If we turn back the years to Degas and Van Gogh working in the later part of the 1800′s, we discover they share a design vocabulary. This vocabulary is still useful today. Among their shared design templates was the radial burst or hub-and-spoke system. They placed the center of the hub outside the picture frame. I will do same in my following demonstration with a winter motif and palette. First, consider this backlit photo (example 1). I have superimposed the radiating design lines on the photo in example 2 and provided a quick design sketches without the photo in example 3. My crude rectangle represents the picture plane. I offer these crude sketches as examples of how to quickly and unselfconsciously work out your design ideas. Don’t worry about neatness; just let your organizing ideas flow like a storyboard.
In examples 4 and 5 I used “Photo Elements’ “ “Dry brush” and “Fresco ” modes to simplify the photo and test some painterly ideas.
In example 6, I further distort the image using “Motion Blur.” Note to Photoshop or Photo Elements users: motion blur and fresco, and dry brush are all options in the drop down menu of “Filter” which lies up above the image work area. Motion blur gives a 21st century photographic effect pursued by a variety of artists today, most notably is Gerhard Richter.
With example 7, I am beginning to truly depart from a legible scene toward abstraction. Notice that you are still able to decipher the original scene. I prefer example 7 because, the trees gave the scene a vertical motion which moves in contrast to the horizontal design. But, I want you to see what happens if I blur the image horizontally here in example 8.
Next, I have the step by step development of the image in paint. I begin the painting after I sketched out design possibilities and, after I have tested a variety of digital distortions as you saw above. Examples 9, 10, 11, and 12 represent progressive steps with this painting. You can see where I borrowed ideas from the previous images as well as allowing the paint to offer me its own new set of possibilities. The painting is small, only 12 x12 on white enamel anodized aluminum. My brushes were a 1″ flat soft synthetic sable(Raphael Kaerell), 2″ flat soft synthetic sable, and a 3″ flat soft synthetic sable. I recently noticed an original collection of brushes used by George Inness; they were all flats. For colors I used Ultramarine blue, gamboge yellow, carmine lake, ultramarine blue and scheveningen blue light and titanium white.
example 10, step two, with a paper towel on my finger and, blending with a two inch sable. My finger carved out the light areas. My finger nail (wrapped in a Bounty paper towel) carved out the smallest light areas.
example 11. step three. Here I develop further definition with more finger work and, in the final step (example 12), I use of a small squeegee to carve out sharper lights. I customized my squeegee by cutting it down with a hacksaw to just 4″ wide. I used corners or broader areas of the blade of the squeegee as it made contact with the painting surface.
I began by discussing Van Gogh and Edgar Degas. Now that you have seen me use the radial burst design structure, I want to show you how they used it. In both examples (examples 13 and 14), I have superimposed a graphic illustration of this converging design structure.
I have also used this same converging radial burst design in another winter hillside painting (example 17). This is the same design as I used in my earlier step-by-step painting except, I have now stretched the design horizontally. First, I will show you the photo (example 15) I took with an overlaying graphic design. Notice that like example 2, this design uses a triangle as a break to the ascending horizontal motion of the design. Observe as I take the painting from step one to step two (example 16 to example 17): I change the color of the snow. When the snow becomes bluer, the painting feels colder. The blue-green snow in example 16 struck me as a lovely complementary color, but too implausible.
Finally, I want welcome those beginning their winter semester next week with me at The Silvermine School Art. See silvermineart.org or call 203 966 6668.