Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Five ways to extend a story

Here's a character study of some political junkies in a public café by José Jiménez Aranda (Spanish 1837-1903). 
José Jiménez Aranda, Los políticos
14½ x 18 1/8 in. (37 x 46 cm.)
The older guy is arguing a point with the younger guy, who is reading from a newspaper. If that's all there was to the picture it would be OK, but look how he carries the story further.

1. Reaction figure. 
The third guy at the table is bored out of his mind because he's heard these guys arguing the same point endlessly. However you read his expression, it suggests layers of backstory.
2. Internal crop. 
The guy wearing the ornate blue jacket at the far right is cropped by the column, so we only see a little of him. No need to show more than that.
3. Shadowed elements.
The guy he's talking to is keyed way down in shadow so as not to compete with the main action. But we can see he's gesturing and probably talking politics, too.
4. Repoussoir figure.
The figure on the far left is facing back and to the left. He's cropped by the picture's edge, suggesting another conversation offscreen. Even though he's a throwaway element, he's painted carefully.
5. Reflection.
At the top of the picture is a mirror, and the reflection (see below) shows a scene at another table.

If you're working on a storytelling picture, look for ways to include reactions, internal crops, shadowed elements, repoussoir figures, and reflections.
José Jiménez Aranda on Wikipedia
Previously: Repoussoir


Luca said...

I loved the bored man expression ,it's hilarious. :D
I don't know if it's just a random choice from the artist and if i'm reading too much into the details, but i noticed that the old man is the only character with a tricorn hat and the lace of the shirt going out the sleeves: perhaps it was the old fashion, while the younger characters were more up the date? The guy with the newspaper is almost identical (even the face) to the one chatting with the cropped man, perhaps that was the fashion of young people (at least in the painter's view). So, this leads to... An old conservative against a young progressist? :D

Elena Jardiniz said...

Story telling paintings were very popular for so long. I never heard anything of it until well after I was in college - they all wanted to teach the 'cutting edge new hotness' not the 'boring old school stuff'. And yet, there was so much to learn from them! Any fool can throw something together and write a manifesto, it takes real skill to actually paint, or draw, or bring something to life in any medium.

Elena Jardiniz said...

Ach! Posted too soon! I meant to say I especially love the rich textures as well as the expressive faces and body language. That beautiful pale lavender velvet coat!

Dan said...
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