Cropping is a term or ‘rule’ that describes cutting down the subject you wish to paint to achieve the most interesting painting possible. Artists, when out sketching may use a view finder made of card or their fingers and thumbs to crop the view they’re looking at. I often use the viewfinder on my camera. One of the joys of a digital camera is you can take as many shots as you want.

Look at the 2 photos below. The second one is cropped to achieve a much more interesting and balanced picture. Do quick pencil sketches to achieve the best composition. Crop parts that do not add anything to your painting.

As artist we all have an off day or even week. We just can’t get the painting right. There are numerous solutions to this and one is cropping. Grab difference size and shape mounts and play around with them on your painting. I’m sure you will find a picture within your picture. Crop down your original you may be really surprised by the results.

Simplifying As artists we need to learn to simplify our subject matter. The world around us is very complex full of detail, shape, colour and texture. All artists simplify their subject, even those fascinated by the detail of it. In simplifying what we aim to paint we can begin to capture the essence of the place. As I painted this on location, I knew I couldn’t and did not want all the nooks and crevices in the cliffs. The colours and tones help to indicate the rugged rock face, as well as the line and the directions of the marks.

Why artists sketch?

Many artists prefer to work from sketches rather photographs why? Well it is because as they sketch they are choosing what to include and what to miss out … in other words they are simplifying what they are recording on paper. Cameras obviously record all the detail and the use of them is very helpful. If working from a photograph we need to be constantly simplify the information in the photograph to simple marks on the page. If in your view there is a car in the way, then simplify and leave it out. If road signs, rubbish bins, chimney pots are not adding to the painting then don’t paint them.