How do you tell your story with your painting? What does it mean telling your story anyway? How do I find my story?
One of the things I love about painting is being able to tell my story about what I am seeing. It doesn't have to be a big complicated dramatic story either. It can be something simple. It can be about whatever attracted you to paint that scene. Was it the way the light was at that moment, was it the colours, maybe how it made you feel or the mood you were in that day.
You also don't need to be an expert painter to tell your story. Thinking about the story you want to tell will help you develop your style and show who you are as an artist.
Most of us have no idea of our style when we first start to paint but by telling your stories with your painting you can gain a better understanding of what your style is.
For instance the stories behind my paintings are always positive ones.
They are about joy, colour and energy. I have realised I like to share art that is happy and cheerful. That wasn't by design at first it was just me expressing how I feel about painting. It's my happy place and I love to paint so it came about naturally that my paintings are happy and cheerful. Paintings that I hope would bring a smile to people’s faces.
We can always use more joy in the world!
So the stories I tell reflect my style. I find the more I paint the less likely I am to worry about making things look realistic it's more about telling my story about that painting. I like my paintings to look like paintings and represent how I feel about the subject.
You will find as you paint more with the story in mind that you to will start to see a pattern in your stories.
I think the best way to show you what I mean by a story big or small is to go through a few of my own paintings and the story behind them. That way you can see what I mean and start to think more carefully about your own stories if you are not doing that already. Chances are you are painting with a story but maybe haven't actually consciously thought about it.
Urban Autumn was a simple story
I loved the contrast of the beautiful, colourful autumn tree against the dull hard buildings. Nature winning over the town.
I told this story by really aping up that contrast with colour and texture on the tree. I didn't need to make this tree look realistic I felt it told my story so much better if I didn't.
This little bunny tail painting I did while on holiday at the beach this year was also a simple story. I always think of happy childhood memories at the beach when I see them. I also love how soft they are and can never resist touching them. So I tried to convey that softness by showing the contrast between the soft bunny tails and the hard wood. I did the wood in cool colours and the bunny tails in warm to show my warm happy feelings.
Sometimes I change things very little from what I see on my reference photo other times I will change them dramatically.
Peace at the beach
Like in this little seascape. We go to the beach each summer to camp for two weeks. I love to wake up and see the sunrise over the water in the mornings. Depending on my mood it gives me a different feeling. Sometimes it is energetic and happy, can't wait to start the day feeling. Other times it is peaceful and relaxing.
The photo I took of this sunrise had a much more energetic feel to the colours, but that's not how I was feeling on that morning. I changed the colours to purples and gave the painting a much more calm and peaceful feel which reflected my mood at the time a lot better.
I also changed the shape of the river as in the photo I couldn't get a good angle that would show the colour on the water and the shape of the river at the same time. But I could do this with paint and my memory of the way the river was in real life.
I changed the reference photo dramatically to tell my story for this painting.
Into the woods was a bit of a more complicated story. This little shed was actually a small morgue for the old hospital where I live at Pukerora estate. And those woods are pretty dark and possibly sinister looking in the photo. But that is not the feeling I get from it. I pass this area nearly everyday when I am out walking the dog. One day the neighbours children had turned the old shed into a little school house with a desk and blackboard. It was kind of surreal but also very sweet looking. Those woods never seem dark and gloomy to me. The dog loves exploring in there so much and my kids love to run around the tracks exploring. I can imaging all the adventures they are dreaming up as they do.
To me it is a fun and happy place to walk so I wanted to try and show that feeling in my painting.
I did the shed with the light shining on it and showing the warmth of the brickwork. I made the woods colourful with light bouncing around the tree trunks and an inviting path leading to the entrance of the woods. All this was there already I just put it all together and enhanced the effect with the paint to tell my story.
This large painting is sold
This smaller one is still for sale, Small Into The Woods.
By thinking about the story you want to tell about a scene you will make it easier on yourself as your story will help you decide how to paint something. You can more easily see what to add in or what to take out of a scene that will help you tell that story. You will have a better idea of the colours you want to use or technique that will help tell that story. You will know what you want to focus on for that painting. Just as an aside it will very often make naming that painting easier as well. Often when I know the story I want tell the name comes to me before I even start painting and then the name helps me to focus on how to tell my story.
As in Home sweet Home, All the old sheds around here may look old and abandoned but they all make great homes for the swallows.
The story you choose to tell with your painting may not be the story someone else sees in your painting either and that's okay. I'm always happy to think that I have painted something that speaks to another person in some way.
As with this river painting. The story I wanted tell was about the light rippling on the water. But the story the person who brought one of these paintings saw was happy childhood memories of the local swimming hole where she grew up. This painting seemed to tell a story to a few people as I was commissioned to paint several like it.
This larger one is still available, Framed By Nature
So to sum up I would encourage you to think about the story you want to tell before you start painting right at the planning stage. It will help show who you are as an artist, help you make decisions on how to paint it. It will keep you focused on the right things for that painting and most of all help you find meaning in your painting.
It will also make talking to others about your paintings very easy, you can just tell them your stories.
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If you found this blog useful please leave me a comment in the start a discussion box below. I would love to hear about your stories and how you come up with them.