An Artist's View

Edward Hopper's "Morning Sun" (1952) depicts the solitude of urban life. The window casts a stark light on the figure. We wonder what she is thinking as she gazes out over the rooftops. Image courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art.inw

Edward Hopper's "Morning Sun" (1952) depicts the solitude of urban life. The window casts a stark light on the figure. We wonder what she is thinking as she gazes out over the rooftops. Image courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art.inw

Windows can be exciting subject matter because they symbolize possibilities, insight, and a glimpse of hidden secrets. Here are a few painting concepts to consider.

Outside, Peeking In

“We artists allow others to see through our windows.”
– Robert Genn

Paint your subject from the outside looking in, such as a view into a library, a high rise with the pattern of lit windows at night, or a pie or kitten on a windowsill.

Imagine bakery goods, antiques, fashions, sports gear, or imaginary objects displayed in store windows. Portray kids peering into a toy store window, silhouettes on a window shade, someone leaning out and calling, or a lonely soul gazing out.

Inside, Looking Out

There is nothing more compelling than an interior window revealing what's outside. Sometimes there’s a landscape that makes us want to escape. A view of harsh weather can make us glad to be warm and cozy inside. I once felt startling irony in an apartment: my bedroom window was surrounded by floral wallpaper but provided the view of a brick wall.

Imagine scenes through raindrops, blowing curtains, windowpane grids, or the magical imagery of icy windowpanes.

Telling a Story

Windows tell dramatic tales. Picture boarded or broken windows, hanging crystals casting rainbows, or ivy hiding a mysterious opening. Windows can reflect things on the other side of the street, sometimes showcasing contrasts like the window of a bleak building that reflects dreamy clouds or a lively café.

Light the Way

Windows provide light. Pouring in, it warms a room or reveals stark realities. Light glowing outward brightens an evening landscape. You can use window light in many ways to create striking focal points, as in this painting by Vermeer.

Beautiful Illusions

Paintings of windows create the illusion of openings when hung on a wall. This gives your artistic vision extra appeal. 

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As artists we turn our canvases into windows that others look into and see what is meaningful to them.


This article was excerpted from my latest book, “210 Imaginative Ideas for Painting.”