Monday, 14 May 2012

Repetition - a force to be reckoned with

A good composition is one in which the artist has considered NOT ONLY THE SUBJECT MATTER, but also the placement of the main elements (shapes, lines etc)  of the work to give clarity and order to his or her ideas (the subject), and to help the view find their VISUAL way around the painting.

One of the most powerful ways to strengthen the composition of a painting is to use REPETITION – it truly is a force to be reckoned with.  Deliberate repetition of colours, patterns, shapes may not be immediately obvious to a non-painter viewer of your work– but they will, for sure, somehow appreciate that there is something special going on in the work they are viewing – their attention will be held, and interest piqued.

Repetition can also be linked to Rhythm - because the eye automatically moves from one similar element to another, in the way that the ear will pick up regular rhythms in music. 

To warm you up, I'd like you to look at the work of GUNILA KLINGBERG.  Her works of the early 2000's were based on repeated patterns which were, of course, very obvious:

silk-screen printed lino tiles

 The piece is basically a pattern composed of ordinary supermarket logotypes in black and white. It exists as a tapestry and as linoleum flooring - and as a total environment where the pattern is spread on the wall, the floor and onto various cubic shapes, which seem to mushroom up from the floor. 

Here is another, window piece, where the pattern repeats, and repeats again onto the floor in its own shadow:

"Brand New View"

Here is her website if you would like to learn more:

Admittedly, these patterns are not being used in paintings - but you can see their power nevertheless.  Now let's look at a couple of paintings.  

Here is a Degas painting The Millinery Shop–and now that your mind has been alerted to repeating patterns by the pictures above, I am sure you will be able to see beyond the hats, and will notice now how the shapes repeat in this image.   The painting is a whole design of circles broken by a few verticals (the hat stand, the ribbons, the back draperies) and a triangle or two (the table, the woman's arm, and the front hat's ribbons).

 And now look at this gorgeous piece, so modern somehow even today, despite the fact that Degas died in 1917!

Repetition has been used in several ways in this image.  Not just in the repeating SHAPES and ANGLES of the arms and legs, perhaps the most obvious;  look again……..notice how he has used varieties of warm orange on the dancer’s heads time and again? And how this colour, albeit modified to be more subtle, repeats and flows right across the top of the picture?And there it is again, in the warm light tones in the floor.  And notice how he has repeated the lightest cool tones in the painting, those delicious soft blues, greys greens  and whites, using them again and again throughout.    And this is not just because the dresses happened to be white.    The use of these pale, icy tones on the dancers’ skirts, backs, arms and legs is masterful - those tones, coupled with the warm contrast of the girls’ heads, are there to move our eye across the image.  They serve to unify the shapes and visually satisfy.

Repetition.  Let me say it again........

Just for fun now, I thought I would wheel out one of my own dancer paintings.  (Pretty daft really to put my own piece here, when I have been showing you Degas!  Well, I did try to learn something from him.)  Unusually, this piece is still in my own collection, unframed, it was done for a gallery show but the gallery closed down before the show took place, so I still have it.  It is a large piece... 21"x21" unframed.   I will send it out in a cardboard roll, fully protected with Glassine, and then it can be framed on arrival. Buying unframed means you will get one of my originals at a bargain price!  With no gallery commission to pay either (my originals generally sell, framed, for at least $1000)  10% of all proceeds from this sale will go to CHILDREN IN NEED, an official charity here in the UK.  If you would like to bid for it, please click here:  BENDING DANCERS ( The starting price is £100, which is about the same as many "painting a day" artists sell their tiny 6x4" works for; if it sells for this,  then so be it!  At least some money will go to the charity.)


  1. excellent and informative post! Love ALL the artwork you've included!

  2. Nice mini-lesson and very nice picture. Wish I could afford it. I figure someone will hop right on it if they haven't already though.

  3. Very interesting - love the visual examples!

  4. Is it still possible to buy the ballerinas? My daughter likes the picture very much and I told her it would be 150Pounds. She wondered how much shipping would be. Do I have my infor right? I thought there was an auction going on but you said no one offered and my daughter said it looked like it was closed. At any rate when I asked her if she looked at the link I sent her she said yes and she would like it for her daughter (a teen ballerina) so I said I'd ask you if it was still available.

  5. Hello Timaree,
    I hope you pick this up, I tried to click on the email link on your blogger profile, but it does not work. I would be delighted for your granddaughter to have the painting, and the postage I will find out about for you today, but it should not be more than about $10. I would not charge more than that anyway. Please contact me at my home email, which is, we can take this further then. It is a very low price for one of my pics, so she has a bargain! I just want it to go to a good home, and if your granddaughter is a dancer, what better home could there be.


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