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Artist Exercise: Simplify Complex Subjects

As artists, we often look to the details of a scene or subject to help define our artwork; the delicate rendering of a human face in a pen and ink portrait, the careful blending of colors in an oil painting. But for us to stretch our visual interpretation of the world around us, it often helps to go in the opposite direction, and simplify how we perceive and render a subject.

Shadow and Light
With this approach, the goal is to focus on the interplay of light and shadow in your subject. In fact, avoid using lines to define any part of the subject. Use only shading techniques to recreate the subject. To further simplify this approach, use a limited color palette to create the shadow to light gradient.

Color Blocks
The color blocking approach uses just the color palette in a scene to create this simplified version of your subject. Use only the color to define the subjects in your scene; the shape and placement of the color should be simple, and could be as abstract or as figurative as you choose to make it. But remember to keep the representation of your scene to its most basic elements.

Simple Dimension
Simplify the depth of your scene by creating the scene in several distinct levels of depth, almost like a children's pop up book. Visualize the elements of your scene as flat, but layer them at different depths to create perspective.