In Bill Vrscak’s paintings, the simplest statements mean the most.
By Stefanie Laufersweiler
Watercolor artist Bill Vrscak knows his Pittsburgh neighborhood so well that he could visually describe every porch and pole, but the more he leaves out when painting, the better his work gets. “A bold, simple statement respects the viewer’s intelligence,” he says. “Do your viewers a favor: Don’t bore them with extraneous detail. Make your point and get out.”
5 Things to Leave Behind to Make a Better Painting
“Simplification can occur during every step of creating a painting to make a scene more interesting and impactful than you found it,” Vrscak says. He suggests leaving the following behind:
Tiny shapes. Complex subjects contain many small, contrasting, hard-edged shapes that create confusion and destroy clarity in a painting. Create and connect areas of like values instead.
Large darks. They can devour small lights. Instead, use middle values to lay a strong foundation for your painting and then place darks—and lights—sparingly and carefully to add sparkle and interest.
Insignificant information. Don’t clutter your painting with details that add little or nothing to the overall visual statement just because they’re in the subject.
Surface details. They call attention to themselves and can weaken a form’s sense of volume.
Perfection. Concentrate on the needs of the painting, not the subject. Be only as accurate as you need to be to make your statement understood.
Less Is More
Removing distracting buildings and extraneous elements led to simpler, more satisfying scenes in Behind the Playground, Can You Hear Me Now? and Going Down Arlington (all watercolor on paper, 18×24, below). See how each developed from photo to sketch to painting.
Behind the Playground
“I intensified the color to create a strong focus on the building, tree, and truck in the center of the painting’s composition,” Vrscak says.
Can You Hear Me Now?
“The figure completes the statement and adds a spot of color,” the artist says of the painting.
Going Down Arlington
For this painting, Vrscak opened the path to the buildings in the center of interest by clearing out the foreground on the left.
Meet the Artist
Bill Vrscak, of Pittsburgh, Penn., is a representational painter whose work reflects a strong sense of freshness and simplicity, consistent with his attitude that “the simplest statements make the most impact.” The award-winning artist is a Signature Member of the American Watercolor Society and a Member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society.