I am blessed by the fact that I live in a beautiful place. This part of Wisconsin is lovely! I’m near Lake Michigan and a mile from Green Bay (the bay not the city). It’s rolling and green in the summer, brilliantly colored in the autumn, and spectacular in the whiteness of winter. This little painting is a reflection of my environment. I think you can pick out the environment of most representational artists in their work. Their environments can’t help but seep into each piece in some way, how ever obscurely. Even Salvador Dali included the landscape of home in his surreal paintings.
This continuation of the theme of the nude in the landscape includes a Lake Michigan view with peninsula and moon rise. If you have never seen the moon rise, find a place with a clear horizon and experience it. It is as glorious as the sun rise. I think it might even be a little better! So impressed have I been with moon rise that I have included it in a few more paintings.
The night time sky can present a problem for painters. Using black may not be effective for painting if one wishes to depict anything but blackness. I resort to deep blue to resolve that problem. It allows me to develop something of interest in the terrain in low key color. All the values are still discernable in their darkness. Full on black wouldn’t allow me to do that.
Why not combine two favored subject matters that encompass a long tradition: the nude in the landscape? I have a lot of small figure studies that aren’t finished due to time constraints. This is a fifteen minute study. I kept it because it was a nice, but unfinished little piece. I didn’t feel it was ready for showing. I have a lot of these and I am always making more of them. I also discard a lot of them. Either I don’t have enough information for completion or they are just not up to my standards and never will be. So into the trash they go!
After a lot of thinking I work on the ones I’ve kept by putting them into invented surroundings. Since my home is surrounded by some lovely woods, I decided to make them the inspiration for some invented landscapes. This is all off the top of my head with the woods to provide the right “feel”. I do as little as I can to the figure that has already been established. I do add some glazes to give it the warmth and I might deepen some values of flesh, but little else.
I still don’t know what this model is sitting on. All I had was the figure on a white ground. So I put him at the edge of some woods with a spruce tree in the background. That’s a spruce in my front yard. It is very important to the composition. With all the dark green on the left, something very dark and heavy was needed for balance. It’s scale indicates distance and the diagonal of the tree is in opposition to the diagonal of the figure’s arms and parallel to the angle of the legs and the edge of the large area of foliage. It’s unifying to the whole.
I have more of these to post. I leave it to you, dear reader, to see if you agree with my solutions to the problems presented by unfinished figure paintings.
As promised this is the second watercolor done during the holiday weekend. It was done during the very same session. The difference is the painting surface. The paper has been made wet and the paint was applied while the paper was in that state. As sunny and perfect as the day was, an onshore breeze brought damp air which helped keep the paper quite wet. You can see the result in the soft edges. The area of green in the upper left corner is the result of the wet paint bleeding into that spot of wet paper. A little artist’s license turned it into an invented peninsula.
This is a more abstract rendering of the scene than the last painting. To me it’s more exciting. It leaves more to the imagination. None of us are recording devices. I am a good observer, but I am not a camera. People don’t see like a camera ‘sees’. We have binocular vision for depth perception; the camera does not. We see in snatches because we have tunnel vision. We assemble a scene in our brains from a scan of the area. We also see it in focus throughout. The camera takes the whole scene and is limited by the depth of field of the lense settings . We are also free to invent and add or subtract as we see fit. Sometimes a painting needs something that may not be in front of us. It might be a color or items deemed too distracting for a cohesive whole.
A lot of this painting has been left to chance. I like to be surprised by the uncontrolled aspects of painting on wet paper. There are times I am disappointed by the results. I am content with that. It’s also not all chance. Happy accidents are wonderful only if they work with the whole. Only the artist can decide which accidents to keep and which to obliterate. It’s a lesson learned from my abstract work. Abstract painting is the most challenging form of painting. The artist is responsible for inventing the imagery with no referent. It might have the “feel” of something from the real world, but it doesn’t represent it. It’s flying by seat of one’s pants with no map.
I can’t begin to tell you how often I have heard in regards to abstraction (my own and others) those typically ignorant comments such as “My three year old could do better than that.” or “The artist paints that way because s/he can’t really draw.” or “Anyone can make a mess like that.” I challenge anyone with these kinds of attitude to go ahead and make some good abstract paintings and see if it works out. If you get a good one, you have probably made quite a few to get there. Art stuff is always a lot of work.
The Independence Day weekend here brought long term friends to our house. We are so comfortable with each other, we can go without saying a word, read, or whatever, and be perfectly content. We decided to make a trip to Algoma. Algoma is a resort town with a lively art gallery scene right on Lake Michigan. It has a gorgeous beach! My friend and I parked the car and pulled the painting gear out and under a shade tree. We painted while our hubbies kept themselves busy. They were specifically instructed not to hover!
The light had a crystalline quality with crisp shadows and visibility for miles and miles. It gave the whole scene an extraordinary color. The water had a tropical turquoise green hue. The stormy weather to the south was rendered pink at the horizon. It was heavenly!
The central green swath is a breakwater inside a breakwater. You can see the poured concrete breakwater behind it in the distance. One can walk out on it towards a lighthouse. The greenery has taken hold on a jumble of rock placed, I assume, as an earlier breakwater for the pleasure craft sheltering to the left outside the frame.
This is a departure in the use of materials. This was done on cold pressed, rag paper not masa paper. The paper was dry at the outset. Hence the crispness and the greater saturation of color. It seemed to suit the conditions. The next post will be a rendering of the same location using masa paper. Stay with me, dear reader!
This image is reminiscent of a Rodin sculpture from a project of his that never was completed. It was called the Gate of Hell. It was a portal and door encrusted with nude figures. Most of them are no larger than around 8″. It existed in his studio as a plaster model and the figures on it was an inspiration for much of his fully realized work. Iris, Messenger of the Gods was just such a realization. The Gate of Hell was only cast in bronze after his death and now resides in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
You see two versions. The first is as it was after the fifteen minutes allotted were up. The second is after I had made additions based on my being reminded of the Rodin work. I added a rising sun since Iris is also associated with the dawn. I also added more violet to the shadows of the figure as a complementary contrast to the yellow sky.
It may have been a good thing Rodin’s Gate of Hell was never completed and installed. It was done earlier in his life and jam packed with good ideas for work. I think they would have been squandered on a gigantic work with a myriad of small figures that were made insignificant by their size and the surrounding context of hundreds of figures of similar scale. It’s installation might have made him reluctant to use those figures again for later work. He might have thought that it would have appeared he was repeating himself.
But, I think not. That is a modernist view. Artists, including the greats, have been addressing the same issues, using the same tropes for centuries without an accusation of a lack of originality. The modernist notion that one must be original and always break new ground, is based on the premise that it is actually possible. Is there any thing utterly original in this world but those things which lie within our experience? Even Picasso with his ground breaking collages is nothing new. Women have been collaging in the form of applique for centuries. He was raised by strong women and even adopted his mother’s maiden name as his artist’s identity. He may have seen them doing needle work with applique and was just lucky enough to recall it and take advantage of it at the right moment.
If I ask you, dear reader, to describe a creature form another world, you would still have to use terms that would be recognizable as being of this world. You might use concrete physical characteristics like leg, limb, wing, eye, antenna, head, and body. For more ambiguously concrete characteristics you might use terms like sense, feel, touch, hear, see, taste. All these terms denote an experience of this world. How can that be utterly original? There is nothing absolutely new on this planet. Everything is based on something which came before. All we can do is give it a personal twist to make it our own.