Outlines in paintings

Cezanne, The Bathers

Monet, Impression, Sunrise

A recent post, on the subject of outlines in paintings by my friend Alissa, got me to thinking   about lines. I would regard a line in my painting the same way a carpenter does a line on a piece of wood, before he applies the saw – it defines a boundary which is destroyed in the subsequent process.

But this is not the form of the line Alissa is talking about. Its the outline which some artists have on objects in representational paintings. The paintings of Monet and Cezanne illustrates the difference, even though they were both members of the same Impressionist movement in art. Alissa was disturbed by the lack of lines in a drawing which was created by form only. I strive to remove lines from paintings and would never be happy with a sketch composed of outlines, although I appreciate this in other artists work. To me, a line defines the difference between what we see (no outlines) as opposed to what we know to be there. Think of Google Maps – the Satellite view as opposed to the Map view. You choose what you are comfortable with. The presence of an outline in a painting immediately defines the ‘type’ of representational art it is. Are you happy to be told what this shape is or do you want to guess at it and form your own conclusions.

There are probably deep physiological reasons why we chose one form or the other. My personal view is that representational  painting occupies a position on the artistic spectrum, somewhere between poetry and music. A painting with lines and defined objects is poetic, it has definite statements. A painting, especially an impressionist work, is like music. Individual notes of colour, when heard (or seen) are just blobs but heard (or seen) together form a melody. The melody does not make statements it evokes memories, emotions – its liked or disliked, we can’t say why.

OK, enough talk, back to the painting!

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3 thoughts on “Outlines in paintings

  1. Love this. Thank you for your wonderful lesson and translation of what I was getting at! Your thoughts are helping me to feel closer to an idea of what I want to paint (for now): something between the open ended quality of un-delineated form(s) mixed with something more defined…like music with lyrics perhaps. On to the canvas! Until soon.

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