Sunday, July 14, 2013

Working hard to make it simple

Simple ain't simple. I keep saying I want to simplify my work—make it more graphic, less fussy, less detailed, more abstract. But it isn't easy, as I keep discovering. Remember how I struggled over this blue house?  I continued to struggle and fuss and change and try again. I finished it a couple weeks ago, or so I thought.

There are parts of this piece that I am quite happy with, but that damnable blue house is still not working for me. It became overworked. It feels very labored and ugh— that blue color is just a dead, cold, flat color.

Here's the part I like.

I could cut it off and this could be the piece. What do you think?

Or I could take another stab at the blue house. Here is an idea I worked up in Photoshop.

Might be worth a try. I could still cut it off if I can't make it work.

Frustrated, I made a small piece, trying to really simplify the shapes.

The small size is so much easier to deal with.

I started over with a bigger piece. Keep it simple. Concentrate on composition. Color.

I changed colors twenty times. I liked the idea of a purple sky. Now that I see it I'm not so sure.

Back to Photoshop. Here are some other sky color ideas. Bad phone photo, but this may give you an idea.

I chose one. Can you guess which one? Nothing is working as I had hoped. Can I pull myself out of this slump? Geez, I hope so.


  1. I found your blog via The Sketchbook Challenge. Your work is beautiful and colour combinations wonderful. (I agree, you should cut the blue house off!)

  2. I like the last melon-colored one. I want to see something that occurs in nature, this is our sunset color in the Sonoran Desert. Sadly, I too believe your original piece is better without the house.

  3. If the blue house is too distracting have you thought about adding a layer of stenciled or painted texture on top? Perhaps in the purple family? Some type of subtle pattern could shift the color just enough. Looks like you have more purple than blue spread throughout the composition and that could also subtly warm up that area. Just a thought. As always, your work is incredible - love the detail and your use of all those menswear fabrics.

  4. Here's my two cents... I love the whole thing. However, the blue house is the dominate factor. Perhaps an arbor/trellis over the little veranda with greenery climbing. It would break up the blue and add some vertical lines with the use of vines. I love your work and learn so much from you. Thanks for all of your "thinking out loud" tips.
    Hugs from Mary

  5. PS... I love your blog so much that you inspired me to stop coloring my hair and go silver!! What a crack-up. My husband loves my new look and my hair is so much healthier. Now I need to search back through you posts and get the info on the product you use for silver hair.
    More hugs to you from Mary

  6. My two cents!
    I think you should walk away and come back later...much later when the dislike of the blue house has faded a bit. I love it. I know it really doesn't matter that I love it because you have a certain image in your mind but I hope you just make another piece instead of cutting this one up. I've never been a "blue person" but this piece has all the right shades for me.

  7. Terry, as always I like what you are doing a lot and I like seeing how you try out different options. Here are a few thoughts-- I'm not sure what sort of "simple" you have in mind but what strikes me is that you still have a high level of detail in the black trim lines, the windows and door and even quilted roof lines. All of those elements turn the shapes of the blocks and squares and rectangles into detailed houses. I notice that the one you like the best, the background roof tops and sky, has the fewest hard black lines, few or no windows, etc. I wonder if you worked with blocks of color for walls and roofs without the black line outline and without the black stitching lines whether it would head you in a more simple direction? Like thinking of the composition as shapes and cubes defined by color and value instead of by the black lines?

  8. Jean Lasswell8:23 AM

    There seems to be a little too much contrast between the light background area and the dark foreground. I know you like to paint on fabric...can you darken the top slightly? I understand about wanting to cut it, but I love the contrast between the curved and straight shapes.

    I also like the purple background and the citron (my favorite), which looks great with the green building. It seems to perk up the whole palette.

    Thanks for sharing this with us; I love peeking into someone else's design process.

  9. There are 2 focal points in this piece, the blue house and the domes in the background. Perhaps if you further simplified the domes, the eyes would rest easier on the blue house. I like the purple sky, but I think you would pick the last I right? How about purple AND peach?

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  11. I agree with Susan T....put the scissors down and walk away. Do you need a coffee delivery? I can be there in 20 minutes. And for what it is worth, I do not hate the purple sky, the contrast might be too strong between your various strips, but I am responding to the purple more positively than your other color variations. I know helpful....snort.

  12. I like the green background though it looks like I am in the minority when reading the other coments. I think the green makes the green house stand out nicely.

    As far as blue house goes, I agree that the problem is more in the composition than just the blue house itself. You could cut it off. That leaves you some roof edges that brings your eye back into the picture. Or you could add a bit more to the house. It needs something down in the bottom right of the house to make it worth your eye circling the piece. Right now your eye starts in top left and circles down to the bottom right corner and then stops because there is nothing there to add a little surprise. I end up wondering why I am looking there and feeling confused. My two cents, twice.

  13. I think the domes in the top background are absolute perfection. I love the cropped piece. The blue house and the rest is too heavy for those heavenly domes. Diane might have it right. Might be time to cut down on the black edges--just a bit. Baby steps. So what do you want the pice to be about? The domes or the blue house.

  14. I understand about making something simple being much harder than it looks. My suggestion is to take out the white/gray window ledges and all of the ironwork and potted plant. Tone down the mustard color on the door trim, it seems brighter than the mustard color of the roof trim - make it match the roof trim. You will still have a focal point with this house but it won't be screaming "look at me!".

  15. Maybe it is that all the houses in the front are close to the same color and value...