Leave Out the Details

How much do you really need in order to piece together enough information to get a coherent understanding of the object before your eyes. As you’ve seen in my column before, I generally like art from the school of classic realism. Make the art as near as possible to a photograph, and you had a good shot at appearing on these pages.

One Step at a Time by Steve Hanks

One Step at a Time by Steve Hanks

Awahnee: The Deep Grassy Valley by Stephen Lyman

Awahnee: The Deep Grassy Valley by Stephen Lyman

We’ve looked at nature, at wildlife, landscapes, marine art, and even portraits so rich in detail that you aren’t sure that you’re looking at art or photography. Works above by artists like Steve Hanks (above-top) and Stephen Lyman (above-bottom), make you believe you are in a real place. Art below by Duffy Sheridan (below-left) and Han Wu Shen (below-right) have graced our pages or have been well received as exemplary samples of classic realism.


Today we are going with the ‘Less is More’ theory. We are presenting a pair of artists whose works are expressive, delightful, and lacking utterly in the fine detailed designs that we’ve come to expect if not require.

 First is R. C. Gorman, often considered the premier Native American artist. The New York Times called him the Picasso of Native American artists. His art commemorates the memories and experiences of an ancient people in a timeless and universal style. Ceremony is the painting above. Enchantment is below.

With limited detail, or often without background at all, a Gorman painting will still be stunning in its power to convey depth. That’s Frida directly below.

The Gormans presented here are examples of simplicity and elegance combined. His subjects are usually Navajo Indian women. Midnight is below.


But when you take into consideration his skilled use of color and the changing atmospheric conditions of the magical high desert country, you will see why Gorman has now attracted generations of collectors since the 1970s. Reverie is below.

The artist once said of his work:

“I am not obsessed with large women or even skinny women, but I do prefer to paint women. I’m attracted to them. And larger women, they fill up the paper more. There is more space to work with. My own aunts were large women. Maybe I am reflecting them.”

Gorman certainly has shown that his models are indeed large, just look at the examples on this page. Above is Whispers.

Newer to the art world, and certainly less widely known, is the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Binh. His works are simplicity just like Gorman’s. Viewers must employ their imaginative powers to see the essence of the paintings that contain such a small number of brush strokes.


In After School (above) you can almost hear the girls’ happy chatter.

Notice how Nguyen uses a color to direct the eye. In Arranging The Flower (above) first you notice her hair, then the flower suspended above the pot.


Though his women are always featureless, and his backgrounds are mostly solid colors but sometimes with gradients to imply shadows, trees, or grass, his art is still dynamic and filled with life. Above is Girl With Lotus. But we see this life in our minds, and not with our eyes. In doing so, Nguyen captures the heart while making you think. Below is Lotus Viewing.


The artist says of his work:

“I’m not trying to follow any trends, I’m just searching for beauty as I see it, a beauty for everyone. The structure in my paintings tells the viewer many things beyond the surface. The aim in my work is to condense the narrative. I like minimal subject and a maximum idea just like Japanese Haiku”


Above is School Girls. Isn’t it a striking work of art, a gift of life on canvas. Speaking of filled with life, please visit our site, The Arts as often as you like – as most of the time we do leave the details in.

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