Come Away From The Window

In the 1436 Alberti described how linear perspective could turn paintings into views out a window. Within a hundred years the novelty of  persuasive linear perspective in developing deep space became insufficient for artists.  Da Vinci observed atmospheric perspective, curvilinear perspective, diminishing edge acuity over distance, color perspective, the effects of blurred edges which gave the viewer a truer feeling of  volume  to objects. He was not alone.  Later artists like Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, and Peter Paul Rubens all wanted a more dynamic feeling of space than a linear perspective arrangement of space out a window.

But the window was not a concept to be pitched away. These artists continued to include it in their work but, they wanted more.  They had seen the bas relief sculptures on Roman sarcophagi and on Trajan’s Column. Those figures moved forward toward the viewer while the space behind retreated. They had seen Ghiberti’s baptistry doors in Florence from 1425 (example 1). They saw how his bronze panels created space that receded in the distance with linear perspective and also, how he created figures that moved  toward the viewer like the Roman relief sculptures. You see how they even extend beyond their frame.  Artists wanted to do this in paint.

example 1. Ghiberti’s Door Panel.oct14,20,ghiberti, domenichino, 1425, east baptistry doors, florence_edited-2

Carracci paints the “Penitent Magdalen In The Landscape” on copper in 1598 (example 2). He preserves the idea of distant space framed by trees (the window) and then he places the dubiously penitent Magdalen almost in our laps.  Rubens will do the same with his 1606 painting of St. Gregory on the steps. Behind Gregory and crew is an arched window with a distant landscape. Notice that Gregory’s hand is severely foreshortened as it reaches out of the picture and comes toward the viewer as do the heel and  elbow of the armored figure ascending the steps (example 3).

example 2. Carracci’s Magdalen.oct14,20,carracci, annibale, 1598, penitent magdalen_edited-1

example 3. Rubens’s St. Gregory.oct14,20,rubens,1606

I too have been thinking about the separation of distant space in a picture from  forward space,  the space that comes to the viewer. I thought about the forward space sliding under the viewer’s feet. My first example is a collaborative work with the artist Max Dunlop. The geometry, contrasting colors and contrasting values all collude to both push space  back toward the light and thrust space forward. Observe the color shift from forward cool blues toward  receding reds, oranges and yellow whites.  This inverse of recessive color theory helps push the two areas apart (example 4).

example 4. Collaborative painting.oct14,20,max and davidcollaboration, City Light, oil on aluminum,48x48_edited-1

The next example progresses through three steps.  After laying in basic transparent colors in front and opaque lights in back (example 5,step 1) I continue to explore how to make the space stretch backward and forward with brushwork and a squeegee.  I construct a matrix of over-lapping receding and advancing shapes (example 6, step 2).  In example 7, step 3, I borrow the atmospheric perspective tools of Da Vinci and, I use the obfuscating properties of reflection to layer and develop the  space in the foreground.  I place larger, sharper  edges on objects in the foreground and then again in the distant background. They are separated by a  blurred transitional middle ground. This is an  unorthodox solution. Usually edge acuity diminishes over distance.  In this way I have created two semi-autonomous areas, near and far.

example 5. step 1.oct14,20,step1, autumn in devils den

example 6. step 2.oct14,20,step2,autumn in devils den

example 7. step 3.oct14,20,step3,water,autumn in devils  den, oi on brushed silver anodized aluminum,30x30_edited-1

My last example (example 8) begins with a bright opaque distance that is clearly separate from the more color saturated, textured, enumerated and reflective foreground.  In the language of photographers, “The background has been deliberately blown out”.  There is opaque brightness  in the distance and intimate, proximate, translucence in the foreground.

example 8. Transparent Autumn, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,48×48.oct14,20,transparent autumn,oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,48x48

Again, I want to invite you to Jerry’s Artarama’s Art of The Carolinas where I am teaching two workshops, one on Saturday, November 15 on new materials and one on Sunday, November 16 on painting city scapes. Contact Jerry’s 800-827-8478 ext 156 or, artofthecarolinas.com. I  also have a Painting Skies one day workshop at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. on Saturday November 8. For the skies workshop call 203 966 6668 ext 2.

 

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Perspective Like A Rubber Band

In any single glance lots of photons touch our eyes but our brain makes sense out of only  relatively few of them. How we make sense; how we make our guesses is the question for artists. Tools like linear perspective  give us a way to suggest believable or sensible space.  Because we believe in the effects linear perspective we can distort those effects and sustain our viewer’s willingness to make guesses.  Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn are two artists who stretched the credibility of linear perspective and  stretched believable space in painting.

Today Photoshop and camera technology allow us to elasticize forms and principles like linear perspective ever further as we continue to stretch our ability to find new definitions for painting, particularly landscape painting. Because artists like Diebenkorn and Thiebaud were so conversant with the vocabulary of linear perspective they were able to enjoy its manipulation. My first example is from 1959 by Richard Diebenkorn. He has take color exaggeration, spacial simplification, and perspective foreshortening to greater abstract lengths than others. He is still following a tradition of exaggeration and distortion. We can see this in Van Gogh’s landscapes. 25 years later Wayne Thiebaud continues mutating linear perspective and foreshortening as you see in example 2.

example 1. Diebenkorn’s.
oct,14,18,diebenkorn,richard,1959 landscape_edited-1

example 2. Thiebaud’s.
oct14,18,thiebaud,wayne,agriculture_edited-1

I take their examples and try exaggerating first through photography then paint. I visited a saltwater marshland in Connecticut,  Barn Island.  I returned to my computer and began to overlay and stack  imagery I found there to see if new ideas might emerge. I  recognized the parallels to Thiebaud and Diebenkorn.  Examples 1, 2 and 3 present the initial photographs. Example 4 presents the stacked and layered combination of some of those photographs. This combined image is confusing but generative of new ideas.

example 3. undistorted marshland photo before horizontal compression.
oct14,18,barn island5_edited-2

example 4. marshland photo 2.
oct14,18,barn island1_edited-4

example 5. marshland photo 3
.oct14,18,barn island4a_edited-1

Example  6. stacked merger of two photos.
oct14,18,barn island11_edited-2

Next I have three examples of how I began to merge the photographic ideas with paintings. In each example I added the distant tidal pools from example 5 to the top of a foreground of examples 1 and 2. (resulting in examples 7 and 8). Our brain’s penchant for uniting and explaining disparate visions allows us to see  elastic but, imaginatively plausible pictures. Diebenkorn’s and Thiebaud’s precedents have expanded our sense of plausibility for exaggerated for paintings.

example 7. marshland painting1.
oct14,18,barn island marshland2

example 8. marshland painting 2.
oct14,18,barn islandmarxhland1, oil on aluminum18x18

Finally, elasticity in my interpretation of the marshland continues in both paint and photoshop. Example 9 presents the same photo information but, seriously reconfigured and mutated courtesy of Photoshop. This completely abstracted example again offers new potentialities for painting which I intend to persue.

example 9. Further abstraction of marshland.
oct14,18,abstracting barn island, photo

Again, let me extend my invitation to you to come to my next lecture at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Connecticut at 4:30 PM on Sunday Oct 19, 2014. Go to silvermineart.org or call 203 966 6668 ext 2 for more information.

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Inside Out

Since Ancient Antiquity artists have used the window as a device to frame, deepen, and design their pictures. The window constrains our view. We don’t scan; we only take in the single point perspective of a the window’s small vista. This is how painting windows began. They were a small porthole onto a larger space. They presented the idea of  limitless external space vs. the confined space of the interior room.  The window took the form of the Roman arch as well as squares and triangles. Da Vinci recognized the value of a window as you see here in his Madonna with a carnation (example 1). The Windows are where we relax our attention and imagine the world beyond.  Later the window would eventually take over the picture.

example 1. Da Vinci’s Madonna with Carnation sept14,6,da vinci, carnation madonna 1490_edited-1

Countless artists experimented with the role of the window. It  framed the sitter in portraits and promised adventure, harvest, serenity, abundance, religious experience, and it demonstrated authority and  property ownership. Turner explored other forms of the window. He used Porticos, Colonnades, and ruins as framing windows for his divided worlds of inside/outside. In example 2 is a watercolor sketch in which Turner uses an arch in Venice as a window onto a sunlit external world.  In the mid 20th century Diebenkorn was thoroughly aware of the window theme. He had admired Cezanne’s, Picasso’s, Braque’s, Bonnard’s and Matisse’s window paintings. Like his mentors his windows followed the format of modern residential  architecture of a square vs. an arch (example 3).

example 2. Turner’s watercolor sept14,6,turner, venice,view from atrium on the piazza, wc, brown paper, 1833_edited-2

example 3. Diebenkorn’s Window sept14,6,Diebenkorn,Window,1967_edited-4

You can use the framing power of the window and infer a window structure in  a landscape. In example 4   I used the arched window form  but, subtly. Trees act as a framing archway creating a window within the window of the picture.

example 4. Landscape with arch window insinuated sept14,6,stonebridge October Light, oil on aluminum,18x18_edited-1

Windows were historically set deep within the picture as a square of  light surrounded by a larger dark square (the traditional interior) .  In example 5 I have a Times Square painting with a series of squares within squares (see upper left quadrant of  the painting).

example 5. Times Square, oil sept14,6,city, Crossing Sunlight, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

Continuing with the modernist move toward reduction and abstraction, I began work on two window images. These examples represent early stages for these works. I aim to sustain the idea of  a squared window.  I also aim to show the interconnection between interior and exterior as  more fluid and blurred  as I  blend  inside and outside space  ( examples 6 and 7).

example 6, living room window sept14,6, living room window, oil

example 7. porch window sept14,6,October window, oil

I invite you to join me for my lecture on “Art and Science” at 4:30 PM on Sunday, October 19, 2014 , $12. at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. Contact 203 966 6668 ext 2 or Silvermineart.org for more information. I also invite you to join me in November 15th and 16th for two different workshops at  Art of The Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.   First is  “the New Merger, Painting and Photo Collage” and second  is ” Paint the City with new Techniques and Materials”. Register for the workshops at www.ArtoftheCarolinas.com or call 800 827 8478 ext 156.

 

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Romantic Notes Part II

Romanticism revealed its true colors when it was most operatic. Painters enjoyed turning even their small works into operatic stage sets. The German poet Schiller had written a poem about a solitary walk in nature. Friedrich used this theme to give us an emblematic romantic painting (example 1). Delacroix would borrow the compositional form of Friedrich’s stacked triangles in his later works.  Delacroix’s difference was in his coloring and gestures (example 2).  Friedrich pursued Romantic narrative themes but, Delacroix  added liberated color and gesture for his generation.  His notes on color and gesture would later incubate Impressionism.

When my collaborating partner Max Dunlop and I worked on a recent series we began  with an Alpine image reminiscent of Friedrich’s Alpine painting.  Max and His Munich raised wife, Natalie,(also a painter) had hiked through Austria’s Alps discovering roots of Romanticism with their cameras. Max and I exaggerated the verticality of the trees, the road and the mountains. Our foreground would work like Delacroix’s with a sharper focus than the blurred background (example 3).

example 1. Caspar David Friedrich sept14,29,caspar david friedrich, shillers poetic inspiration, the walk

example 2. Eugene Delacroix sept14,29,delacroix, eugene

example 3. Collaborative painting by Max and David sept14,29collaboration,max and david dunlop,Austrian Alps

I continued to pursue the theme of  the romantic mountain with a misty distance borrowing images from photos  along Ireland’s Ring of Kerry. Again, You can see how I  used the triangular rock/mountain forms and set them against a misty distance. The sharper the foreground the greater the feeling of contrast  and space against the blurred distance. See examples 4 and 5. Both are painted in oil on brushed gold anodized aluminum. Each  are 24×24″.

example 4. Atlantic Mist painting 1sept14,29,atlantic mystery 2

example 5. Atlantic Mist painting 2 sept14,29,atlantic mystery 1, oil on brushed gold anodized aluminum,24x24

At the time, Delacroix had begun to uniquely exaggerate complementary color effects because, he had read and interviewed Michel Chevreul on his seminal work on simultaneous and successive contrast which had been published in France in 1839.  He made his own observations on these  contrast principles while painting in North Africa (Tangiers).  When his color ideas were coupled to his bravura gestures the effect confounded French Academicians. They were shocked by this new freedom.

In consideration of autumn, I recently wandered through meadows snapping patches  and fields of wild flora. Returning to my studio I considered the stacked triangle compositions of Friedrich and Delacroix. I also considered the loose and free gestures of Delacroix as well as his complementary color effects.  I began to build a painting with three horizontal bands, each rising in a soft triangle ( example 6). I next superimposed patches of brighter color (white and blue-lavender). Their aggregated shapes also assumed a soft, rising triangular form ( example 7).   I then introduced a dense flurry of gestures using  6″ and 8″ squeegees. The squeegee gestures were both suggestive of the chaos of a web of flora as well as clear evidence of the gestural touch of the human hand as Delacroix had done with his brushes (example 8.)

example 6, step one sept14,29autumn meadow step1

example 7. step two sept14,29autumn meadow step2

example 8. step three sept14,29autumn meadow step 3

Finally, I again tried Delacroix’s sharp focus gestures against a blurred focus distance with a horizontal format. In the previous example #8 I used opaque whites because, I was working on a brushed gold anodized aluminum surface.  In this last example I did not add white to the foreground, I just deleted color with my squeegee which revealed the white enameled anodized aluminum surface.

example 9. horizontal meadow sept14,29,randalls farm autumn,12x18

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Romantic Notes

Early in the 1800s artists, writers, musicians responded to a new theme, Romanticism. Here was an opportunity for exaggeration filtered through a personal point of view. Here was a chance to be theatrical using the idea of one perceiving mind, vulnerable and alone before awesome nature. The question for these artists was how to contrast the power and expanse of nature against the solitary artist. Early in the century Caspar David Friedrich determined to show this Romantic idea in paintings that today feel like  backdrops for melodramatic stage sets. But, he also discovered the beauty of solitude as an inspired condition when set in a  vast nature natural setting.

Friedrich maintained the conventions of  the historical landscape form especially, as he found it in Dutch landscape Painters of the 1600s.  He  amplified the experience. This would be the course for Romanticism for the next century through expressionism.

Friedrich appears too literal when compared to our contemporary preference for understatement, irony and cynicism.  But his romantic spirit survives. It survives most obviously in our pop culture’s movies and music. It also survives more subtly in our paintings. Example 1 is  Friedrich’s 1832 landscape. Note the solitary, small boat tucked at the rear the river’s meanderings.  The palette is not jubilant. The marks are carefully and soberly plotted but, the feeling of space is vast and liberating. Example 2 is another of Friedrich’s. Here is a solitary monk below an immense sky. The year is 1809. If we leapfrog ahead 100 years we see the contemporary painter Gayle Stott Lowry’s handsome work which resides in the North Carolina Museum of Art ( example 3).  I think her inspiration  came from a visit to Ireland’s Ring of Kerry.  I recently found the same Romantic landscape there. And, I found  that Friedrich’s landscape forms as well as his themes were useful to organize this setting.( photo in examples 4 and 5).

example 1. Caspar David Friedrich 1832sept14,22,friedrich, caspar david_edited-1

example 2. Friedrich 1809,sept22,14,friedrich,caspar david, 1830s_edited-1

example 3. Gayle Stott Lowry 2006sept22,14,contemporary, gayle stott lowry, 2006, oil and wax_edited-1

example 4. Ring of Kerry photo 1sept22,14,kerry penisula,ptg, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24

example 5. Ring of Kerry photo 2sept22,14, kerry penisula, low tide

This Romantic Irish location at the edge of Europe urged me to make my reply to Friedrich and Lowry. The painting was based from the photo in example 4, as you can see. The composition has been used by many including Friedrich and Lowry with the left and right wings of the painting gently inclining asymmetrically toward the center. I exaggerated the distance by applying a diffused opacity over the distant area and, applying more specificity to the edges of information in the foreground. The foreground also is darkened  with higher contrasts than the distance. Example 6 represents my first step in the painting. Example 9 represents the painting as it now appears, a work on 3mm anodized aluminum, 24×24.

The compositions as well as the Romanticism of  Friedrich’s landscapes reach subliminally across time and geography. Example 10 is a work by artist Janine Robertson who painted with me recently in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

example 6. step onesept22,14,kerry penisula, ptg, step 1_edited-1

example 7. step twosept22,14,Atlantic Mist, revised, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-2

example 8. painting from White Mountains by Janine Robertson, a 5 x7″ work on copper.sept22,14,janine robertson, oil on copper, Crawford notch

Romanticism spread its influence across the 19th century and across the continents. The idea of the enchanted forest which descended from ancient Druidic and Celtic cultures enjoyed a revival in Romantic 19th century landscapes from the Hudson River painters to the Barbizon tonalists. George Inness used theatrical romantic ideas in his paintings.  Here again was a solitary figure at the edge of a dark woodland but, hope is sustained by the reflected sunlight in both the background and highlighted tree trunks ( example11). The composition is Claudian but, Inness has begun to distill the image into an atmosphere, a poetic and melancholy atmosphere of  contrasted darks and lights .

In the 20th century I can revisit the “Into the Woods” experience with my work (example 12) which sustains Inness’s effort  at evocation of enchanted nature through distillation and simplification.  There is just shadow in the darkness. We supply the idea of  details. Example 13 is the photo I used to begin my painting.  Example 14 was a pre-existing painting which I painted over to make the painting you see in example 12.  Notice how I incorporated aspects of the earlier painting and aspects of the photo into the new work.

example 11. George Inness paintingsept22,14,george inness, forest , n c mus of art_edited-1

example 12. “Into the Woods”, current version of my paintingsept22,14,Afternoon Mystery,formerly barn island, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

example 13. Original photographsept22,14,Into the woods, oil on anodized aluminum, 24x24

example 14. Original painting which was over-paintedsept14,22,oil on anodized aluminum, step one,Barn Island_edited-1

By the 1890′s artists like George Inness were dramatically reducing the quantity of narrative and detail in their work. This distillation process would prove to be a method of modernism and abstraction in  the coming 20th century.  Earlier Corot had tried simplification in the mid 1800′s.  Corot’s  ideas and compositions would be borrowed  and modified by others like Inness, just as Corot had done. Example 15 shows a landscape of Corot’s with a copse of trees on the right and a shallow body of water in the foreground. Example 16 shows how Inness aggregates the trees into a single mass on the right, removes the litter and the boat, and returns the  water to the foreground. The entire image is deliberately obscured to heighten our feeling of atmosphere, unity, and luminosity.

example 15. Corot’s boat, pond and meadowsept22,14,corot, row boat_edited-2

example 16. Inness’ pond & meadow painting.sept22,14,Inness_edited-2

While Inness had pursued simplification through an ambiguous atmosphere others like  John H. Twachtman would do the same but, they would also try simplification through palette and design. This idea had come to Europe through Japanese woodblock artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige.  While in France and testing the new ideas of pictorial simplification Twachtman also tried the simplified shapes of the Japanese artists. A result of this work can be seen in example 17.  Artists like me would later (a century later) find inspiration in Twachtman’s synthesis of Japanese and Romantic Impressionist ideas.  I enjoyed his harmony of a simpler softer palette. I enjoyed the simplification of background information into a luminous amalgamated mass.  And, I enjoyed discovering sharp edges hovering before that softer background.  In fact, they set off  the blurred background.  In examples 18 and 19 I borrow the Romantic ideas of deep and unpopulated space as well as the subject and brush vocabulary of Twachtman.

example 17. Painting by John Twachtman, sept22,14,Twachtman Exhibition_edited-1

example 18. painting by me,24×24sept22,14,Luminous Translucence, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

example 19. painting by me, 24×24sept22,14,Randalls Pond East, oil on anodized brushed silver aluminum,24x24_edited-1

 

 

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Co-Conspirators

Collaboration presents challenges to pride, identity and self-scrutiny. Collaboration reveals  our habits, predilections, taste preferences, and personal limitations.  Confronted with a process which denies the illusion of personal control we open to discoveries which are inaccessible  when we work alone.

My recent collaborator was artist, Max Dunlop. We are practiced at collaboration but, we still find surrendering to the work and will of another simultaneously frustrates and liberates our imagination.

As I work on a painting which I know I will surrender to another artist to complete I become liberated to experiment without regard to a final product’s purpose and effects.   I am free to swim in any direction. As I receive a work from Max which already has a direction, an identity, and ambition I try to discover this new work and interact with it rather than superimpose my will on his piece. I try to follow this gift of a new direction, of a different point of view.  I am free to interact with qualities which are not mine.  This inherited image offers me a chance to expand, to add to my vocabulary.  Here is a perceptual challenge.  Can I work with what’s in front of me instead of what I wanted  or expected?  Can I  invest my imagination in a work which is out of my scope but, accessible to my imagination and touch. Can I carry it further?

In collaboration I have found two treasures. One is the unencumbered beginning with its freedom to go anywhere because, I am not responsible for the conclusion. I cannot and will not finish it. I must let it go to another artist. The second is the gift is discovering another point of view, another quality of touch, another vision.  In the second case I must react rather than freely generate. Reacting demands looking, compassion, attention, contemplation if the collaboration is to proceed as the a unity of two rather than the triumph of one.

Below are examples illustrating the process of our most recent collaborations. They include imagery from my recent trip to Ireland.  Max’s images include images from his neighborhood (Ridgewood/Bushwick), industrial sections  of Queens, New York , and Austria.

The examples are presented in sets of two. Each set first shows the work as it began just as it was passed from the originating artist to the finishing artist (step one of each collaboration). The second image in each set presents the final artist’s efforts ( step two of each collaboration).

Example 1. Beginning by Max, Dingle Peninsula,24×24dingle Peninsula, max dunlop begins, 24x24

Example 2. Step 2,same painting, by Me, Dingle Peninsula,24×24Dingle Peninsula, david dunlop finish, max and david,24x24_edited-2

Example 2. Beginning by David, Queens Industrial,24×24queens industrial, david dunlop begins, 24x24

Example 2. Step 2,same painting,Finish by Max,Queens Industrialqueens industrial,max dunlop finishes, max and david,2424

Example 3.Beginning by Max,Bushwick Underpass,24×24bushwick underpass, max begins,24x24

Example 3.step 2(same Painting),finish by David,Bushwick Underpassbushwick underpass, david finishes, max and david 24x24

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The Interpretation of Streams

If vision is interpretive rather than absolute then any tool that can suggest an interpretation, no matter how vague, how blurred, or how ambiguous will be a persuasive tool.  Fingers have been a fundamental part of our tool set since we made our first image on a cave’s wall.  Fingers leave their trace, the evidence of fingers in the paint.  We have always relished a free and expressive gesture and, no tool is more immediately and  finely tuned than our fingers for making nuanced gestures.

Fingers can of course guide and inhabit all kinds of extensions such as rags, brushes, knives.  They can tickle a trail in paint with a single hair as subtly as water-spider skating on a pond.  What follows are illustrations of how we employ fingers directly and with some technical extensions.  Here are illustrations of how we use are fingers to conjure an interpretation (an image) while sustaining and not hiding the evidence of  the fingers at work.

We can’t interpret without previous experience, without a mental preset.  In art that experience comes from our own encounters with art history. They guide us as we make new art whether we realize this or not.  There is more freedom and creativity if we do realize the sources of our experience which guide our visual interpretations, our interpretations of everything  we encounter. Here are a couple of examples. Example 1 presents an Andrew Wyeth egg tempera painting of conifers reflected in a pool with an undulating shoreline. As I scouted painting locations in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this weekend I snapped this image ( example 2 ).  I realized I had discovered a visual idea (the Wyeth) I knew before but,  was now reconfigured in my new view.  I further recognized another image lay dormant in my photo, a painting by Gustav Klimt (example 3). You can see how these were  sources for my photograph.

example 1. Andrew Wyeth, egg tempera. aug14,19,Andrew Wyeth cove in egg tempera

example 2. my photo.aug14,19,franconia notch,profile lake_edited-1

example 3. Gustave Klimt, 1899.aug14,19,klimt, gustav, morning by the pond, 1899_edited-2

Wandering along clear White Mountain streams I found other influences for my camera and later paintings. Along a rocky stream I  was reminded of  other paintings which awakened my  imagination, my desire to re-interpret. Example 4 shows a stream painting from 1810 by Simon Denis.  My step by step examples will take you through my experience of re-interpretation as stimulated by my encounter with a mountain stream. Example 5  presents step one  as I lay in ultramarine blue on brushed gold anodized aluminum.  Even in this vague and blurred image I see I can interpret the sensation of  stream with a dark forest alongside. Example 6 presents step two. Here I use Gamboge yellow for a warm and shallow foreground. I blend it into the ultramarine blue in the back. Example 7 reveals my use of finger painting with paper towels. Example 8 demonstrates a scene which is less accessible to multiple-interpretive viewing. There is less ambiguity. I now think examples 6 and 7 were more evocative, more capable of varied and sustained interpretations.

example 4. painting by Simon Denis,1810.aug14,19,simon Denis, oil sketch, 1810

example 5. Step one, the lay-in.aug14,19,step one, the stream

example 6. step two, introducing yellow.aug14,19,steptwo,nh stream

example 7. step three, initial finger and towel work.aug14,19,step three,painting,nh stream

example 8. step four, blurred opaque paint with brushwork.aug14,19,step four,painting,nh stream

Let me further demonstrate the suggestive power of finger painting. Here in two steps ( examples 9 and 10) I want to  illustrate the gestural pleasure and the suggestive  potency of loose finger painting. Example 10′s trees and foliage were almost completely painted with bare fingers and, with a paper towel wrapped around fingers.  The range of  variety in the marks is broad because, our fingertip touch offers great variety. We exhibit more dexterity and variety with our fingers because,  our experience with them is the greatest of all the tools at our disposal.

example 9. The trees lay-in with yellow and azure blue.aug14,19,step one,the trees

example 10. After the finger painting.aug14,19,steptwo the trees,

 

 

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Make It Feel Fast, Make It Feel Slow

Paintings like songs can slow time or speed it up. The viewer can read a painting like a poem, chasing the rapid urgency of a rhythm or in contrast, languidly reflecting upon a mist of ambiguity.  Paintings evoke a sense of time like music, just as  tight focus, sharp  up-tempos, and bright notes suggest a fast musical experience or,  a  sluggish tempo, in a minor key  with soft and darker notes suggests a more pensive and slower experience. Subject matter, color choices, modifications to linear and aerial perspective, the beholder’s point of view and  blurred edges can all contribute a sense of the high speed or slow pace in a painting.

Let’s begin with the fast painting. Example 1 uses a cityscape because, we are familiar with a hurried experience with this subject.  The beholder’s could be traveling by car, especially since I placed the beholder in the center of the street.  Cities are organized more geometrically than forests or lakes. Single or two point perspectives are well suited to recreating an urban illusion.  I Selected a single vanishing point and direct the parallel geometry of the street, buildings, traffic and overpass directly toward it.  The shared vanishing point uninterrupted by a set of curves and turns delivers the viewer speedily to infinity. The beholder can find this rapid experience of the single point perspective to be too quick and therefore,  might exit the painting unless another directed experience presents itself to divert and sustain their attention.  You see in both of my City paintings (see example 2) I offer two destinations as a way of sustaining the viewer’s attention.  Now, the beholder can experience speed without quickly wanting to exit the painting.  Choices always slow down our attention.  A choice of two decisions are pondered. One does not.

example 1. City, Decision, oil on pvc panel,48×48 aug14,11,City Decision,oil on pvc panel,48x48_edited-3

example 2. City, Fast On Broadway, oil on pvc panel, 48×48 aug14,11,fast broadway,oil on pvc,48x48

Both examples also use high value contrasts, bright complementary color contrasts, an application of aerial perspective (applied atmosphere),  sharp verticals contrasting against the horizon and ground plane, and an abundance of hard edges to reinforce a sense of speed.

In contrast, example 3 demonstrates a meandering soft-focus, dark shape slowly and loosely wending its way across the pond’s surface toward a diffuse and luminous background. There is no central vanishing point. The color harmony is analogous  ( blues and greens) . The equiluminance of the background coloring creates a field of close light values with blurring edges. The components of  background are not easily  situated in the visual cortex which creates an uncertainty and slows the beholder’s participation in the painting. Equiluminance thwarts our effort to locate objects within areas.  The subject is timeless and appears to be experienced from a static point of view. The components of the picture  appear to be  capable of  only subtle motion. There is light and temperature but, little to no breeze.

example 3. Randall’s Pond Variations, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,48×48 aug14,11,Water,Randalls Pond,Variations, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,48x48_edited-3

 

 

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Into The Woods, Deep Woods

Artists look at the same material and create different visions. Artists accompanying me in the Catskills gave different visions but shared similar design structures. We  share design forms just as we share the letters of the alphabet,  similar vocabularies,  and even similar story forms. But our personal stories (paintings) reveal our unique use of that alphabet, vocabulary and story form.

Paul Gala, Kathryn Poch, and Janine Robertson were three of 21 artists joining me in the Catskills. Their works reveal  shared design forms coupled to personal invention. Let’s begin with Paul (examples 1 and 2).  Working within a square format Paul  organizes his plein air experience by relying on the triangle as a foundation.  His palette appears warm because of his use of transparent red oxide (iron oxide). Observe in both examples Paul inclines the outlying tree forms into an off-center triangle. With his waterfall he guides us back and up the steps of the falls.  The falls also assume a triangular shape.  In his woodland painting Paul takes us back through a series of triangles within triangles each varied in size, inclination, and description of edges.

example 1. Paul Gala, Falls, oil. aug14,4,paul gala,Falls, oil

example 2. Paul Gala, Woodland Trail, oil.aug14,4,Paul Gala,Woodland trail, oil on anodized aluminum maybe

Janine Robertson (examples 3, 3a, and 4) stacks a triangle of clouds over an echoing triangle shape of trees  which can be seen on the right side of the meadow. She also laterally runs triangles in opposition to one another which you see diagrammed in example 3a. In Janine’s vertical composition she relies on a serpentine trail of spotted lights within a darkened foreground. Notice Janine uses the dark foreground as an effective threshold device to encourage the viewer to move back toward the light.  We step over the dark threshold to get to the light. The serpentine design is simplyl a stack of two opposing triangles, a softened letter “Z” or “S”.  Janine gives us an example of a fundamental application of the zig zag  to invite the viewer in.

example 3. Janine Robertson, sky and meadow, oil on metal.aug14,4,Janine's Meadow,oil on aluminum,

example 3. diagram of triangles  aug14,4,Janine's Meadow,oil on aluminum,_edited-2

example 4. Janine Robertson, Meandering Stream, oil on copper.aug14,4,janines stream,oil on copper

All three of these artists used curving or bending triangles to give them more dynamic forms with a greater suggestion of motion.  Kathryn Poch  (examples 5 and 6) uses triangles and circles. She bends her triangles even more severely.  In example 5 Kathryn flattens and foreshortens a circle  into a disc form.  She then places a vertically aspiring collection of shapes in its center. The effects has us feeling a landscape revolve around a motif, all evolving, all in motion. In example 6 Kathryn keeps us spinning as we revolve around a blue copse of trees.  Curvilinear forms suggest motion, a turning motion as well as volume.

example 5. Kathryn Poch, Coral Discovery, oil  on anodized aluminum.aug14,4,Coral Discovery,oil on anodized aluminum

example 6. Kathryn Poch, Wind, oil on anodized aluminum.aug14,4,kathryn Poch,12x12 oil on anodized aluminum,Wind

I am off to paint and photograph the woods, streams, waterfalls, meadows and White Mountains of New Hampshire in September. September 4th through the 8th. If you wish to join me contact the Silvermine School of Art at  203 966 6668 ext 2.

 

 

 

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Designing The Catskills

Whether exploreing New York’s Catskill Park or trolling through art history we repeatedly find the fundamental design form of the triangle. With its unifying effect on design it has become as omnipresent as the circle in painting. It can be turned in any directi0n to suggest the orientation or the motion of an image.  It can suggest the direction of light, the fall of water, or the slope of land. In example 1, a Rembrandt etching demonstrates ascending triangles. Their downward fans suggest falling rays of light.

example 1. Rembrand Etching.july14,28,rembrandt, crucifixion etching fourth state_edited-2

I can’t stop finding new design uses for the triangle especially, triangles within triangles or, reciprocal triangles which point toward each other.  I found myself on the shores of a lake at Devil’s Tombstone in the Catskills.  Two mountains formed a dramatic triangle at one end of the lake, example 2.  I snapped a photo ( example 3) as I looked across the lake with fronds of lake grass assembling themselves into a fanciful  “V”. The fronds erratically stretched in contrary directions.  Their reflecting light stood in strong contrast to the shadowed shoreline.  I diagrammed that photo by superimposing two triangles on it (example 4).  Next (example 5), I laid down a mixture of three colors, Gamboge yellow, ultramarine blue, and translucent azure blue(Sennelier). My next step ( example 6) was to carve out the grassy fronds with a six-inch wide squeegee which revealed the reflective brushed silver substrate.  Example 7 presents a diagram of the triangle of grasses and the inclined trees. These distant trees  imply another triangle which converges far above the painted image (above the picture plane).  These trees are inclined in the reverse direction from those in the photograph.

Example 2. Devils Tombstone photo with sky triangle and reflected lake triangle.july14,28,devils tombstone3_edited-1

example 3. Photo of lake with triangle of grasses.july14,28,catskill lake,photo,devils tombstone_edited-4

example 4. Diagrammed photo with reciprocal triangles.july14,28,catskill lake,photo2,devils tombstone_edited-6

example 5. Step 1, initial lay-in of oil paint.july14,28,catskill lake,step1

example 6. Step 2, After carving out fronds with a squeegee.july14,28,Catskill Lake,step2, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,24x24

example 7. Diagrammed painting.july14,28,Catskill Lake,step2a, oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-1

While visiting the Catskills I conducted a plein-air painting workshop.  I began each day with a talk and small demonstration.  If I followed the tradition of the Hudson River painters like Sanford Gifford or Asher Durand who painted here I would start with a small sketch in oil or pencil.  Later I might try refining that sketch in my hotel or tent or studio.  In the studio the sketch becomes more distinct or legible.  That was their mid-19th century practice. I began my demonstration in oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum, 12×12″ ( example 8).  Example 9 presents a triangle-within-a-triangle design diagrammed on the image.  I returned to my studio and worked into the demonstration ((example 10).

example 8. on sight quick demonstration.july14,28,catskill forest,step1,

example 9. triangle diagrams on demonstration.july14,28,catskill forest,step1a,_edited-1

example 10. After studio work on the demonstration.july14,28,catskill forest,step2a, oil on anodized brushed silver aluminum,12x12_edited-2

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