We depend on precedents, on a vocabulary of patterns to organize and recognize our world. We use them in art, music, cooking, everything. As in everything else, in art we are often unconscious of our reliance on this vocabulary and how it limits us. The more aware we are of the limits of this learned vocabulary the more we improve our chances of expanding that vocabulary. Gustav Klimt and Claude Monet both illustrate this. Monet painted his ” Early Morning on the Seine ” series of paintings in the early and mid 1890s. He had been borrowing the forms of Corot just as Corot had borrowed from others. Monet too, had looked at the same sources as Corot but, Monet could build on the brushwork, pattern and color vocabulary of Corot. We can trace this vocabulary of forms back to Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt but, for now I will concentrate on Monet in the mid 1890s waking early in the morning to climb into his boat/studio to capture the subtle, soft lights of dawn on the Seine. He relies on the meandering “S” or zig zag form which he applies across the vertical field of the painting, from water surface into the sky (example 1). In 1899 Gustav Klimt, aware of the Monet’s innovations with luminosity, the “S” pattern, and Monet’s fusing reflected territories with the sources of the reflection. He had seen how the impressionists were able to evoke luminosity and a generous feeling of deep space through dissolved edges and cross patterns of broken brushwork zig-zagging across an illusory flat surface. Klimt tries to evoke the sense of soft luminosity, a reflective and tactile illusory surface and, atmospheric depth by using the Impressionist’s model (example 2). Like Monet, Klimt experiments with the mirror effects of sky and flora as they dissolve on a slightly vibrating watery surface. It’s a step toward abstraction but, still anchored in realism. In example three, Klimt painted more dissolved, more abstracted and more space-and-motion generating surfaces in this painting of the Schonbruun Park. The Blurred impressionist broken brushwork easily evokes a subtle sense of motion and an illusion of thick texture.
Here a few examples of my work as I take a more articulated painting and dissolve its edges with atmospheric engendering glazes. The glazes are semi-opaque. After liberally applying them to the work I next selectively delete areas of the glaze gently revealing aspect s of the original painting. My goal is to build more luminance and more space. Like Monet and Klimt I appropriated the “S” meander pattern. I give that form more light at the top of the image and more darkness at the bottom but, the transition is gradual and, helps amplify the feeling of space. The glazes are more opaque with oil diluted titanium white and a transparent color at the top of the painting. At the bottom of the painting the glazes are completely translucent; no opaque white is used.
My decision to apply the atmospheric glazes followed an analysis of the two paintings which I thought were too specific along their edges, too dark and, not unified enough in their light and the direction of light. I wanted more space, more luminosity, a deeper and softer air.
The next three examples demonstrate how to build a painting with radiance and a unity of light without the later application of glazes. This painting was constructed alla prima, all at once. I began with a 24×24 sheet of brushed gold anodized aluminum, a 4″ synthetic soft flat brush , and a couple of squeegees. In step one (example 8) I brushed on tinted color in the upper left ( white, vermillion, and gamboge) and I brushed on a deep red with ultramarine blue in the bottom. in example 9, prior to my continued blending I separated ( fanned) the bristles on my 4″ brush to simulate the effect a many stalks of sea grass. I blended the ultramarine blue with white and touches of the red to build lighter violets. I blended adjacent areas of color aiming for edgeless transitions. In example 3, I have removed the paint by applying various and many vertical touches of my squeegees to expose the brushed gold surface underneath. Finally, I retouched some of those squeegee deleted marks with paint from a flat 1″ soft synthetic.