How To Enliven a Dull (boring) Subject

how to turn dull boring subjects to lively, making a subject come to life, abstracting a scene, big loose abstract oils, landscape in oils,

Boring Subjects!  All artists have times when faced with rather dull and boring subjects. And this photo Qualifies!

It could be that one shot you were able to get of your trip to Mt. Fuji was grey and murky, not really in focus.

Or the flower arrangement you’ve set up just isn’t very exciting today.  Maybe you’re at the beach to paint and the day has just gone flat.

how to turn dull boring subjects to lively, making a subject come to life, abstracting a scene, big loose abstract oils, landscape in oils,
Turning Dull, To Lively


Boring, but with …possibilities

I don’t know why,  but it does happen, and the subject you chose is less than stellar in your eyes.

You could quit. You could, but you don’t. But you are very frustrated!

Its happened to me. Often enough for me to have figured out some techniques to make things Appear Different, to look better than the reality.

I’m going to share what I do to help make the subject brighter, more ‘engaging.’    To work around the boring bits and Livening Up the lovely parts.

Saying goodbye to boring and hello to Lively.




Number #1

  1. The first thing I remind myself:  I am the artist, the creator of this art work.
  2. I am the one to choose everything about it.
  3. I can do with it, exactly what I choose.
  4. In no way am I required to paint exactly, precisely what is there As It Is.  No.  I am free to change things.
  5. I am the artist, creating or altering just as I choose.



how to turn dull boring subjects to lively, making a subject come to life, abstracting a scene, big loose abstract oils, landscape in oils,
Turning Dull, To Lively



The Landscape Photograph

The photograph of the sky, the rock quarry and the cliffs white and colored.

Its not a great shot. It is very dull, out of focus,  with no focal point and poor design.

As with many ‘happy snaps’  this too was taken in a big rush with an automatic point and shoot.

Just about everything design-wise is awry.

However, I am very drawn to those cliffs that are so white against the deep sky.



5 Alterations To Liven It Up

  1. Cropping and changing the design format
  2. Changing the saturation, the boldness of color intensities
  3. Erasing details where I don’t want them
  4. Changing the colors as I choose to
  5. Placing the main emphasis and Focus, where I want


I’ve cropped and altered the photo several ways in order to get a feel for what might be  possible solutions.

The computer is really a great tool for this kind of thing.  Playing around with saturation, tones, design etc……  before the paints come out.

It doesn’t mean that I am definitely going to use that design,  but it gives me additional Ideas.   I like that.



This was one of the ones I came up with.

The format now is a long vertical, with the sky so much stronger than the original shot.

Its still divided a bit too much half and half though, which is not good at all.


I’m liking that deep sky, wondering how to really emphasize it a lot more.

The foreground is proving too much of a distraction. It has to go.




If the reality was a bit boring, spice it up

I’d like to focus more on the whiteness of the cliffs.


In the photo, you can’t see this.

But I had walked right up to them.  And some of them were so dazzling white, it was beautiful.

The photo of the cliffs from the distance shows them being quite orange all over.

But you can see in the foreground the color and tone is very much of a light pale buff and white.

This. Is what my artist’s hand and mind wanted to zero in on.


making changes to an art subject, how to use photos as art references, landscapes in oils, abstract landscapes,
Making Changes, creating… something fresh!


I’ve formed a  loose and vague plan by now.

Its loose and free, and one that I feel comfortable making changes as I go, if thats what is called for.

My Idea is to create a nearly all white about 80%  for the cliffs.

Then to  pack a punch with the sky,  in a very little amount of space left (20% of the paper area.)  We will see what happens.


painting landscape abstract in oils, neutral palette, cerulean blue pb 35, blue sky abstract, powerful skies,
White Bluffs, Blue Sky abstract in oils


The Painting

I’ve used a limited palette (white, umber, sienna and cobalt) in oils on medium sized sheet of oil paper.

I suggest,   that about every 3rd brushstroke,  you return to the 5 points of  Number #1   and repeat these to yourself.

I do.   It Helps!


The Brushstrokes were kept fairly big, loose and sweeping.

Trying not to get bogged down in minute details, but to allow the design and movement of the work to create the energy.




I confess I was……. thinking of a few artists whose work I love.

Edward Seago.   John Olsen.  Fred Williams.  John Coburn.  Arthur Boyd.    John Singer Sargent.




Toko Shinoda.

“The air in motion, my heart in motion.”    A beautiful quote by Toko Shinoda.




Mastering white space in your paintings   –  Toko Shinoda

John Olsen 

Fred Williams 

Abstracts  a definition 







Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

22 thoughts on “How To Enliven a Dull (boring) Subject

    1. it does. and this one photo, could be made into a slew of paintings…. a series. there is a lot there. it just needs Work!! lol thank you Anneli and hope that you see a bit of Spring this weekend!! 🙂 cheers, debi

      Liked by 2 people

    1. exactly…. perhaps I will do a post titled, make the recipe your own…. lol
      too many of us are afraid to add a tiny dash of coriander instead of basil, I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So often when out in the field I’ve been in front of a flat boring scene and thought, “oh if only I could paint I’d put a —- there, or this or that.” “) Thank you for showing us the way to make it happen!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you’re welcome Deborah…. glad to know it might be of help!! I’m certain other artists have their own ways to deal with this issue, but for me – this is the Fastest and easiest. fast and easy works for me! LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Toko Shinoda quote. I looked her up- she is 103! She has remained unmarried and considers herself married to her artwork.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you Laurie! this is so amazing you really did look at her info! She is, a very Inspiring Artist 🙂
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I’m so pleased you looked a little deeper !!!
      have a lovely weekend, Cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Is Spring nearly there yet?!!!
      and a big,
      thank you Jodi!
      I think this is why more beginners choose not to paint from real life…. things get boring.
      or overwhelming.
      And, these Ideas listed, work – for either. Cheers, have a lovely weekend! 🙂 Debi

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had spring in February Which is totally crazy. The daffodils and forsythia bloomed. Then winter came back in march. Snow and cold now do who knows. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. crazy! we used to get that too in Seattle area alot, in March. every year. but then couple weeks later – Poof! all was Spring Beauty.
        Bet you are looking forward to some Spring walks! and gardening 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great mantra with which to end the week, “I am the artist, the creator of this art work”. Your posts have all the ingredients of a best seller for artists, young and old, new and jaded, everywhere. I would like to buy a first edition please 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. THANK YOU many times over for such a wonderful comment! especially, seeing as there is an over-abundance, of art book wc books.
      I like being able to share info. When info is free on the web, more have access…. but, less value it. It is a catch 22. Thank you Andrew 🙂 The idea has merit – I am thinking……

      Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, its so easy to become a bit jaded or flat, or frustrated when we start out painting and things don’t seem to be going quite right. But its not hard, to change this. And Thanks Hilda! glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 cheers, Debi


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