Keeping It Simple ~ Less can sometimes be more!

Having just completed two paintings entitled Reflections and Working All the Angles that were all about dealing with a range of tones and values, I thought it would be a good idea to mix it up and go in another direction and simplify.  In other words, challenge myself with the “less is more” theory.

I chose to paint a Great Blue Heron, standing near the river’s edge early in the morning.  The water was calm and reflective, broken only by the large granite rocks and the thin stick legs of the Great Blue Heron; the only movement coming from the water lapping up on the sandy shore.  

Even though I have only applied a base coat, I am confident in my direction.  I want to paint in what is significant in the painting, while keeping a watercolor-like immediacy look to the finished painting.  Here is a picture of my painting just underway.  

Blue Heron painting underway by William R. Beebe

Blue Heron painting underway by William R. Beebe

During a brief painting break, I decided it would be a good time to indulge myself with a hot cup of coffee and some art education.  So I picked up an art book I bought about my artist cousin Brian Sweetland.  Those of you, who follow my blog, know that he tragically died last year after a fall.  He was in his prime, painting masterpiece after masterpiece, and had utilized his short time on earth to the max.  He became a master plein-air painter, a scholar, a friend to all he met, and a kind and gentle soul.  

As I read, I came across a quote from Brian that poetically put into prose what I was thinking when undertaking this painting.  I wanted to share this quote of his with you.  “Emphasize the emphatic and keep it simple.  Don’t try to dress the queen in one too many jewels.  It’s hard to restrain yourself from being caught up in every single range of values, every single range of tones…   It’s hard to stop being trapped into the Siren’s song of tonal complexity—you shouldn’t put all phenomena in every painting.”  

In this one heady, short paragraph, he summed up my thoughts and he encouraged my path with this painting.  He was known as “an artist’s artist”, and through his writings he humbly and brilliantly shared wise words that were meant as self-expression, while unselfishly helping to enlighten others.  

I am going to paint in the essentials, “emphasize the emphatic and keep it simple”. Life is complicated enough and sometimes simplicity can be very appealing.  I’m going to paint this painting with Brian’s words in mind, and not get “trapped into the Siren’s song of tonal complexity”!  

Thank you, as always, for following my art and my journal.  Feel free to write and let me know what you’re thinking!  I’ll keep you updated on this painting as it evolves.  Thanks again!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe