Often times you hear the term “painting as a whole.” This means both making the painting look like one artist painted the entire piece and making all parts (background, foreground, and subject) of the painting relate harmoniously. Sometimes you will see a painting change to a totally different treatment halfway through a piece. When you step back it may look like two different artists worked on it. Changes can be unified into a whole by repeating them somewhere else.
In college I painted portraits. I worked really hard and the subject would turn out beautifully, but I left the background for last. Waiting only magnified my fear of wrecking the painting with the background. Instead of dealing with this significant space, I washed some color into a wet background and called it done. This habit did not get me far.
Minnesota State University Moorhead Professor Tim Ray recommended that I study backgrounds for a semester. That was when I learned how to use open and closed shapes to transition from the figure to the background. To get over my fear of the background, I began establishing it right away. This method proved to be very successful for me, and I recommend it.
Each of us will have weak areas in our art. All of your work will descend to the level of that weakness. The challenge of correcting this is that you might create some unsatisfactory work in order to overcome a weakness. After overcoming a weakness, your work will rise above its previous level.
People Watchers 22″ x 26 1/2″
People Watchers, has simple related shapes in the background, tying it together with the foreground.
Excerpt from Progressive Painting – Your Creative Journey by Ellen Jean Diederich RRWS, TWSA, WW,WSA