Painting is partially about technique, and that’s what Ctrl-Paint often focuses in - but it’s also about storytelling. This week’s week we’ll examine a painting from Nick Gindraux and see what lessons it offers for your own visual storytelling.
Looking at this piece of concept art, you’re thrust into the center of a story. You’re not seeing the aftermath of an event, or the calm before the storm - you’re right in the middle. Without any explanation, you know what action is unfolding. Gindraux has composed his painting with a series of thoughtful choices, and the result is an effortless sense of presence. But what, specifically, has he done to imply the passage of time?
Before and After
What Gindraux gives the viewer in this piece is a mental coloring book. He’s shown you the way the scene used to look, and invites you to imagine how it might look in the future. As your imagination takes an active role, the painting comes to life. An iconic shape like a star or circle begs to be completed. This painting takes advantage of our natural desire for order by inviting us to complete it through mental extrapolation. You might not know why the painting seems engaging, but it’s no accident that you’re intrigued.
The large red star represents the initial ‘read’, but the image is filled with subtle details backing up the primary action. Even though the red is unfinished, notice that the shape was first outlined in the soil with tire-tracks. The haphazard white tire tracks on top of the star also indicate the passage of time. Like footprints in wet concrete, these tracks are freshly made. The story continues when you look behind the trucks. A small stack of red barrels lays at the threshold between painted soil and untouched earth - are these waiting to be loaded into the back of the trucks? Were they just emptied? Either way, Gundraux is explaining how the action unfolds - how his world operates.
Artist as Storyteller
As you progress in your craft, the technical hurdles will fade. As this happens, the substance of your artwork will be more than fancy rendering and accurate annatomy: you’ll be telling stories. Odds are, the artist that you like best are diong this with every painting they make. It might not be as obvious as this large red star, but they’re infusing their composition with narrative details. Next time you find yourself looking at an impressive painting, ask yourself “how are they telling me a story?” With practice, you’ll start adding those details to your own work.