I have been remiss is posting; so, here is an update on what has happened since I posted in January.
I finished two paintings in that time in preparation for a one man exhibit at the Artery Gallery in November for a total of fifteen works. The show contained works from 1997 to 2017; the exhibit contained two sample pieces from my digital paintings. I sold one piece in the show: Boardwalk Jitney sold to a prominent Greensboro collector with twenty minutes of the beginning of the opening reception.
Another piece that was in the show was sold to an overseas collector; however, the collector saw it on my website and not the show; and it was sold after the exhibit closed. He purchased the oil painting On the Pier. The collector Tighe O’Connor and I share an artist mentor Dr. George Weber jr.; Tighe studied with him in Ireland in the 1980s and I at Rutgers Newark in the late 60s and early 70s.
I shipped out on Black Friday via USPS after shopping around between FedEx and the USPS. Shipping via FedEx would have cost an arm and a leg; did this while schlepping around a thirty-six inch mailing tube attached to the rack on my bicycle in the rain: gave up on my rusted, New Jersey, GMC car.
Mention that you have to wait ten minutes to attempt to restart your GMC car and those who had one or have friends who had one burst out laughing.
Circling back to my opening statement, the two new oil painting completed since January:
Pier Fishing on the Toms River
I am somewhat of an outside artist in this town despite having been here from 1972 to 1997 and then 2014 to current; so, my opening was sparsely attended; however, I was able to have an extended conversation with fellow artist Bruce Shores. He and I were both T.A.s and studio assistants to Peter Agostini at UNC at Greensboro in the 1970s and are very fond of our memories of studying under him.
When I picked up my works at the end of the show, I obtained a date for another one man exhibit in 2019; but I don’t know the month yet. The next two years will be consumed by doing at least twenty small oil paintings and studies.
New painting just finished titled On the Pier; this is the one I have been working on for over two years; the main dilemma was how to recreate the energy of the water without copying the photo or being realistic. I finally settled on the solution by the difference between value changes and using the palette knife.
As with the painting of the boardwalk cart pusher, this painting is meant to show movement across the picture plane. The needs of the painting outweigh the need for proportion and description. This means putting composition first. one of the consequences of putting composition first is that the standing are compressed vertically; but the fellow in the beach chair is elongated in comparison
The main lines were set out first: the pier floor is established on the bottom line tripartite canvas division (line #1) making the pier a stage but not as strong as lines created using the bipartite power lines; the distant shore and woods are established using the upper quarter-line of the bipartite canvas division (line #2); the three figures play off of this upper line.
The seated figure slumps into the half-third line (#3) on the right which is reinforced by the piling; his knees anchor to the line of the first third (#4); This line is reinforced by the second pier piling and the empty chair. The piling on the left sits directly on the one-third line and is the main anchor for the pier(line #5). The female figure’s ankle is secured to the center vertical (line #6) as she steps away from it moving to the left. the male figure’s back right foot is anchored on the left side’s one-fourth vertical (line # 7) as he steps to the left of the picture plan; his forward left foot steps onto the half-fourth vertical (line #8); his head is moving between these two verticals.
I have been working on the same painting for over a year and it is going slowly; so, the other day I decided to begin a daily practice of doing transient Sumi ink drawings on gessoed canvas: at least three to four in the morning. The purpose is to keep an edge on my creative imagination as I ponderously work my way through the problems in the main paintings.
I create the Sumi paintings by holding an idea in my mind as I draw the piece; when I am satisfied with the piece, I photograph it and then wash it off the canvas; thus, the name Transient Drawings. The sponge and rag I use to clean off the canvas double as drawing tools as well as the Chinese brush; the result is very much like a charcoal drawing.
I started this painting as a response to Picasso’s Woman in a Blue Veil the version of a young girl: I understood his painting to be the Annunciation to Mary: the blue veil alludes to the blue commonly associated to Mary in European art history, the image is a young girl not fully developed, and the light falling upon the face from her left and her concentration on it.
I wanted to make an image that would allude to the quality of Eros: in European painting she is the Lady in Red juxtaposed to Love in the painting by Titian: Sacred and Profane Love. The idea was to keep the painting simple in the manner of Picasso’s painting; but I got more and more deeply involved with appearances and detail as the painting progressed: so, under the original terms the painting is a failure.
The distortions are an effect of compositional decisions. The skin color is variations on the color copper. The background colors are the fifths to the clothing and the skin colors.
I have been stumped over the past three weeks as to how to portray choppy water of a river. I finally decided to base the sign on shallow scrolls and bringing any brush strokes out in the rhythm those scrolls: I did capture the energy of the water; but the result was so far out of my normal painting that I questioned its “truth” or even whether it worked: in my view, it looked too much as though it was made for comics. I had a trusted friend – who is an artist and a theater set builder – come over to look at it yesterday: the glyph did capture the energy; but it was like a comic book rendering; and it failed in terms of regression into space.
This morning, with my failed attempt in the back of my mind, I came across on Facebook a link to the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection of Vincent Van Gogh. I followed the link to the collection’s online catalog and selected Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses.
What am I looking at? Van Gogh’s successful attempt at capturing energy in his brushstrokes and painting. He understood that the brushstroke carries the intent of the focused artist: One can perceive the wind blowing through over the wheat field, not just because he bent the image of the wheat, but because he held the form of the wind energy and the resistance of the wheat stalks in his mind as he put down the strokes. The same can be said of the tree in middle of the field. The strokes of cypresses convey their living energy. One can go through the entire painting perceiving his recording of the energy or vitality he perceived.
One has to stay on focus to be able to do this sort of painting: this is proof that he did not paint in a frenzy; rather, he painted slowly, as his pigment laden stroke reveals; and he painted each stroke meticulously as he conscientiously recreated the energy in each stroke.
The Visual Dynamics of Related and Unrelated Shapes (Rectangles)
Each shape has its own dynamics: each shape has its own energies and arrangement of those energies; the rectangle is the classic shape in the visual arts. Two classical divisions of the rectangle are handed down to the artist; but to the modern artist, these are for the most part curiosities: interesting but no necessary in composing – or rather, spewing forth a painting – at best, they are recipes on how to lay in a picture: where to conveniently hang objects. The reality is that these systems are maps of the rectangle’s dynamics.
The eye will naturally divide a line in half: the mid-point; in a rectangle, this leads to the bipartite system. The eye also naturally divides a line into thirds leading us to the tripartite system. Interestingly the bipartite system includes the tripartite: the latter is a subset of the former.
Yet, what about the shape area in terms of its nature divide into sub areas? Does the area easily divide into fourths and thirds?
Is there a perceived relationship?
Is this too subtle to consciously register?
Does the eye grasp the relationships? Can the eye recognize a shape as based an original
Create a rectangle with each side easily divided by three
Enter the tripartite guidelines
Create rectangular shapes based on those divisions
Create an wholly unrelated rectangle having no proportional relationship with any of the rectangles or the master rectangle.
The eye does perceive the relationships: there is an harmony between shapes based on the initial rectangle;
The harmony and disharmony are immediately perceived. The red rectangle is perceived as out of harmony with the other rectangles.
Can compositions be created that play off the relatedness of different proportioned rectangles (or simply objects); for the eye is attracted to and tends to group by likeness.
[Edited 3/10/2017. This experiment was initially done as to understand why the eye quickly recognizes the misshapeness of a drawn human figure; but I have since come to understand that the mind has an internal sense of proportion. Yet, this is a possible way for the artist to create pleasing proportions of the human figure.]
I apologize for the delay in posting. The past few months have been consumed by clearing and moving out of the family home and moving to Greensboro, North Carolina. The studio – what there is – is still coming into shape; but the apartment is small and it is a humid August and poor air conditioning. That being said, the painting below was completed in May.
I originally meant this painting to be only a sketch; to be a quick study of creating the sense of movement across the rectangular field; at the time, I was bouncing off of Gerome’s “Duel after the Ball” wherein the artist used the grid of the rectangular force lines to create a stage and dramatic movement. Gerome played the tripartite canvas division against the bipartite: the former was the stage and the latter contained the action and interaction of the characters. Similarly in my painting, the background is placed within the context of the tripartite system and the characters and the jitney are laced within the bipartite system. The painting was to be done with think strokes of paint; but, I soon became concerned about the quality of the piece; and I also became more interested in how areas of color melded into related adjacent areas. Finally, I began to experiment is glazing in order to more intense colors.
As to the piece’s structure, the cart pusher initiates the movement. His back foot is planted on the vertical force line of the left (the bipartite system has three major lines dividing the rectangle into four sections). His forward foot crossed the leftward major dividing line of the tripartite system; and his head is just on the line. The pusher has set up the rightward movement. The back cart edge is released from the tripartite force line and comes under the influence of the center force line; the strength of this center line is increased as the back cart wheel is directly on the line as the head and torso of the female passenger. The forward struts of the cart’s cab come under the influence of the right side tripartite division line and, combined with the legs, increase the sensation of rightward movement. Because the eye seeks like relationships, the viewer’s eye is also cast back to the head and forward foot of the pusher. The forward section of the cart is elongated in order to increase the pull and release from the right hand force line on the quarter mark.
Overall, I think the painting achieved the initial goal of creating a sense of movement across the canvas.
In terms of glazing, I was able to increase my ability to predict how a color will change when overlaid by another. I was able to accurately predict the changes using the color mixing triangle.
The shadow under the cart was reworked four times in order to get a smooth transition from one color to the next. My initial thought was to use diagonal brush strokes as I applied the paint in order to recreate the planking of the boardwalk; but the result proved to be clumsy and distracting.