long, it isn't long before the drives to the small bits and pieces of terrain become too familiar. So many times I find interesting tree shapes and groupings of trees with cast shadows and want to paint them. Often my memory goes back to more than one critiques where I was told trees in strait lines are not interesting. If they are not interesting, then why am constantly attracted to the shapes and shadows, light and colors?


Wolf Kahn's Lines of Trees

Lines of trees can be done and can be accepted as good art but Wolf Kahn shows us it has to be something special. For him it was his use of color. His color range rarely went past a middle value but went to pale values -- thus keeping the brightness of his work at almost neon level. Reading Kahn's remarks in the two books he wrote, it is clear that a fresh eye and approach is needed to break the so called "critiques' rules."



My sketch book provided a source for this painting. Remembering that it came from an outing last fall or late summer, it was of a line of trees with light coming in strongly -- making them a silhouette. There was a bright background with something just on the other side of the line of trees.



In the notan sketch you can see the lighter toned area on the left that I decided to turn into the secondary center of interest with the purer, more intense orange. I consider the first center of interest to be the shapes from the light and the shapes of dark silhouettes created.

What I Learned

  • My constant reading of and about other artists gives me ideas how to tackle difficult subjects

  • Trees in a line can become interesting if I treat them in a manner other than actual representations

  • Sketch books of thumbnail sketches continue to be a great resource, especially on wet cold days


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Avon Waters
Modern Artist