Telling a Story

“I usually look for some kind of narrative in an image,” says Anne McCartney. “If the image can take me somewhere or make me wonder, I hope that, if painted, it would do the same for the viewer. That might mean that the image needs an element in it that makes a strong focal point, or an area that holds particular interest as a focal area. Or maybe the light is just right and highlights something interesting.

“I will sometimes start off looking at my huge reference library of photos and think I know the exact image I am looking for, only to get distracted by another, which is the one I end up painting. Maybe if I can get distracted by it, others will as well.

“Cropping a photo is an important tool to making sure the image you are about to paint is all that it can be and not more than it needs to be. I consider what is needed to tell the narrative and also what the format needs to be, then I crop accordingly.

“My primary question when I am starting to crop is ‘What do I find interesting about this photo?” If it is a landscape, do I want to include the sweeping expanse or to zoom in on an aspect of it? Would a panoramic format suit better than a standard 1:2 ratio? If it’s a figurative piece, how much of the surrounding area is necessary to convey the story? I really don’t want/need to paint elements that are not necessary, so getting rid of them by cropping seems logical.”

About the Artist
Essentially self-taught, watercolor artist Anne McCartney began seriously painting in 2005. Encouraged by the Alberta art community, where she calls home, she has since created a substantial body of work and exhibited in many shows. Her love of the landscape and her constant travels have been a source of neverending inspiration for her work.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.

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