Friday, December 30, 2016

Canvas or Panel?

A friend asked the other day which I prefer painting on, canvas or panel.  I have been painting on larger canvases as of late but I do hate the sound of the canvas if I am constantly dabbing on an area.  Painting outdoors it is better to work on a panel as the light will not go through the back of the canvas if I am painting into the sun.  The stiffness of panel also I like painting against.  Sometimes the give of a canvas id too much.  That said canvas has its own properties that I like as well.  Much lighter when painting large is nice.  Haling around big panels can be tough.  Another option that I have tried and like is to glue the canvas or linen to a board.  This world well and you can get the texture of the linen as well as taking care of the problems with canvas that I have mentioned.  If a sharp object pokes the canvas you have something behind to protect it as well.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

the end and the beginning

        With the end of a year and a new one upon us I thought I might try and start to try and be a little more consistent with entries. I like many artists prefer to paint rather than write about the act of painting.  I think  this time of year one thinks about childhood.  Giving gifts to my children I naturally think about my own childhood.  There is something of a longing in most good paintings that I have seen.  A Rothko painting makes me long for communication with the spirit; my own or in another realm.  I have memories of driving in the English landscape to get a christmas tree.  I remember seeing a group of trees in a field with fields and trees receding into the frozen landscape and liking what I saw.  it is a clear memory I'm sure tampered with by time but I remember taking a mental note as if to my adult self my seven year old self stored valuable information.  I would awake in America having dreamed that I was in the English countryside.  Nothing ever really helped with the feeling of home sickness.  I am home with my family and the people are what matter now but the places that imprinted on my brain then.  The rural beauty and the field desolate unused until the spring seemed to be telling my little self something.  "This is what time is.  Things will come and go.  Life and death, cold weather and warm weather, sadness and joy, they all need one another and ad to the richness of life. As the year closes and another begins there is hope.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Painting Plein Air

This week I made a few studies out doors of Choate Island.  The view is from J.T. Farnham's 88 Eastern Ave, in Essex, MA. It was an amazing, clear morning.  The strong shadows changed dramatically over the course of two hours so I had three paintings going to try and record what the light was doing. What I love about being outside painting is that the painting becomes like a record of passing time.  It is frustrating when you get something down on the panel and then the light completely changes, but at the same time there is a joy and humor in the fact that we really don't get to hold on to anything.  The longer you look at something the better.  It is important to look more at what is in front of you as the time spent looking at your painting.

By keying in the value of the sky first I base the rest of the values from that.  If the sky is too dark you get in trouble.  The refection of the sky in the water is almost always a little darker in value that the sky due to the perspective.  In the excitement of driving up to paint at 5am I left my wallet at home and my friend Wayne stopped by on his way to work to give me $20. Thank you Wayne!  It was really nice also to have no one around, only a few joggers and those cars going by.  A group of artists that I liked are those from the Barbican School.  Theodore Rousseau it is said "made himself a mirror rather than an artist" by Theophile Gautier. Many of the artists that I am drawn to seem to be after a certain truth and realism. In the process these artists tend to make pictures that do not look "real", but instead are a unique perspective on how they the artist see and feel about what they are seeing.  No one can really be a mirror because we are human and that will spill out.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Musings on Manet

I recently bought a book on Eduard Manet. I was instantly drawn to his paintings when I was younger.  They had a freshness about them.  When I was in the museums as a child I remember thinking that most of the "Classical" paintings made me want fall asleep, but these figures had life in them.  I could see the thickness of the paint applied on the surface.  "The Fifer" I remember seeing in an art book and thinking that it was nice for an artist to depict children in a way that was serious.  "Monk in Prayer" at the MFA in Boston was haunting in its realism.  Manet has a way of drawing from the past and simplifying.  The skull is painted in a painterly way reminding me that this is just a painting, and these are symbols that we are looking at.  "Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe", is a favorite of mine for the strange landscape in the background.  Manet was looking at Giorione's and Titan's,"The Pastoral Concert," as well as engravings by Raimondi.  Giorgione's landscapes are dark and beautiful with space that seems hard to navigate.  Manet's painting too seems hard to believe for other reasons. Both paintings seem to be conjuring a pastoral ideal but Manet's is closer to what we might see in the woods yet still a very loose and imaginative landscape.  I could look at this paintings all day.  The "Olympia" and its predecessor, "Venus of Urbino," also shows how the past is suddenly thrown into the modern.  Manet was looking to the past but drawing from it in a away that made his paintings relevant to his present time yet continuing the narrative of art history. I find this dialogue with the past in his paintings fascinating weather he is drawing from great painters like Diego Velazquez or Raphael.

Monday, April 11, 2016

George Inness and Toanlism.

I have been thinking of the American Tonalism over the past month as I have been working on a particular commission.  One of my favorite painters and one who is linked with this movement is George Inness (1825-1894).  The paintings of his late career are among my favorite.  Inness was quoted as saying that "The true use of art is, first, to cultivate the artist's own spiritual nature." I can see in his work that he was interested not only in the plastic material world but another one that is harder to describe.  Inness died in 1894 at Bridge Allen in Scotland.  The end of his life sounds like something from a film! According to his son his last words were "My God! oh, how beautiful!" as he was viewing the sunset, and fell to the ground and died minutes later.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The New Year

             "Water moving over stones"
                    5x7 oil on panel

As a year comes to a close and another begins I naturally think of life cycles and the death and rebirth.  I find inspiration in these moments where the metaphors of life and death are layers out.  The sunrise and sunsets are a constant reminder of birth and then the closing.  The highway and roads are also a clear metaphor for life's journey played out in so many songs but still hits me. 

Truck on the road
Oil on panel

 I remember looking out the window on road trips. On a long car ride the imagination would take over and I would enter into a day dream.  Sometimes I would imagine that we were from a time long past and in the future marveling at the cars and buildings.  This is a helpful habit for an artist.  Take nothing for granted! As an artist I am a witness to this time and place and record it for those that come after.  To see the beauty in this world and contemplate it before it fades or becomes something else.

               "Tree on the road side"
                 36x24 oil on canvas