Abstraction through Water

Painting works upon our sense of discovery.  As my 2 year old granddaughter, Iris, water-colored she told me she was making a unicorn.  As Iris surveyed her work she discovered it was not a unicorn.  It was a “blue rocket ship”.  She exhibited no frustration at the absence of a unicorn, instead;  she admired her lozenge shape with furry edges which suggested a rocket ship.   Filled with this discovery and confidence in her skills she said next she would make a pink rocket ship.

Finding a field of paint that suggests a memory of water follows a similar path.  I freely apply paint after visually digesting a series of photographs of water surfaces.  I use a 6” squeegee and an 8” soft wash brush to gently discover varieties of patterns in loose oil paint.  The patterns I tease out of the paint allude to watery reflections and translucence.  My confidence in my skill-set set me to making my pink rocket ship, in other words, finding correspondence between my intention and my paint.   The abstract patterns I discovered sparkled because I painted on brushed silver anodized aluminum.  My abstract patterns follow rules of linear perspective, degrading edge acuity over distance and degrading acuity with sub-surface matter.  I allow reds and yellow a greater role in the forward areas and shift to blues and blue greens to the back.  There is no horizon but, there is engineered space (see example 1).

Example 1.
may16,23,water,surface dance, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,36x36

In other images I will again play with reflectance.  William Merritt Chase, American Impressionist and teacher to many future American modernists, also explored finding reflections amidst abstract patterns.  I have two examples here, example 2, a pastel and, example 3 an oil. In each case Chase has allowed the loose and fractured reflective property of moving water to free him from tidy realism.  Chase’s water surfaces undulate and shimmy with abstractions from the moving forms found in reflecting water.  The pastel (example 2) is a more finished image.  Its edges are sharper with more legibility in subjects above the water than the more blended imagery found in the water’s surface.  The oil sketch (example 3) has a relaxed impromptu quality.  The water, the landscape and the figures all are less defined than the pastel.  This harmony of diffused focus allows us to find a unified image and easy access to multiple hypotheses.

Example 2.  Wm Merritt Chase Pastel, 1883.
may16,23,chase, wm merritt, pastel holland

Example 3. Wm Merritt Chase oil sketch, 1896.
may16,23,chase,wmmerritt,beach1896 oil on board 9x14

A century later, Bruce McGrew would further abstract the subject of water in his watercolors (example 4 from Scotland.)  McGrew exploits bleeding washes and forms in his watercolors.  They contribute to atmosphere and motion while the shapes with lined edges give the viewer mental anchorage with more legible clues.

Example 4. Bruce McGrew, watercolor.
may16,23,contemporary,american,wc, bruce Mcgrew,scotland,1998

I have two further examples of abstracting elements in nature but, through harder edged shapes. Example 5  demonstrates the first step in an image of interweaving textures and reflecting water. Example 6  demonstrates the 2nd step.  Here you see the tangle of straw wending back into the image relying on illusions of space through linear perspective (diminishing scaled shapes) and color recession.  Larger shapes get smaller and more vivid colors lose their intensity.

Example 5. Step one of the salt marsh painting.
may16,23,step oneshoreline tangles, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,3636

Example 6. Step two of the salt marsh painting.
may16,23,step two, shorelines,tods point meander, oil on brushed silver andoized aluminum,36x36

In another example (example 7), I have a more intimate view of a watery surface.  Here I found patterns of semi submerged leaf matter, submerged matter and reflecting water to generate a sparkling field capable of provoking a variety of hypotheses.

Example 7.  Leaf matter in Water.
may16,23,leaves in shallows, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,36x36

Let me extend an invitation to visit an exhibition of my works at Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, Ct. open Tuesdays through Saturday 11 to 5.  The Exhibit will be up through June 18th.

If you still have interest in my workshops in Spain, Sun Valley Idaho, or Newburyport, Massachusetts then please visit my website (Classes & Events) for further details.  I have space for you and a promise of a great adventure painting together.

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Designing Windy Motion and Pursuing Cloisonne Effects

Prior to the 19th century artists using windy imagery looked to seascapes and sailing themes.  Early in the 19th century to landscape artists, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner looked to skies to generate a feeling of windy motion in their pictures.  Seascapes aside, by the 1860s American Artists like Winslow Homer tried animating their paintings with breezes amidst meadows.  Look at his “Veteran in a Field” from 1865 (example 1).  The wheat bends left from the wind while the scythe is held incounterpoint. The cut wheat shafts lie in a receding “v” pattern at the Veteran’s feet.  The design vectors act in counter point to balance the image.

Example 1. Homer’s “Veteran in the Field.”
may16,16,winslow homer,the veteran in a new field 1865

Homer also tried investing motion in his landscapes through experiments with his small watercolors and oil studies.   For example, two years later in 1867 he makes this small oil sketch (example 2).   The horizon is canted to give a sense of movement.  Unfortunately, every other layer was similarly canted with the wheat gatherer as the only counterpoint exception. This surfeit of regularity would be corrected  later in other studies or an exhibition pieces.   I later reprised Homer’s  idea of canting the horizon but also created a series  leveling zig-zag shapes below to avoid Homer’s problem of repeated suspicious regularly angled shapes (example 6) . My rhythmically undulating field grasses  suggest the evidence of a subtle breeze and,  offer more variety of counterpointing shapes than the Homer 9”x12” impromptu oil sketch.

Example 2.  Homer oil study.
may16,16,winslow homer,9x12 study,1867, the wheat gatherer

I found other precedents than Homer as a model for moving patterns of meadow grass. Vincent Van Gogh was driven to give his images rhythmic, moving imagery.  In one of his last paintings from 1890 (example 3)  we see how he orchestrates the rolling movement of the grasses into a singular concert. These shapes are set against the slow horizontal movement of the horizon and the horizontally composed cloud forms.

Example 3. Van Gogh fields.
may16,16,van gogh,fields,1890

The following steps demonstrate my borrowing from the models of Homer and Van Gogh.  First, I shot a series of photos from a low (lower than kneeling)  point of view (example 4). This image served as my springboard.  Painting’s first step can be seen in example 5.  Here,  I  just laid in broad areas of color with special attention to the value of the colors and their placement in the design, a design dependent  upon the slightly canted meadow  as seen in  Homer’s example 2. The next step (example 6 ) presents the image in its current form with patterns of grasses swaying in rhythmic counterpoint.

Example 4.  Photo used as point of departure.
may16,16,step 1, photo for patch of meaow,lakeville rte41bc

Example 5.  First step in the painting, color fields.
may16,16,step 2, windswept meadow

Example 6. Current state of image with rhythmic grasses.
may16,16,windswept meadow, oil on white anodized aluminum,36x36

In this blog post’s title I promised painting with cloisonné effects. Previously I tried a similar effect but, now I decided to use copper as my substrate. Copper has long been used in cloisonné especially because its orange-ish tones complement the lapis lazuli (ultramarine blue) used in the dark  interstitial spaces.  Further  lapis lazuli effects must wait for the current painting to dry to be most effectively applied. I wanted you to see the progress of this painting to point.

Example 7 (step 1) presents the initial laying in of colors still revealing much of the raw copper in the upper right.  Example  8 (step 2) demonstrates the first of the linear reveals (deletions of paint to reveal the copper below).  Example 9 presents the image in its current form.EF

Example 7. Step one,
may16,16,step2, patch of meadow,

Example 8. Step two.
may16,16,step 3, patch of meadow

Example 9.  Step three, image in its current form awaiting further development.
may16,16,step4,patch of meadow,36x36 oil on copper

Let me again invite you to visit an exhibit of my works at the Susan Powell gallery in Madison, Ct.  The show will be up through June 18th. Contact the gallery at susanpowell fineart.com or call 203 318 0616. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 to 5.

I also invite you to join me in late June (20-24th) painting in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho for a 5 day workshop (watercolor, acrylic, oil  and mixed media).  Contact the Sun Valley Center for the arts (ask for Sarah Kolash) at skolash@sunvalley.org or call 208 726 9491 ext 121.

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Between The Leaves

In Patterns of Intention, Michael Baxandall wrote,  since the early Renaissance artists like Pieter Camper noticed that blue areas and objects appear farther away and,  red objects appear closer to us. He therefore assigned blue to the background and red to the foreground.  Da Vinci did the same.

Chardin, the great French still life painter of the 18th century  experimented with this phenomena more freely.  Because we see red objects as closer and blue objects as further back he could put a blue object in front of a red one and cause the blue to appear even larger than the red one. He found he could manipulate the expansion or compression of space through red and blue as Renaissance artists had begun to do.

Later in the 19th century Impressionists would exploit the space-making ability of complementary colors. By the 1880s American Impressionists like John Singer Sargent followed  French artists’ examples using both value contrasts and color contrasts combined with loose bravura brushwork.

Sargent found intimate flora filled settings were ripe for complementary color contrast spatial distortions. In 1886 his contrasts were less color than value driven  as you see in example 1.  This image subliminally influenced me later when I painted example 2, “Indications of May”.  I had forgotten about Sargent’s painting but,  recognized their similarities when I later rediscovered it.

Example 1. Sargent’s oil study of roses.
may16,9,sargent, john singer, 1886, roses at oxfordshire,

Example 2. “Indications of May”.
may16,9, indications of may, oil

Both paintings were set against a distant blue sky and relied upon the red/pink flowers and redness of trees to bring the foreground closer. Sargent tried the red/green,  dark/light contrast for spatial construction in example 3, “pomegranites” of 1908. Here there was no reference to blue sky, only the blue-green of  leaves contrasting against reds and yellows of the pomegranites.

I wondered how much closer could red/yellow in high contrast with blue feel. The result is “Dissolving Sunlight” an oil on anodized aluminum seen example 4.

Example 3, Sargent’s Pomegranites.
may16,9,john Singer Sargent, pomegranites,1908 oil

Example 4. My roses in “Dissolving Sunlight”.
may16,9,dissolving sunlight, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24,alt

A few days later I walked along the same stretch of Chestnut Hill Road and discovered blooming dogwoods. I had not been thinking  about Sargent’s  flowering trees but, I was later reminded of them.  See example 5, Sargent’s watercolor sketch of  Magnolias in 1912.

Example 5. Sargent’s “Magnolias”.
may16,9,sargent, john singer, 1913,magnolias wc

I carry a more conscious memory of Sargent’s  1908 watercolor, “Gourds” (example 6).  I painted example 7, “Dogwood Skies” maybe because I have enjoyed Sargent’s suspended leaves and gourds overhead  showing only small patches of sky .

Example 6.Sargent Watercolor “Gourds”.
may16,9,sargent,john singer,1908 gourds, wc

Example 7. “Dogwood  Skies”.
may16,9,flora,dogwood Skies, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24

I took a variety of dogwood sky photos.  I cropped them, reversed them, and, exaggerated colors and edges.  These next examples begin with a photo I snapped of  dogwood flora against the sky (example 8).  Remember, I have no interest in copying this scene only in letting it serve as a point of departure for my later discoveries in paint.

Example 8. Photo as snapped.
may16,9,step one, the photo as snapped

Example 9 illustrates step two’s initial lay-in of blue and yellow with the cropped altered photo alongside. Observe I work from the general to the specific . Specifics come later. I find a feeling of space and design first.

Example 9. Step two.
may16,9,step two, cropped and altered photo along side initial lay in of blue and yellow

Example 10. Step three.
may16,9,step three, layin in darks

For a view of the image to date I refer you back to example 7. Notice how the reds snap forward of the blue background.

Example 7, reprised.
may16,9,flora,dogwood Skies, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24

I invite you to the opening of an exhibition of my works  this Friday, May 13,2016 at Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, Ct.   The reception runs from 5 to 8 PM. The Gallery phone: 203 318 0616.  I will have works from my city images to nature.

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Running Through Harmony

Physicist, Lisa Randall, describes the condition of the universe just after the big bang as isotropic. Everything was the same in all directions and all places.  Here is a metaphor for harmony for in painting; a surface with a uniformity of touch, unity in shapes, palette and values. Not everything the same but, everything apparently  related and sharing resemblences.

Generating  thematic unity within a painting allows the viewer to more easily fill in missing or suggested information. If the level of focus (edge acuity) is universally soft or, if the pattern of contrast between blurred edges and hard edges offers a feeling of continuity then, viewer participation will be intensified. The viewer can  find a criterion for categorizing, for recognition.  Whistler gives us a strong example (example 1) in his work.

Example 1. James Whistler.
may16,2,Whistler, evening, oil

This feeling of unity (harmony) extends through El Greco’s work as much as it does  DeKooning’s abstract-expressionist paintings. We can discover a unified world, enjoy a unified experience because of their harmonies, harmonies of gesture, consistencies of exaggeration, harmonies of palette, harmonies of brushwork.

Applying harmonies determines the direction, emotional coherence, credibility, and  persuasive identity of an image.  In my paintings of the  city spaces whether they are interiors like Grand Central Station or outside on the avenue I build a primary unified direction, a destination,  a unified palette, a unified quality of resolution which graduates from near to far, and a unified sense of motion as you move through the space.

My first example is a waterscape (example 2) which failed to powerfully cohere so; I used it as a substrate for example 3.  Notice how the light will continue to emanate from the upper right. Now the vortex of light is stronger and cohesively  distributed.  Figures diminish in size and edge acuity as they move into the distance.

Example 2.  Waterscape substrate under example 3.
May16,2, step one for gcs, force of sunlight, 24x24

Example 3. Grand Central Terminal Interior.
may16,2,gcs, force of sunlight, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24

I repeated this process with my next examples.  Again, I found a waterscape (example 4) that lacked sufficient unifying harmony. I  decided to use it as a substrate. This time I rotated the image to the left  in order  to exploit the sensation of light moving laterally across the image.  Example 5 represents the result, a sense of lateral speed married to a vortex of receding space. The harmonies of touch are more apparent here where the blurred lateral gestures help reinforce the feeling of speed.

Example 4. Waterscape substrate to be rotated  under example 5.
may16,2, step one for fast crossing at 42nd,

Example 5. Crossing Times Square.
may16,2,times Square, fast crossing, oil on anodized aluminum, 24x24

Example 6 begins with another substrate but, this substrate is a vinyl digital print (36×36) which I greatly altered in Photoshop. Next (example 7), I covered the vinyl print with 2 coats of polymer gloss varnish and proceeded to cover-up the digital print with oil paint.  I then followed the paint.

Example 6. Altered digital image.
may16,2, Direct Sunlight, altered photo,street walking2a,36x36

Example 7. Over-painted digital image.
may16,2,city, direct sunlight, oil and mixed media on dibond and vinyl, 3636

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Tree Mysteries

Trees are vessels for myth and metaphor in the history of painting across time and cultures.  From the biblical tree of knowledge and life to the Druidic Tannebaum later known as the Christmas tree, to the liberty tree, we find trees to be adaptable symbols.  Their symbolism often correlates with their shape for example; the priapic Cyprus is often paired with the rounded olive tree.  Da Vinci was an early observer of trees but, he used them symbolically in his paintings and configured their identity to lie between observed reality and idealized symbol. You can see an example of this in his unfinished “Adoration of the Virgin” (see example 1). The principle tree shelters Mary and Jesus and stands in as a foretelling of the coming cross as well as a reference to the trees of knowledge and life from Eden.

In the Romantic age, early in the 19th century Caspar David Friedrich used trees for their symbolic value as well but, his trees appeared more naturally observed with less reference to iconic form (see example 2). The proponents of tree as symbol continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. Andrew Wyeth continued this tradition but, applied even more rigorous observation to his expression of trees. He also let gesture and accidents of paint play bigger roles in the expression of trees as you can see in his watercolor in example 3. In example 4 he is more cautious and overtly symbolic.

Example 1. Da Vinci’s idealized tree.
april16,25,da vinci, adoration by the magi

Example 2. Caspar David Friedrich, 1824.
april16,25,german,caspar david friedrich,1825, two contemplate the moon

Example 3. Andrew Wyeth, watercolor sketch.
april16,25,wyeth,andrew, wc pine sudy

Example 4. Andrew Wyeth, exhibit watercolor.
april16,25,andrew wyeth watercolor

My own examples here use photographic substrates. The first example (example 5) uses an inverted photo of a blurred Grand Central Station Interior. I coated the image with a polymer then I overlaid the forest painting exploiting the colors in the substrate.  As a reference I looked to two black and white photos of mine. You see the palette, the forest and the photo references in example 6.

Example 5. Grand Central Station photo substrate.
april16,25, substrate for forest,fun,nyc gct,parallaxmotion

Example 6.  Demonstration board.
april16,25,demo board

What follows are three tree/forest images which merge photography and painting.  Example 7a presents the original black and white photo.  The first image to be a merger of the photo and paint can be seen in example 7. I used selected tree shapes from the underlying photo but otherwise disregarded the photo information in order to build light and a stream (not present in the photo). This same photo imagery under-lays the next example (example 8) but with greater disregard for the photo’s information. Instead I used the photo for textures.  Example 9 shows the next step with this image which introduces atmospheric solar effects cascading on to the forest floor and stream bed.

Example 7a. The black and white photo.
april16,25, black and white photo,stonebridge august4_edited-1

Example 7, photo-painting merger.
april16,25,mixed media forest,tall and thin

Example 8, alternative to example 7 with same substrate,
april16,25,mixed media forest,step one

Example 9, after atmospheric effects,
april16,25,mixed media forest, step two

My final examples 10 and 11 present a tree with a tangle of limbs. I discovered this tree on Maine’s mid-coast.  Its branches were lichen encrusted and interwoven.  There is no photo substrate with this image, just paint. Example 10 demonstrates the first step of the painting.  Example 11 shows the 2nd step of the painting. It is 24×24 in oil on white enamel anodized aluminum.

Example 10, step one, Tangled Tree.
april16,25,step one the tangled tree

Example 11, step two of Tangle Tree,
april16,25,step two,tangled tree

Let me extend two invitations to you.  First, we still have an opening for our trip to Spain, the Prado and a week of plein air painting in Toledo. The trip begins on September 12. If interested call the Springfield Museum of Art at jfontaine@springfieldmuseums.org or call Jeanne Fontaine at 413 314 6482. You can see our list of workshops on at daviddunlop.com.

Secondly, I will give a 5 day workshop at The Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Sun Valley Idaho day workshop in beautiful Sun Valley with its magnificent mountains and streams. The workshop runs from June 20 through the 24th. If you are interested in this workshop with me contact the Sun Valley Center for the Arts at SunValleycenter.org  or call Sarah Kolash at 208 726 9491 or 208 309 0477.

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Considering Flowers

Flora has found a way into our poetry, ornament and decoration for millennia. A mille fleur tapestry from 1500 illustrates how flowers were aggregated into patterns as repeated visual themes suggesting cultivated nature (example 1).  The symbol of France rests in the fleur de Lis. In poetry the rose has more symbolic history than can be listed here, ranging from motherhood, to fertility, to romantic love, to death, to fidelity, to blood, to courage and much more. We have roses at funerals, or as wreathes for victorious horses or Mother’s day or anniversaries or Valentine’s Day. Varying cultures and varying epochs each attach new symbolic qualities to the rose and other flowers. Their ephemeral delicate chromatic radiance seduces our imagination.

As the genre of still-life grabbed its niche in art history beginning in the 1500s, flowers were destined for a prominent role.  By the 17th century in Amsterdam floral still-life celebrated as a noble convention (example 2). Here were floral and vegetable displays which defied the passing of time.   By the 19th century artists such as Henri Fantin Latour had perfected an intimate, soft edged realism (example 3).   Today, artists revisit those conventions with an eye to redefining, expanding, and exploding them. Mid 20th century surrealists satirized exaggerated the form. I prepared my own digital surrealist version in example 4. Contemporary digital artist, Gordon Cheung gives us an example of the dissolution of the 17th century still life in example 5.

Example 1. Detail from 1500 tapestry.
april16,18,tapestry,southern netherlands, millefleurs with unicorn,1500

Example 2. Festoon of fruits and flowers by de Heem in 1660.
april16,18,dutch,jan davidsz de Heem,1660,festoon of fruits and flowers, oil on canvas

Example 3. Fantin Latour’s  glass vase with roses.
april16,18,Fantin Latour, Henri,roses,detail3,1884

Example 4.  Surrealist digital floral.
april16,18,surreal bouquet in rome, 13x13,13x19

Example 5. Dissolving still life, Gordon Cheung.
april16,18,contemporary,armory show,gordon cheung,archival digital print2014

Picasso returned to the flat 2 dimensional version of the still-life as he reached back into the history of frescos and tapestries to expand the definition of painting (example 6).

Example 6. Picasso painting, 1931,
apirl16,18,picasso, pitcher and fruit bowl, 1931

Invigorating floral painting with wind, sunlight, amplified color, motion, and other perceptual exaggerations has fallen to contemporary artist like Joseph Rafael with colossal watercolors (example 7). I have my own history with flowers  in paint. I found the thin tissue of the petals transmitted radiance when backlit by the sun as seen in examples 8 and 9.  And, I enjoyed toying with the wind tossed blurred forms of flowers offered in example 10.  Finally, I re-examine  the luminance of back lighting in examples 11 and 12. Example 11 presents step-one as I block in the graphic forms of my design. Example 12 presents step-two, my effort to offer sensation  of a flower offering and advancing  its light toward the viewer.

Example 7. Joseph Rafael, watercolor.

Example 8. My oil on anodized aluminum.
april16,18,flora,bright atmosphere,oil on aluminum,36x36

Example 9. My oil on aluminum.
april16,18,flora,sunlight and shadows alt, oilon anodized aluminum,36x36

Example 10. My oil,wind tossed, on anodized aluminum.
april16,18,flora,windswept, oil on anodized aluminum,36x36

Example 11. Step one, oil.
april16,18,step one rose in back light

Example 12. Step two, oil on white enamel anodized aluminum.
april16,18,step two,flora,rose in backlight, oilon anodized aluminum,36x36


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David posts a Special Guest Blog on ArtistNetwork.com

David was asked to write a Guest blog for Artists Network, and you can find the article here: Turner vs. Rembrandt | Oil Painting Study.


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Tales of Recession

Since the 1400s we have understood how to compose a landscape which appears as one might look out a window. Jan Van Eyck was an early employer of this idea (see example 1).  And Since the 1400s we have understood that objects reduce their apparent over distance.  But, we needed more time to recognize that over distance objects also lose their color saturation, their edge acuity and, they tend to blur together.  J.M.W. Turner appreciated how our vision generated a blurred unity in the distance (see example 2). By the late 20th century other criteria defining the relationship between near and far had been developed.  Almost 200 years of photography experiments as well as studies in perception and memory all contributed to the expanding criteria.

Vija Celmins, working in drypoint on small plates explored how pattern dissipated over space and, how we project a feeling of motion on to organized patterns (see example 3).  Celmins’ work enjoys  global  recognition.  Observe how Celmins’ edges and shapes subtly pitch in choruses of quiet motion which seem to find more stillness in the distance. Observe the shift of diminishing value intensities over the distance.

Example 1, Jan Van Eyck, drawing with silverpoint on panel.
march16,28,jan van eyck, unfinished silverpoint on panel, 1430

Example 2.  J.M.W Turner, a later work from around 1840.
march16,28,Turner, JMW, Thames above waterloo bridge,1835 to 40,oil on canvas

Example 3. Vija Celmins, 2nd state drypoint.
march16,28,contemporary,vija celmins, drypoint, ocean, 2nd state almost,

In the later 19th century Eugene Boudin uses progressively thinner horizontal bands to trigger a feeling of graduated space.  Notice his foreground beach area is thicker than the band of people which is thicker than the band of water (see example 4).

Example 4. Eugene Boudin, Beach.
march16,28,boudin,eugene, fulll view of beach near honfleur

About the same period (1872) J. F. Kensett applies a greatly exaggerated sense of scale to his image to create a feeling of space. The trees on the horizon are merely a pale thin horizontal shape. I will later borrow this idea. His textured information in the rocks and flora is pronounced versus the texture of the distant horizon information (example 5).

Example 5. J.F. Kensett at Contentment Island.
march16,28,Contenment Island, J F Kensett,

When I borrow historic distance inducing criteria and subtle motion/design principles as described above I discover how plastic my subject matter can be.  I find I can arrange and rearrange shapes without compromising the feeling of distance, the feeling of near/far.  I also see how my shape arrangements can be re-contoured and textured to suggest volume and a meandering sense of motion. My choice of surface and paint (brushed silver anodized aluminum and translucent pigments) further affect the image’s reflectance and the suggestion of motion.

Example 6.  Whispers of Light, oil, 24×24.
march16,28,shorelines,Whispers of Light, oilon brushed silver anodized aluminum,24x24

Example 7. Tide Matters, oil, 24×24.
march16,28,shorelines,Tide Matters, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum, 24x24

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City Lights, City Life

By the Mid 15th Century any artist who failed to demonstrate competence with the new illusion-geometry of linear perspective found themselves without commissions.  In 1450 the middle aged and popular Piero Della Francesco relied on linear perspective to build persuasive urban contexts for his narratives.  He was a pioneer with Masaccio using this tool.  Previously, others had tried to build cityscapes but without the use of linear perspective their cities were unconvincing.  Busy with commissions requiring architecture constructed from linear perspective, Pinturicchio enjoyed success in the last half of the 1400s (see example from 1486).  The system enjoyed even more persuasive effects in the 17th through 19th centuries as artists from Vermeer to Canaletto used tools like the Camera Obscura to support their linear perspective designs.

An 18th century contemporary of Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, relied on linear perspective as he built his scenes celebrating Venetian life.  First he sketched in smaller scale drawings then, he worked them into larger works.  Example 2 provides us with his image of the Venetian piazza before the Scuola di San Marco with the Pope giving a blessing.  Elaborate staging was built before the Scuola for the event.  A century later John Singer Sargent (as well as many other artists from London and Paris) arrived to apply a more relaxed and spontaneous response to the same bridge and Piazza. Compare the watercolor of Sargent’s (example 3) with Guardi.  Both paint the city but with different methods and intentions.

Example 1. Pinturicchio, 1486.
march16,14,funeral of san bernardino,Pintoricchio,late 1486

Example 2. Francesco Guardi  paints the Scuola di San Marco.
AMO98729 Pope Pius VI Blessing the Multitude on the Campo SS. Giovanni and Paolo, 18th century (oil on canvas) by Guardi, Francesco (1712-93); 64x81 cm; Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK; (add.info.: Pope Pius VI, Giovanni Angelo Braschi (1717-99);); Italian, out of copyright

Example 3. John Singer Sargent paints the Scuola di San Marco.
IMA208218 Rio dei Mendicanti, Venice, c.1899 (w/c on paper) by Sargent, John Singer (1856-1925); 37.1x52 cm; Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA; (add.info.: Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo; Scuola Grande di San Marco;); Mary B. Milliken Fund; PERMISSION REQUIRED FOR NON EDITORIAL USAGE; American, out of copyright PLEASE NOTE: The Bridgeman Art Library works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.

Following the rich history of cityscapes that explored variations of the Italian piazza/plaza, my next examples experiment with New York City and its dynamic sense of movement. Its feeling of motion anchors to the organizing principles of linear perspective.  Example 4 presents pedestrians crossing into the sunlight as it generates coronas and long shadows.  One of those figures was modeled by my wife, Rebecca.

The painting refers to art of the early 15th century when Leon Alberti describes the principles of linear perspective in Della Pittura in Florence, Italy.  Immediately artists like Raphael and Pinturicchio apply these principles to painting piazzas with convincing depth.  Located in a contemporary city crosswalk, pedestrians walk into the light. Their shadows create vectors pulling us into a luminous distance.  The attraction to light is universal in diurnal creatures like us.  It is a foundation of our theology and art across time and cultures.

Example 4.  Sunlight On Madison, 24×36.
march16,14,city, Madison Cross Walk, oil on anodized aluminum,24x36

The next examples (examples 5 and 6) rely more heavily on linear perspective for structuring the feeling of space as the architectural information moves further toward abstraction.

Example 5.  Crossing Midtown, 36×36 oil on linen.
march16,14,city, race through midtown, oil on linen,36x36

Example 6, Race Across Town, 30×30 on aluminum.
march16,14,city,race across town, oil on aluminum,30x30


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Shake It, Make It Move

We recognize the surface of water not only for its translucence or reflective properties but additionally because, it moves.  Its reflections move.  Movement further  distorts  the forms of subsurface material. The degree of  motion is inferred through  reflections.  If we disturb (shake) the surface we discover a field in motion.  Coherent  motion also tells we are looking at water.

Translucence has a role in triggering our brain to think “water”.   Clear or obscured subsurface material depends most upon the angle of the viewer.   The more oblique the angle the greater the appearance of the reflection.  The more acute the angle of view then we get more translucence.  However, even subtle motion can obscure the sense of translucent clarity.

Example 1 is a digital photo which has been doctored in Photoshop.  The undulating reflections were staged by me as I gently moved the water to get the reeds to suggest a dancing motion. Example two is the same image (both 36×36 on vinyl) after I have layered transparent and opaque layers of oil paint onto it. Observe that I  added more illusory layers to the foreground.  Additional horizontal shadowy shapes were added to increase the sense of surface motion.  I deepened the blue color to be able to excise these lighter, swimming shapes.  Before adding the oil to the vinyl digital print I gave the surface two coats of a polymer gloss varnish.  This was generously applied by mopping with paper towels.

Example 1.  Adjusted digital print.
feb16,29,photography, digital print,tods point10,36x36

Example 2. Digital print after oil paint application.
Feb16,29,mixed media, shorelines in primaries, archival digital print and oil, 36x36

Shaking the surface can evoke motion in territories other than water. The next two examples demonstrate how overlapping related surfaces can suggest movement.  Both examples 3 and 4 use the same root image of rails. This root image is overlaid with different paintings designed to augment the feeling of motion within the image.  Each example illustrates how layered images can be shaken into evoking motion.  Both images illustrate how paint and photography can merge to generate more movement.  These images are collaborative works with Max Dunlop who provided the original track images.

Example 3.  Rails and Vortex, Mixed media print.
feb16,29, digital print, hybrid, rails,nyc elevated2abcd36x36

Example 4.  Rails and Vortex II, Mixed media print.
feb16,29,nyc, street perspective, oil on aluminum, 48x48, collaboration of David Dunlop and Max Dunlop2cde36x36

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