Portraying Movement

This is an edited version of a 5 day free class given via FB to a local art group during lockdown.

Day 1

Find a photo that speaks to you of something that portrays movement that you would like to paint.. running animals such as cheetahs, horses are favourites of mine, but it could be cars or cyclists, people, weather, the sea etc. Have fun looking for images

Day 2 

– When you have found your inspirational photo decide some words you would use to describe the kind of movement. For example flowing, fast, jumpy, swirling etc. 

Is there more than one kind of movement in the photo? If so describe the different movements 

– then with the minimum amount of lines on a bit of paper (printer paper or back of an envelope will do) draw lines to describe the direction of movement. So you may have a curved line, of several swirly lines or a couple of straight line etc. For example a photo a leg might be moving in one direction and an arm in another. Then you might need to use arrow lines to map it. 

Add your words to your simple lines. You now have a simple direction of movement map and words.

You may find you want to turn you abstract movement map  into an abstract drawing or doodle, but only think about the movement, not the subject. Stay abstract.

Day 3

– You now have your words and direction lines. Stay abstract and work out what medium best describes your words. If your word is glide or flow or swirly for  example find ways to paint in colour those words.  You can experiment with different media to find out what works best for this image – ie watercolour, pastel etc 

Let the brush follow the directional lines you’ve mapped out. This will help give the flow of movement in your finished painting. 

– task 2 – spend the rest of the day playing with actual movement your word describes. 

Gliding round the house or whooshing your arm or hand for example. So a bit of actual movement. Have fun with it. See if you can physically find a feel of the movement. This will help with your painting.

Day 4

A photo captures a static moment in time, a painting can do more than that. 

I think it is important NOT to have strong outlines if you want to portray movement in a painting, or your work will just look like you have copied a photo!  We will add detail in due course but it’s amazing how little detail you need for people to read an image.

So today colour a whole sheet of paper using your 

– direction of movement (your map)

– feel (the words you are going to think about as you paint, ie floaty, flowing, whooshing, punchy, fast…) and let the background and foreground mix together. Almost like camouflage. This will be quite abstract again.  

Think transparency, now you see it, now you don’t! There’s a dancer or dolphins there and now there isn’t. No hard edges! 

You will be getting to know your subject doing this and might be amazed by what you come up with. So think about colour and brush stroke that expressed the energy of movement you want in certain places.

And most of all have fun! Go for it! Swirl and twirl, whoosh and float, punch and walk some paint about…

Day 5 – the finished painting 

If you watch something move 

– you are not going to pick up every detail. So stay loose as you add detail

– you are going to have blurry or broken edges

– the movement is going to leave a trace of where it has been in the background. So let the colour of what has moved ie a piece of red material flowing in the wind, leave traces of red paint strokes in the background as though it’s shedding a bit of itself as it moves

You can add as much or as little detail as you like to your finished painting. It is your painting but If you feel you are losing  the sense movement refer back to day 4. 

This gestural painting is the feel you are looking for as you add detail. Balance your painting between detail and directional flow of the paint. The background now needs to have the directions of movement in it as you add detail to the foreground/subject. This will keep the sense of movement and give a feel of where the movement has already travelled.  

– think movement

– keep your arm nice and loose as you paint (I often swing my arms before I start painting to loosen and warm up,it definitely helps!) 

I really hope this has helped and all makes sense… 😄Most importantly have fun painting and go for it…

‘Boldness has a genius to it!’ Goethe 

Stay safe my friends ❤️

Extra notes – You may feel you have lost something of the abstract joy of day 4 in your finished painting, so there is a great value in having another go. I wrote a blog a while ago called Why Do Artists Repeat Themselves? (link here) and here is another blog on portraying movement link here.

Have fun and happy painting!

Visit me on FB at Kirsten Harris Art

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