Under Construction

Artists’ fascination depicting the dynamics of intersecting angles in architecture extends from ancient Rome through today. In the 18th and 19th centuries artists visited a pre-selected set of classical sites celebrated for their historic ruins. In the 18th century Piranesi grew so intoxicated with the inventive possibilities derived from linear perspective and these historic ruins that he created a category of architectural prints he called “invenzione”.  Example 1 demonstrates how he exploited linear perspective’s possibilities through invented architecture.

Example 1. Piranesi, Carceri (prisons).

The tradition continued into the 19th century as artists made plein air oil and watercolor sketches of historic ruins such as Jorgen Roed’s 1838 rendering of the temple of Poseidon at Paestum.  Observe the multiple converging diagonals.

Example 2. Jorgen Roed, temple of Poseidon, 1838.

In the Early 19th Century American Ash Can artists like George Bellows revealed their fascination with urban architecture that was both in decline and deconstruction as well as projects which were under-construction.  Examples 3 and 4 present designs of Bellows which were framed under receding bridges.

Example 3. Bellows, Bridge and Blackwell’s Island, 1909.

Example 4. Bellows, the Lone Tenement, 1909.

While Bellows explored his urban constructions Egon Schiele in Vienna was investigating the architectural rhythms of his neighborhoods.   He found a dramatic tension between the exploding expulsion of water versus the uncertain geometric construction of an old mill (example 5).

Example 5. Egon Schiele.

Chasing the inventive architectural themes of Piranesi but, using comic-book styled exaggerations of perspective, and layered imagery I offer examples 6, 7 and 8.

Example 8 continues my examination of the architecture and  the horizon of Milwaukee.  I conflated several similar views of Milwaukee to cook up example 6. Notice the dark blue triangle framing the left side while a spike of complementary orange secures the right side of the image.

Example 8. Milwaukee Skyline Confusion, oil on enameled aluminum, 36×36.

Examples 10 and 11 follow the theme of traveling under bridgework. Like Piranesi’s Carceri I  invented my architecture.  I did this with a variety of locations, combined into one then, added further gestures and geometric intersections.

Example 10, West Side Glass and Steel, oil on enameled aluminum, step one.

Example 10a. West Side Glass and Steel, step two.

Example 11. Port Authority Labyrinth, present state.

Using the principles of interlocking shapes, geometric tension, and complementary color I developed example 12, a landscape.  Notice the off-centered bright pink square serving as a bright squared key geometrically anchoring the composition.

Example 12, Audubon Preserve lake, oil on enameled aluminum, 36×36.

I invite you to join me in a two day workshop at the West Hartford Art League  on January 14 and 15, 2017.  The Workshop is: ”Techniques of the Masters, Past and Present”. Visit their website westhartfordart.org or call 860 231 8019.

Please join me in my classes at the Silvermine School of Art. Registration for the winter semester (Mid January through March) begins on December 15th.  Call the school at 203 966 6668 ext 2 to register. I look forward to working with you.

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Trading Places, Near & Far

Illusion in painting depends upon exploiting the visual experience of the artist and the beholder.  An object appears near when blocking the view of a similar smaller object.   This triggers the perception of here and there; near and far.  A subtler question is: Can those objects alternate their location?  Yes, and here is how we exploit not only near and far percepts but also, how we can construe a selected area in a painting to occupy an alternating position of being at one moment near and in the next, far.

Here is a semi-abstracted landscape by Martha Armstrong from 1997 (example one). At first glance we read the map of the painting which suggests that the spaces between the trees are sky shapes. But, because the tree shapes and the sky shapes are so similar we can reconstruct the image to see the sky shapes as light and the tree shapes as dark.  Then the sky shapes can appear to move forward along-side or even in front of the tree shapes.

Example 1. Martha Armstrong.

In example 2 we see Joshua Adams painting which presents us with variably sized rocks on the shore.  We know the larger rocks appear closer to us because the sensation is consonant with our experience of perspective but, we can also accept anomalies. For example some of Adams’ rocks in the distance are anomalies in scale. Some of his rocks in the distance are substantially bigger than their adjacent companions but, because they are numerically anomalous (there are fewer of them) we accept that these rocks are big but, distant.

We have other signs distant rocks. The distant big rocks have less surface texture. They are overlapped by foreground information. They are situated higher in the picture plane and, their color variation is not as pronounced as nearby rocks. The perception of near and far can be triggered by a combination of visual devices.

Example 2. Joshua Adams, Lake Tahoe.

My shoreline rocks painting  is presented in steps one and two (examples 3 and 4).  Here the demonstration of near and far is compressed and exaggerated.  The bigger foreground rocks are quickly contrasted with a series of much smaller background shapes which quickly dissolve into uncertain forms curving into the distance. The only clue to the rocky identity of the distant rocks is that  they are blended and share a collective outline with a soft-focused saw-toothed irregularity. Furthermore, the distant rocks have less color variety and intensity which are two more perceptual cues that suggest distance.

Example 3. Step one of the Shoreline Rocks.

Example 4. Step Two of the Shoreline Rocks.

With special emphasis on the chromatic strength of foreground elements and foreground color contrasts artists can stimulate a sensation of greater immanence especially, when the background is allowed to fade dramatically in color as well as serve as toward a pale complement the preceding area. Notice that the foreground (in example 5) relies on high value and  high color contrast while the background recedes as a pale gray-violet  resting above the yellow field.

Example 5.  Painting on brushed silver enameled laminated aluminum, 24×48.

Color and value can alone trigger a feeling of proximity. In example 6  observe how the hotter contrasting colors feel close-by while the distance is relegated to varying values of blue until we get to the sky territory whose pink atmosphere swallows the edge of the horizon.

Example 6. Waves, oil on brushed silver laminated aluminum, 24×24.

Example 7. presents an image with an extremely compressed foreground (near) area while only suggesting a distance (far)  through the use of a high horizon and a few flecks of yellow interrupting the curtain of foreground grasses. This is the first step of this painting.

Example 7. Meadow Grass, oil on brushed silver laminated aluminum, 24×24.

To compress the foreground even more forcefully against the picture plane I offer example 8.  Here the colors are intercut and interlaced with competing shapes. The effect is closer to fractured stained glass than flora.  The interstitial blue colored shapes can appear to jump from background to foreground.

Example 8.

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Bridges and Crossings

Arches, Passages, Portals and Bridges demonstrate and celebrate our greatest achievements in engineering and act as architectural protagonists in paintings.  They appear as commemorative monuments in the form of triumphal arches and spanning bridges. Artists used this celebration of bridges in their explorations of expressive perspectives.

For examples I begin in the mid-18th century with Canaletto.  While visiting London to satisfy a demand for commissions of his work he found the bridges over the Thames to be a suitably grandiose subject.  In example 1 you see a demonstration of his perspective skill as he places the viewer beneath the arch of the bridge which acts as a window onto the landscape of London and the Thames.

Example 1.  Canaletto’s bridge, 1746-47.

Countless artists have exploited the metaphorical and geometric possibilities of bridges. In the late 20th century artists like Yvonne Jacquette and Wayne Thiebaud (example 2) played with aerial views of interweaving highway bridges.

Example 2. Wayne Thiebaud, late 1970s.

Wandering along the canals of Milwaukee gave me a chance to build and rearrange a landscape of bridges. My approach starts with lots of photos which I then merged, layered, distorted and exaggerated in an effort to make an almost inscrutable matrix of bridge forms.  All these forms collided and mixed with one another. This process allowed me to generate a chaos of forms which I could easily invent and depart from.  The confusion of the photographic chaos encouraged me to invent other forms in paint in a similar fashion.

Here’s a quick illustration of that process. I begin with a photo which I cropped and squeezed (example 3).  Next, I merged that image with other similar views while simultaneously exaggerating color, contrast and the forms (example 4). Then, I began the painting process feeling liberated from any notion of transcribing or copying the photo. Example 5 is step one of two. Example 6 is the second step with the painting.

Example 3.  Photo after some adjustments.
Example 4. Photo after layering and more adjustments.

Example 5. Step one of Yellow and Blue.

Example 6. Step two, present state of Yellow and Blue Bridges.

In addition to the photo distortions acting as a muse I tried painting over old paintings incorporating some of their colors and forms into my bridge building.
Example 7 is the image I chose to over-paint.  It had too many shortcomings for me to want to continue with it. Example 8 represents an early stage in the process.  You can see how colors and textures of the substrate image are revealed and harvested in the example 9. Example 9 represents the image in its present state.

Example 7.  Image to be over-painted.


Example 8. Early stage in painting.

Example 9. Present state.

Examples 10 and 11 were stimulated by not only the effects of Photoshop distortions but, physical (cut and paste) collage work as well.  Here, examples 9 and 10 present only the later painting portion of the process.

Example 10.  Step one of Stepped Bridges.

Example 11.  Step two of Stepped Bridges, present state.


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Nets, Curves and Rectangles

Nets offer the gift of the veil with its the fog of mystery.  Nets offer enchantment by preventing full disclosure. The bride hides and hints at her beauty behind it.  We conversationally refer to the veil of mystery not, the blanket. Netting is curvaceous, flexible, and capable of motion and suggesting of form.  On the contrary, rectilinear forms are perceived as static, firm, and inorganic.

To invest an image with both rectilinear imagery versus fluid imagery as well as the tension between opacity versus semi-transparency  generates a feeling amplifying both qualities. Their contrasting qualities magnify one another. This phenomena of perceived contrast as the amplifier of experience holds true throughout the scope of human perception whether with color, value, size, or texture.

The rectilinear can be presented subtly, through fractured and blurred horizontals and verticals. Rigid horizontals and verticals can mutate into curves or, stand in contrast to a meshy net of curves.  The netting  helps imply soft forms. The netting  offers the sensation of space through its perforations.  Andrew Wyeth caught this tension with static verticals versus the windswept translucence of netting in his “Pentecost” (example 1).  In 1920, Man Ray photographed this image he called “Moving Sculpture” which gives the fragile fluttering of fabric a feeling of movement held in check by steel girders (example2).  Teruhide Kato overlaid a veil of cherry blossoms over architectural forms ((example 3).

Example 1. Andrew Wyeth, egg tempera,

Example 2, Man Ray, silver gelatin photo print,

Example 3, Teruhide Kato, woodblock, 1992,

Layering photographs can create a feeling of natural netting with a capacity for motion as you see in examples 4 and 5.

Example 4. Leaves float in layers, Photo.

Example 5, Layers of grass float as a net on and in water, Photo.

While wandering through a Connecticut meadow I found a tumble of felled grasses. Their piling created the feeling of an armature for some invisible form beneath.  I present steps one and two of this image in examples 6 and 7.

Example 6. Step one, oil on brushed silver enameled laminated aluminum, Omegabond.

Example 7. Step two, of the meadow grasses.

Neil Welliver’s study for a beaver lodge demonstrates a fractured net of  verticals can be composed into a soft form.  His structure makes an easy comparison with my example 7. Welliver’s use of contrasting verticals (trees) help to unify the image with a strong feeling of contrast.  See example  7a.

example 7a. Neil Welliver beaver lodge study.

In example 8 observe the contrast of example 7’s soft grass built forms  against this rectilinear matrix which feels architectural. This example was presented in a previous blogpost but, this image demonstrates  later revisions and additions.

Example 8, Urban Matrix, oil.

Step-by-step image sequences can reveal how images are built in layers. Here is a sequence which begins by layering different colors beginning with yellow (example 9) to reds and deep blue (example 10) to mixed pastels and texturing (example 11) to adding a net of small shapes  across the surface (example 12).

Example 9, step one, yellow.

Example 10, step two, reds and deep blue.

Example 11, step three, mixed pastels and texturing.

Example 12, step four, present state with net of small shapes.

The final example presents fractured horizontals colliding and blending to create a vibration of motion coupled to a feeling of surface (example 13).

Example 13, Autumn Pool, oil, on enameled laminated aluminum24x24.

A reminder: This week I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  From Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156.

This April 20-23, 2017 the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach sponsors of workshop with me; two days on location and two days in the studio. Call Sara Bass at 904-280-0614 x 204 or register at www.ccpvb.org/programs/adult/adult-workshops .


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Finding Cezanne

While giving a demonstration which merged lyrical gestures  with closely observed  meadow foliage  I discovered I was channeling Paul Cezanne, Gerhard Richter and my own childhood memories beneath the Christmas tree  looking up at  glass balls suspended over me like luminous planets (example 1).  These metaphors appeared to me as I moved the paint about. I had begun with a series of close-ups of autumn porcelain berries.  I ended up as a time traveler through personal memory, astronomy and art history.

Example 1. Class Demonstration piece, oil,

In the two examples by Cezanne you will notice the free, translucent, and layered gestures of his brushwork in both his watercolor (example 2) and his oil (example 3).  His painting suggests forms reflecting and penetrated by light. As his brushwork aggregates he builds more volume without losing translucence. These late works by Cezanne demonstrate his interest in reflected planes of light, an interest later pursued by Braque and Picasso in Cubism .

Example 2.  Cezanne Watercolor, chateau Noir, circa 1900.

Example 3.  Cezanne oil, 1897.

I noticed how the sphere shapes not only connoted holiday glass ornaments, marbles, porcelain berries, and planets but also served as markers defining volumetric space.  They made the picture-space deeper. The gestures with brushes and squeegees gave the space motion. I decided to try some larger pieces.

Example 4 began on sheet of clean, white, enameled, laminated aluminum, 24×24. It represents the first step.  Example 5 presents the second step. In step two the image has been layered with tinted glazes to vary and deepen the colors. I wanted more warmth to suggest the sensation of the changing patterns of sunlight as it fell upon foliage in a breeze. I also wanted to sustain the alternate sensations of the spheres appearing as marbles, berries, space makers, cosmic orbs and glass balls.

Example 4.  Pre-glazed step one.

Example 5. Post-glazed step two.

Next, I moved to a larger format,  29×29. I  began with a substrate from an older painting which offered an array of blended blues, yellows and greens (example 6).  In the second step I covered the substrate and then selectively removed the covering paint to exploit the substrate’s textures and colors (example 7).

Example 6. Substrate for Example 7.

Example 7. Step two, present state.

Example 7 demonstrates not only the wild porcelain berry metaphor but the motion of the planets as well. The orbs are arranged as if they formed astronomical shapes like the big or little dipper. They recede into the shadowy space, a space with the deep blue color associated with the cosmos.

My exhibit at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct continues. Please drop by check thewhitegalleryart.com for information or call 860 435 1029.

A reminder: In November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  From Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156.

You are invited Saturday, November 5th from 4 to 6PM  to a reception and artist’s talk (by me) at the Drawing Room, 220 East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob, and Ct. with selected works on view. 203 661 3737 or, info@thedrawingroom.cc .

This April 20-23, 2017 the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach sponsors of workshop with me; two days on location and two days in the studio. Call Sara Bass at 904-280-0614 x 204 or register at www.ccpvb.org/programs/adult/adult-workshops .








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Influenced by Stained Glass & Cloisonne

By the 15th century stained glass artists like Antonio da Pisa experimented with lighter colors in glass with complex patterns (example 1).  They wanted more light to illuminate church interiors.  Earlier Mosaic artists had used reflective ceramics and polished semi-precious stones to cast reflected light. Even in smaller objects like reliquaries and ornamented book covers artists used reflective materials in intricate patterns to give the sensation that the object radiated its own light (example 2).  Here, the 11th Century book cover has the inscription, LUX MUNDI, meaning light of the world.  The choice of the reflective materials supported the theme of giving light.

Example 1. St Barnabas window, Florence, 1441.

Example 2. LUX MUNDI, 11th century.

Since antiquity, artists had used the pictorial arrangements of enamels, semi-precious stones, polished gold and silver to create radiant effects (example 3). The cloisonné example from 625 CE from Suffolk,  England has been restored to reveal its original luster and colored patterns.

Example 3. Cloisonné Purse Cover, 625.

Traditions stretching back thousands of years across Europe and the Middle East demonstrate varieties of vine and serpent curling, interwoven patterns  creating complex opportunities to place bright bits of stone, mosaic, glass, and jewels in strategically designed interstitial spaces.  This pattern building extended to functional ceramics, fabrics, and carvings. Contemporary artists like El Anatsui of Ghana extended and re-imagined these traditions using the found detritus of bottle caps, copper wire and tin cans (example 4).

Example 4. El Anatsui, metal curtain assemblage with drapery like folds.

Other artists used these techniques and patterning ideas in painting and photography. Earlier in the 20th century Georgia O’Keeffe arranged designs in paintings which reminded her of quilt patterns from childhood. In example 5 you see how she places the spots of blue sky between lyrical branches as if she were working in stained glass.

Example 5. Georgia O’Keeffe, Spring Tree.

In the mid 20th century Nicolas de Stael excised the standard floral information in this Flower still-life (example 6) and placed jewel-like colors along the edges of the forms treating the piece as if he were making abstract jewelry.

Example 6. Nicolas de Stael, Flowers.

Example 7 presents my nature photograph with heightened colors. The arrangement of patterns of gemlike colors surrounding a luminous center is taken from principles of jewelry design.

Example 7, photograph.

Borrowing principles of the flat pattern repetitions of wallpaper I began the flower painting in example 8. The limited colors, the flattened tonal effects and the mark-making were all designed to give an impression flowers in stylized repetition.  In Example 9 I added more atmospheric effects by blending and blurring edges.  I retained the cloisonné idea of high-contrast jewelry patterns at this stage.  The later blurring suggests motion and atmosphere while the patterning of flora behind the flowers suggests the intertwining patterns found in decorative jewelry, carpets, and other ornamented materials. Example 10 offers another example of using cloisonné patterns with sharp, isolated, color contrasts.

Example 8. Step one, floral patterns.

Example 9, Step two of floral patterns, present state.

Example 10.  Berlin Garden, revised since the last blog post, 24×48.

The next work is presented in two steps again. The first step (example 11) demonstrates the beginning of a scene along one of Milwaukee’s Canals with its variety of grass plantings and rows of bridges. The second step (example12) demonstrates how I invested threads of color in overlapping patterns suggestive of jewel like effects in the grasses before the bridges.

Example 11. Step one, Bridges and Grasses.

Example 12, Step two, present state, Bridges and Grasses.

The principle behind the patterns of the counterpoint rectangles which you saw in the previous stained-glass window example, the jeweled book cover, and El Anatsui’s  metal curtain were reworked and re-imagined in my last example #13. Here is a shoreline and sea grass landscape constructed with an eye to the abstract patterns described above.  Rectilinear shapes subdivide and cross the surface acting as a unifying matrix for the colors and textures.

Example 13. Shoreline Matrix, oil on enameled laminated aluminum.

This November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  from Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156. These

The three different workshops are described on this website under classes and workshops.

I have an exhibition of my work at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct at 342 Main Street.  Friday through Sunday 11-5 PM. 860 435-1029. thewhitegalleryart.com

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Perceptual illusions can present tantalizing ambiguities in painting. By the mid-20th century, as neuroscience and psychology began merging Richard Gregory identified and explained some of these illusions.  For example, Gregory proposed three different pattern-recognition illusions. One illusion is based on an alternating  Gestalt figure-ground relationship; that is, an object and the space beside it change roles.  Another illusion: the sensation of depth changes within an area.  And a third Gregory illusion:  An object changing into a different type of object. This is the familiar: one second you see a rabbit, the next you see a duck.

Cubists like Braque and Picasso experimented with the object-space and depth change illusions.  M.C. Escher is celebrated for demonstrating all three illusions. Here in example 1 you see George Braque’s cubist painting. Observe how the walls of buildings seamlessly become areas of space. Observe how the space becomes deep and infinite and then shallow and smoky as it re-attaches to architecture of becomes self-evident paint on the surface of the canvas.

Example 1. George Braque.

Example 2 presents the work of the early expressionist Egon Schiele whose painting of a village has areas of ghostly pale monochromatic architecture and other areas of solid warm color.  Observe how the areas of warm color occupy space differently than the paler more monochromatic areas. Notice the trees’ reflections (upper right) are stripped of color creating an arresting analogy for the relationship between the warmly colored buildings and the paler ones. The black water areas are not painted with horizontal strokes to encourage the shape to appear flat like a river.  As a result we see the mottled black areas as a flat painted surface or also as indication of  water (i.e. alternating identities within the same shape).

Example 2. Egon Schiele.

Example three illustrates how an area that behaves like positive shapes can reverse its role and become a background of negative shapes. Watch as the white lines and black lines alternate in their roles.

Example 3. Alternating Foreground and background illustration.

Another illusion (example 4) demonstrates how context can determine a sense of scale even though the shapes do not change. This is called the Titchener illusion. The circle surrounded by larger circles is the same measurable size as the circle surrounded by smaller circles.  But, the two circles do not feel as though they are the same size.  We determine scale by comparison just as comparing determines our sense of texture, touch, and color and all other observable phenomena.

Example 4. The Titchener Illusion.

I exploit these illusions to create ambiguities of identity and space in my work. Example 5 presents an example.  The fabric of the interweaving flora is broken by little interstitial space shapes.  In the lower are of the painting they are ultramarine blue. In the upper region they are lighter, both light pink and light blue.  These little light shapes can behave as allusions to space or, they the can float like pieces of lapis lazuli on the surface of the painting. They alternate their identity as space or substance.   Furthermore, because select Flora shapes are the same size and form as the background shapes they enhance the sensation of shapes alternating between being an object (flora) or space. Example 6 is a detail from the painting.

Example 5.  Flora with space or Cloisonné effects.

Example 6. A detail from image 5.

In November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  from Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156. These

The three different workshops are described on this website under classes and workshops.

I have an exhibition of my work at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct at 342 Main Street.  Friday through Sunday 11-5 PM. 860 435-1029. thewhitegalleryart.com



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Interrogating Flowers

By the 1600s painting flowers was a common custom for artists from China to Holland. Our exploration begins here with carefully observed flowers represented not only as a theme in painting but also as a motif on china, silver, tapestries and clothing. Their arrangement on table tops, silk, canvas, and porcelain was carefully choreographed (example 1). Contemporary artists continue reinvent the subject.

Example 1. Dutch tablecloth, 1660.

By the 17th century the European standard of the posed bouquet had swept through artist’s studios (example 2),

Example 2.   French, Anne Valleyer Coster, 18th century oil.

Posed flowers in water-glasses, vases, rustic pots, across counters, desktops, and cropped in their gardens continued to thrive whether mimicked or abstracted in varieties of  media.  Across the 20th century with super luminaries like Richard Diebenkorn (example 3) or contemporary watercolorists like Joseph Rafael (example 4) or contemporary oil painters like Ben Aronson (example 5) who follows in  the new traditions of Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud.

Example 3. Richard Diebenkorn, Poppies.

Example 4. Joseph Raffael, watercolor, Après Le Pluie.

Example 5. Ben Aronson, oil on panel, Tulips in Bloom.

Even the most serious and celebrated figure painter, Lucien Freud, found painting  his garden irresistible (example 6). His thickly textured paint found the tactile attraction of earth and garden a complementary subject.  Here was an artist who likes to drill down into his subject whether figure for flora.

Example 6. Lucien Freud, painter’s garden.

As you have seen, the artists tailored floral subjects to their medium and methods. Contemporary photographers too, have found new forms for reconstituting flowers and layering them into their imagery (see example 7, Emilie Belin).

Example 7. Emilie Belin, photograph, Christmas Roses.

Earlier this year I blogged on my explorations with flowers painted in oil over enameled, laminated aluminum (April 18, 2016 blog post).  I featured example 8.

Example 8. Dunlop, Flora, Sunlight and Shadows.

Casually strolling with my family in Berlin ( Rebecca, Max, Natalie, and granddaughter, Frida) I found new floral opportunities. I tried reversing the focus. I pulled the background into focus and blurred the foreground subject. The resulting painting is example 9.

Example 9. Dunlop, horizontal garden.

Wandering along local roads I often find attractive moments with flowers.  Example 10 silhouettes a rose against the sky in an effort monumentalize the subject.  Example 12 resulted from photographing under the glass roofed NY Botanical Garden. I excised the evidence of windows in my pursuit of a dense display of leafy and petal-like  gestures.  First, my Photoshopped and multilayered photograph which served as my point of departure (example 11) then, the subsequent painting (example 12).

Example 10.  Sky born Rose.

Example 11.  Photograph as altered and multi-layered.

Example 12.  The painting, “Greenhouse Effect.”

I invite you to join me in upcoming events:

“The Psychology of Art and Design” is a lecture I will be giving at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. on Sunday, October 16th at 4:30 PM.   How do we make, view and market art?  What are the subliminal forces that direct our intentions determine our responses?

In November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  from Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156. These three different workshops are described on this website under classes and workshops.

I have an exhibition of my work at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct at 342 Main Street.  Friday through Sunday 11-5 PM. 860 435-1029. thewhitegalleryart.com


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Harmonizing Noise and Mayhem

Static and hiss can interfere with clear reception of a radio signal. If we want to listen to that signal we attend more closely.  Our attention becomes heightened.  If we dine in a cacophonous room, we focus with more intensity on our partner’s conversation.  We select out the information from the surrounding noise.  We participate with pictures in the same way.  As with language we begin by recognizing patterns and conventions. We are ready to finish one another’s sentences.  In painting, once we recognize a convention we easily move on unless there is obscuring static which requires us to elevate our attention.  When we elevate our attention we apply our imagination to hypothesizing what we think we see. We fill in the gaps of uncertainty created by noise with what we think should be present.

Artists have long employed visual noise and mayhem as a screen obliging our imagination to make plausible hypotheses.  Puzzling out an image offers a satisfying challenge because; we can and will hypothesize a solution.  There is no right or wrong, true or false, only our guess.  Visual noise and mayhem create a field of ambiguity which invites the beholder to make a guess, even to make multiple guesses.

The chiaroscuro of Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt depend on our guess that darkness represents space.  The fuzzy edges and bleeding complementary color patterns of Bonnard have us guessing not only about the nature of the space but, the nature of the illumination and the variable color reflectance of surfaces (example 1).  With his squeegees and blurred brushwork Gerhard Richter regenerates some of the surface patterns and textures as surrealists like Max Ernst.  We see these patterns as vaguely familiar and their underlying references to landscape conventions compel us to look and see through the noise to a landscape beneath.  It’s like looking past the mullions in a window to see the landscape beyond (examples 2 and 3).

Example  1, Pierre Bonnard, landscape,

Example 2, Gerhard Richter Landscape,

Example 3. Gerhard Richter Landscape,

Richter refers to a much earlier tradition of painting landscapes in example 4.  His overlying visual noise uses distorted rectangular forms. We feel as though we are looking through a canted, smudged window.  Historically landscape artists set up tables with glass frames through which they viewed and recorded the landscape.  This distortion of Richter’s cleverly refers back to that process as he supplies us with a conventional landscape beneath his visual noise.

Example 4. Gerhard Richter, Venetian Landscape through a noisy frame.

Last week I introduced a shoreline/marsh grass painting with lots of noise and counterpoint directionals.  I later responded to that experience by creating an image in Photoshop which was an amalgam of photography and painting. I combined a shore-grass photo with a painting and, with another photo of a woodland pool.  This amalgamated image is represented in example 5.  From this noisy and confused image I generated different new paintings. Example  6 presents one such painting. Example 7 presents a revised version of example 6, a step two.

Example 5, the photo amalgam,


Example 6. Step one of the new painting, “Sparks on a Shoreline”.

Example 7. Step two of the new painting;

I tried this process again with a different painting and photo.  I merged the two images into a new photo (example 8). This photo became my point of departure for my next painting which you see as example 9.

Example 8, Photo amalgam, of painting and photo.

Example 9.  Landscape painting on enameled brushed silver laminated aluminum,oct164miles-wildlife-sanctuary-photo-and-painting-mergerpainting
I abandoned the Photoshop process and went directly to distressing and confusing an existing landscape of mine, I simply tried to apply noise but, sustain chromatic harmony and a feeling of linear and atmospheric perspective. Step one (example 10) presents the painting as it was, a more conventional landscape. Step two (example 11) presents the painting after imposing a harmonizing mayhem.

Example 10, original painting,

Example 11. After harmonizing noise and mayhem,

I  invite you to join me in a variety of events. This Saturday October 8, 2016 I will be at the opening reception of an exhibition of my work at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct at 342 Main Street.  The opening runs from 5 to 7 pm.  I will arrive at 4 pm.

In November I have a series of workshops at Jerry’s Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh Durham, N.C.  from Friday November 11 through Sunday November 13th.   The Friday workshop, 9am to 4 pm, “Painting Reflections in Glass, Water and Other Surfaces”. The Saturday workshop is also 9am to 4 pm “New Trends: Merging Paint the Digital Photography”. The Sunday workshop, 9 am to 4 pm “Abstracting Nature, from Meadows to Flora”.  To register call: 800 827 8478 ext 156. These three different workshops are described on this website under classes and workshops.

“The Psychology of Art and Design” is a lecture I will be giving at the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Ct. on Sunday, October 16th at 4:30 PM.   How do we make, view and market art?  What are the subliminal forces that direct our intentions determine our responses?

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Geometry Speaks

Picture a room.  Before you are three walls, a floor and a ceiling.   A window, a mirror or an open door are also present.   Remember, a sky can substitute for the ceiling. These are the bones of multitudes of great paintings.  From Diego Velazquez’s Fable of Arachne and Las Meninas (example 1) to Canaletto’s visions of Venice (example 2), the artist begins by building the space. The space is composed of trapezoids complying with the principles of linear perspective, conceptual mapping or a combination of the two. They frame the theme. They provide the context for discovering a story, a meaning.

Example 1, Velazquez, Las Meninas,

Example 2, Canaletto, St Marks Piazza,

In the 18th century Canaletto and other artists like Piranesi experimented with more complex verisions of the  trapezoidal  space. They called them invenzioni or capricci.  Example 3 presents one of Canaletto’s  inventions.  Notice how he runs counterpoint diagonals (diagrammed in red) to the perspective receding lines (in green).  As in  “Las Meninas” we escape through a light door on the left.

Example 3. Canaletto, Capriccio,

Early European depictions of events like the last supper often resulted in  rooms  which were carefully appointed but,  the space did not credilby recede. Example 4 presents an illustration from Chaucer of a Pilgrims at a table. The table cannot accommodate all the pilgrims so it it tilts and  floats  above the floor and flattens against the picture plane. This conceptual way of mapping information in within the room (space) will be revised by Cubists like George Bracque (example 5).

Example 4.  Illustration from Chaucer,1484,

Example 5. Georges Braque,

Cezanne,Bracque and Picasso inspired others to reconstruct space with multiple points of view and, using  vision and memory as  dynamic experiences. ( see example 6)

Example 6, L. Meidner, Cubist work, 1913,

Quickly, Abstract artists Like Popova and other Russian Constructivists would simplify and reduce  the geometry of the picture plane.  Velazquez’s trapezoidal room was deconstructed and reassembled  with an eye to creating dynamic space, color and form relationships.  The renaissance idea of “story”  that had motivated the construction of the room was expunged by modernists ( example 7).

Example 7, L. Popova, abstract planes and shapes,

The  “story”  returned to the space by the mid 20th century but, artists maintained their interest in recombining and constructing spaces. Artists began to discover visual experiences in photography and paint that naturally reconstructed and defined conceptual space as can be seen in my photo in example 8.  This image is not altered in any way from the way the camera discovered it.

Example 8, Photo of street reflections through barred window,

Twentieth century artists continued to explore he use of the room as Velazquez had done. The 20th century space could still folllow principles of linear perspective, still rely on an emotional narritive just as Vermeer had done but, the arrangement of forms  became more distilled and abstract in feeling. Consider example 9 by Edward Hopper.  See how he still creates credible perspective for a room, a stage just as  Velazquez or Vermeer had done.

Example 9, Edward Hopper,

I diagrammed  “las Meninas” (example 10) ;  notice the  diagonals  using linear perspective.  Also the luminous portals of  mirror, window,  and the door. The other portal or  missing wall is where you, the beholder are standing.  Just as in the Canalettos, the absent wall is an escape for the audience .  It’s felt in every television sitcom  or  stage drama.

Example 10, Las Meninas diagrammed,

Just as so many other artists like John Singer Sargent,   I borrowed  from “Las Meninas” and “The Fable of Arachne”  to construct my New York City street paintings.  In  example 11 you see how I built a glass ceiling over the  Street.  I expanded the sources of  illumination.  Example 12 provides a diagram which correlates to  the classical model.

Example 11, Atrium Glass,

Example 12, Atrium glass diagrammed,

Just as Canaletto toyed with the arrangement of the room so did I in example 13.  Additionally, like Canalettto I introduced diagonal counterpoint to the linear perspective lines of the room.  You can refer back to this in  Example 3.

Example 13, Madison and 57th, current state,

I can apply the  Velazquez/Canaletto’s  space making strategy to landscape if  I depart from the rigid linear perspective  construction of the room and make the space more elastic .  Van Gogh makes a similar discovery as he undulates and curves the rigid geometry of linear perspective to suit  a natural landscape shaped by agriculture and natural topography (example14).  Van Gogh maintains the receding lines converging into the distance  but now, our walls and flooring are biomorphic not architectonic.  By becoming more and more elastic with the principles of linear perspective in building the floor of the space and allowing it to meander into a luminous distance  an artist can still borrow from the tradition but, take greater liberties with rhythm and  distance as see in my examples  15 through 16.

Example 14, Van Gogh, expressive geometry,

Example 15 presents a structured city landscape which I used as a substrate for the image in example 16.   I vertically flipped example 15  before painting example 16 over it. I would harvest parts of the substrate with later deletions in my overlayer.  Example 17’s diagramming demonstrates  how I used the standard  linear perspective to develop a stable floor and also  introduced a serpentine meandering space.  My paint application was deliberately noisy with many competing vertical and horizontal marks and shapes to add to the sense of nature’s commotion.

Example 15, City Landscape as substrate after vertical flip,

Example 16, Shorelines with expressive geometry,

Example 17, Shorelines with geometry diagrammed,

I invite you to join me on for my opening reception at the White Gallery on October 8th, 5-7 PM .  My exhibit, “David Dunlop paints the northwest corner” runs from October 7th through November 26, 2016.  The White Gallery is in Lakeville, Ct. at 342 Main Street, thewhitegallery@sbcglobal.net.


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