Saturday, November 14, 2020

Shishkin: Plussing the Sketch to Make a Better Finish

Ivan Shishkin (Russian, 1832-1898) painted "Midday in the Environs of Moscow" (right) in the studio based on a great many plein-air studies, such as the one at left. While the study is colorful, it doesn't convey a very strong feeling or concept. 

The final composition (right, above, 1869, 111.2 cm. × 80 cm) increases the focus on the workers returning from the field. Their heads are closer to the horizon. The standing water in the ruts of the cart tracks of the rutted road hint at the potential of rain in the towering clouds above.

Other versions of the composition exist, such as the one below, showing how Shishkin developed the concept. 

He must have realized the masses of trees in the middle ground weren't necessary. 

Would a long horizontal version convey more effective sense of space? This version, called "In the Rye" is from 1866. He later explored the power of a horizontal view of rye fields ten years later

Improving the sketch gets you to a final that's more powerful than what you can accomplish on location. It often requires removing some elements and simplifying the design.

It also means elaborating or "plussing" the things that are working. Plussing —adding to a good idea to make it better—is a word that Walt Disney liked to use, and they still use it at Pixar. 

1 comment:

Fhinn said...

Cool post! Thanks! It's neat to see how this evolved, that painting is one of the first works I saw that really drew me to landscapes and sparked the fire to learn more. Thanks for the book links too, I've had a hard time finding books with Ivan Shishkin's works through the library.