The Importance of Editing in Art


    This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Painting Competition and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed "art fanatic", Clint delights that BoldBrush's downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office which he shares with his two feline assistants Kiara and Lilly. You can connect with Clint on TwitterFacebook or his personal blog at





    “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” - Mark Twain


    There's an important truth in that quote:  the power of focus.  


    Every great writer will tell you that great writing is great editing.  A first draft is often long, meandering and confusing, but with enough editing, a first draft can become a polished gem conciseness.  But editing isn't important solely for the sake of brevity, but mostly for the sake of clarity.  Because it's extremely difficult and time-consuming to cut needless words, editing is a process that separates the "Joes" from the "Pros".   But if you don't cut those words to make your point crystal clear, the reader will usually wonder, what's your point?


    A similar dynamic around the power of focus applies to visual art.  


    For example, I've always admired, but not quite understood, some highly detailed photo-realistic paintings. [1]  If you paint every leaf, every blade of grass, and every wrinkle in the cloth, it's technically amazing, but, like reading a first draft story, I'm often left wondering "what's the point?"  "What's the story here?"  What is this artist trying to say?"   "What was the inspiration?"


    One goal of great art is to communicate, not just imitate.  


    I want to know what inspired you about the scene.  When you're painting,  ask yourself the following questions:


    What's really important about this scene?

    What visual elements support the story you're trying to tell?  


    And then, by careful cutting and editing, make that important story clear to the viewer.


    If every leaf on the tree is central to the story, then by all means, paint every leaf.  But, for example, if the story is about the temptation of the beautiful, perfect apple hanging from the tree of knowledge, with Eve's hand about to grasp it.... then why not let the leaves fade into the background a bit?  Perhaps paint them with a bit less detail and color, and then punch up the color and detail on the apple itself to entice the viewer's eye to clearly see the story you're actually telling.


    In fact, I coined a phrase a few years ago that captures this thought:


    A painter shows me what he painted, but an artist shows me why she painted.





    Clint Watson

    BoldBrush/FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic







    [1]  I do love great photo-realism.  Great photo-realists understand the power of focus and use it to their advantage, both to enhance the artwork and to increase the focus of the work.




    Editor's Note:

    Today's post is an updated version from a few years ago, but we're republishing it again today because it's still a timely and relevant message. Enjoy!

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