Abstracting The City

We have varieties of tools to begin abstracting a forest, a city street, a stream, a still-life, a nude.  Tools like brayers or squeegees can pry us away from dogmatic representation.  Photo software can provide freedom to improvise with images without the cost of paint and expensive substrates.  I like to use all of these methods.  When strolling through New York, Paris, London or Berlin I carry a camera and ipad.  I stumble across unexpected visual events and find myself interrogating them.  Initially I look for a novel point of view. I can later build other novel points of view using photo software with cloning, layering and other strategies.

Example 1 provides a sample of how I combine and layer multiple points of view taken with my camera. I was walking down Lexington Avenue in midtown NYC. I let my eye wander and noticed how I enjoyed looking down both the length of the avenue as well as the intersecting side streets. I snapped many versions of each from stationary and other points of view.

Example 1. The combination photo,

Example 2. Oil, 36×36 on dibond aluminum in reaction to the photo.

The abstraction process has historically begun with a sketch or within a painting. The artist determines to simplify, reduce, or reorganize an existing painting’s design structure.  When I began example 3 I was intrigued with the space extending beneath a series of bridges. As I worked on the piece I considered how one looks at a horizontal image. We change vanishing points as our eyeball pivots and refocuses. Our eyes do this at least 4x per second. I decided to let the image reveal this process of horizontal scanning with refocusing. The result is example 4, an abstraction from example 3.

Example 3. Bridges, oil on dibond aluminum, 24×48,

Example  4. Bridges, modified,

Another example of working out reorganizing ideas within a painting can be seen in example 5.  By example 5 the image had already undergone a variety of reorganizations.  Here I superimposed an inverted version the standard map of two point linear perspective onto the front of the building wedge. It made little sense to me. I proceeded to simplify the design and arrived at example 6.

Example 5.  An earlier step in testing designs,

Example 6. The painting as it exists today, 36×36,

Example 7 follows the same process as example 6 and example 1. I began with an abstracted photo montage trying to incorporate disparate points of view from a single geographic position.

Example 7. The original layered photo before compression into a square,

Example 8. Step two, an intermediate stage,Example 9. Step three, present state of the painting, 36×36,

Abstraction encourages the artist to accept and use the plasticity of his subject or motif. I felt the urge to round the corners of the architecture because it invested the image with more motion, more fluidity.  Example 10 presents the design ideas expressed above but, now with greater elasticity in the architectural forms.

Example 10. Present state of “Rounding Corners”, 36×36,

Let me invite you to a couple of upcoming events.  I will be speaking at the Westport Arts Center on, “The Science of Expression: Art and Design” on Saturday, April 29 from 2:30 to 4 PM. This is a fundraising event for the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members and, available at http://dunlopbenefit.eventbrite.com

On May 19th there will be an opening reception, 5-8 PM, for an exhibition of my paintings at Susan Powell Fine Arts in Madison, Ct at 679 Boston Post Road, 203 318 0616.  The next evening, Saturday May 20th, at 4 PM I will be giving a free painting demonstration in the gallery’s garden.

Saturday and Sunday June 17 and 18 from 9 am to 4 pm, I am giving a two-day in studio workshop, “Natural Elements: Learn to Paint Nature from Historic and Contemporary Techniques”  At the West Hartford Art League.  Call them (Elisabeth McBrien) at 860 231 8019 to register or visit their website at westhartfordart.org  go to “school” then to “workshops”  then to “spring 2017 workshops” for a fuller description.

Later in June, the 26th through 28th I will be conducting a three day workshop at Nicole Kennedy’s Gallery and Studio in Raleigh Durham, N.C. “ Painting with The Masters, Old and New Techniques”, call 919 838 850 to register  and visit nicolesartgallery.com for the workshop’s description.



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Deliberate Confusion

Organizing chaotic territory is a joy of art.  Arranging notes into a pattern packed with surprises sustains the attention of the artist as well as the audience.  Finding a visual field which threatens to dissolve into chaos offers a delicious challenge. Every visual field gives infinite opportunities for organizing using our knowledge foundation.

Neurology professor, Antonio Damasio points out; we begin with a process of knowing born out of wordless story telling (i.e. story telling with pictures). We then ask questions on the basis of our acquired knowledge. We can’t do otherwise.  We feel a breeze on our face and question what we know about breezes and faces. We had to create a knowledge base before we could recognize the touch of a breeze or even recognize our face and its connection to the breeze.

When we drive down a road we know where we must look; ahead.  We don’t let our vision wander and fall out of focus. The result would be as catastrophic as falling asleep at the wheel. And, we know how to question the visual signs lining up ahead of us. For example, we quickly and subconsciously conclude that a small bright rectangle in front is another car.

When unprompted by a specific task like driving or shopping for groceries or looking for our keys we find ourselves responding to unsolicited prompts like noises or anomalous movements.

In the woods or a marshland we categorize the visual environment based on previous our knowledge. If we stop to examine even a macro environment we try to identify and categorize our field of view. It’s difficult to appreciate how much we don’t see or, how artificial and disconnected from nature is our process of categorizing. As an artist I like to select, like Albrecht Durer, a piece of turf  or a small patch of nature’s chaos and then see how I might reorganize it using conventions from my art historical knowledge.  This process of self-observation improves the process of discovery.

My first example demonstrates how the artist Andy Goldsworthy approaches reorganizing nature within his knowledge foundation.  In example one he arranges an elm branch into a traditional serpentine shape and isolates this shape with colored elm leaves found within this environment.  He draws attention to his pictograph residing within the chaos of nature.

Example 1. Andy Goldsworthy, photo.

Daniel Chard organizes his experience of a moving stream into a similar serpentine shape with a conventional horizon (example 2).

Example 2. Daniel Chard silkscreened image based on a painting.

As I wandered across a small woodland stream I placed my camera inches above the water to make the space feel larger and, to allow me to see from an unfamiliar point of view. The stream here is only inches wide (example 3).  My reordering followed the same conventional knowledge as Goldsworthy and Chard.  I also used the serpentine form.  And, like Chard I used a conventional horizon but, placed it higher my composition allowing the dark foreground to consume more of the image area which has the effect of making the distant meadow and sky feel brighter by contrast (example 4). I used organizing principles such as diagonal counterpoint, perspective of diminishing scale, color recession, overlapping, atmospheric occlusion, contoured planes, and common fate.

Example 3. Photo of macro environment.

Example 4. Reorganized macro environment with oil paint on brushed silver dibond aluminum. 

To stimulate my impulse for reordering space I took two different photos of leaves in space and combined (layered) them (example 5). The resulting image was more confused than if I had used an image without layering. This new enriched chaos gave me more opportunities for reorganizing. I looked into this visual chaos and found a cruciform pattern with more lateral than vertical motion. The image also presented the lateral area as nearer (larger scale) than the vertical area. The area of intersection was another delectable confusion for me. The resulting painted image appears in sequential steps from example 6 to example 7.

Example 5. Layered (combined) photo of leaves in air.

Example 6. Step one, of oil painting “Suspended in a Breeze”

Example 7. Step two, of “Suspended in a Breeze”, present state.

I look forward to seeing students of my Tuesday classes tomorrow on March 28th. This is a make-up class for an earlier snow closing.

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Evolution of Rocks and Waves

Early in the 19th Century English artists like Turner, Bonington and Constable focused on the shore, its vicissitudes of weather, its reflective sunlight, its human drama.  By the late 19th century Americans like Winslow Homer had simplified their designs to emphasize brush strokes, exaggerated dramatic forms, motion and contrast. The new emphasis on simplification of design and expressive forms became a cornerstone for early 20th century modernists like Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Walt Kuhn (example 1).

Their legacy of expressive simplicity influenced landscape/seascape painters throughout the approaching 20th century. Walt Kuhn’s example still shows residual effects of earlier Impressionism in 1912.  Impressionist jottings would succumb to the bravura gestures of the modern expressionists. By mid century artists like Fairfield Porter and Rockwell Kent not only simplified their compositions but, stylized them as well (example 2).

Example 1. Walt Kuhn, 1912, at Ogunquit, Maine, oil,

Example 2. Fairfield Porter, 1962, also Maine shore, acrylic,

Other mid century artists like Charles Burchfield merged stylization or mannered patterns with a personal vocabulary of marks. His personal vocabulary was adopted and modified as an intimate painting strategy by later shoreline artists like Brita Holmquist (example 3).

Example 3. Brita Holmquist, also Maine coast, 1989, oil,

I found a different shoreline motif on a walk along Connecticut’s shore on a quiet gray day. A photo of that experience is here in example 4.  Two years later I returned to a set of these colorless photos and decided to reinvest them with vivid color contrast. I used the chromatic contrast of Ultramarine blue vs. bright yellows and oranges. I also horizontally compressed the image into a square in Photoshop.  My first effort borrows the expressive and simplified gesturing of early 20th century modernists.  I used a palette knife to convey a visceral feeling of gesture (example 5). This work was a small experiment, 12×12”. I then stepped up the scale to 24×24 (example 6) to 36×36 (example 7). In scaling up the image I tried recomposing and reversing the image as you see in the examples. I stopped work on the 36×36 to write this blogpost.

Example 4. Original photo,

Example 5. Preliminary palette knife study,12×12,

Example 6.  Later image without a palette knife but, with brushes, fingers, and squeegees, 24×24,

Example 7.  the 36×36 image, a reversed composition in its present state.

Using a quieter shoreline theme I found an evening beach with long blue shadows looking out onto a quiet North Atlantic. The angular rocks are gone and replaced with soft contours and languid tidal streams. The vista is looks out to the upper right while the design converges to the upper left (example 8).

Example 8, Soft and quiet shore, oil,

My last example 10, uses an older Claudian composition with a dark wall of rock framing the left side.  Claude and later Turner placed classical architectural forms there overlooking a harbor with a view to a luminous horizon (example 9). Example 10 represents the blocking-in of the image. Example 11 presents the image in its present state. I again rely upon simultaneous color contrasts as well as dramatic scale shifts to gather the viewer’s attention.

Example 9. Turner watercolor of Venice with classical framing wall on the left.

Example 10. Step one, the blocking-in,

Example 11. Step two, Present state of the painting. 




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Search For Water

Hints require guessing. Guessing is a game and purpose of art. In painting we forever try to find something, some mental anchorage. In the late 19th century we learned to make the guessing the central theme of painting.   The artist invited the beholder on a journey of discovery. The process of discovery usurped the old role of discovering something. Formerly discovery led to an answer.

By the late 19th century artists reveled in camouflaging the object of discovery to the extent that looking and questing took priority over finding something.  This new criteria affected both abstract and representational painters. Here are two examples from late 20th century watercolorists. Each one immersed the beholder in a surfeit of shapes and colors to help them realize a sensation of looking. This experience of looking was still tethered to recognition, but, barely. Their images had more in common with how vision aggregates individual phenomena into a recognizable idea vs. being able to name and identify a subject.

Each of these next two artists selected water as their motif because, water can diffuse information and pull us away from the drive to identify.  We simply settle back to enjoy the cascade of forms, textures, and colors as they present themselves in the cacophonous context of the nature.

Example 1. Bill Nichols, 1982, watercolor, “Log over Bradley Creek”, 19×27,

Example 2. George Harkin, 1983, watercolor, “September Gathering”, 40×60,

What follows are three images which invite you to look at color, shape and texture as you examine these excerpted bits of nature. They are assemblages of shapes and reflectance patterns that invite easy guessing but, follow-up with the question of how does the dense pattern of colored shapes make this sensation possible?

Example 3. First step using decalcomania, “Intimate River”,

Example 4. Second step, further vibrations of shape and color, “Intimate River”.

Example 5 presents another watery surface with another high horizon. The confused areas of paint aggregate to suggest a logical place but, their overlapping arrangement suggests otherwise.

Example 5. “Uncertain Shoreline”, oil on dibond,

Example 6 relies on fragmented shapes aggregated by similarities, shapes and proximity. The quick read is easier here but, after reading the image the beholder is invited to consider how the compiled color shapes were composed and, how that process of composition proceeded. This is because the image is built of small shapes laid side by side not by directly outlining mimicked shapes. This process can be explained by my title, “The Search for Sky in Water among Cattails.”

Example 6.  “The Search for Sky among Cattails”, oil on dibond,

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Mosaics in Paint

Using delicate and dense micromosaics (example 1) Ancient Roman mosaic artisans mastered resemblance to paintings at distance of just a few feet.  At larger scales mosaics were a model for stained glass windows with their arrangement of fracture lines carefully piecing together illusions with tinted and painted glass.

Example 1. Micromosaics using lapis Lazuli, glass, gold, and gemstones, 1780.

With the development of clear and colored glass in Venice stained glass windows with their oddly grid-like patterns became a staple of Renaissance Europe.  My second example presents a stained glass window from 1510 in Rouen, France. The window’s segmented appearance borrows from earlier mosaic traditions. This tradition of integrating the pattern of the glass shapes and their interstitial, dark separating lines into one harmonious  whole  referenced older mosaic works for structure  and design.  The tradition continues through today (example 3)

Example 2.  From the life of John the Baptist, 1510.

Example 3. Graham Jones, 2003, V&A museum, London,

Painters borrowed the close patterning of colored shapes from mosaics and stained glass. Example 4 offers an example by Pierre Bonnard. Observe how his brushstrokes apply paint as if they were small stones whose eventual arrangement aggregate into a single harmonious image. Many artists from the late 19th century (Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Impressionists) similarly treated their paint strokes as if they were arranging independent color shapes. Their collective arrangement of complementary colors provided a luminous and lively experience whose colors were heightened because of their sharp juxtaposition against other colors.

Example 4. Pierre Bonnard, oil painting, earlier in the 20th Century.

Using both the complementary color arrangements amplified color contrasts as well as the autonomous color shape patterns found in mosaics and stained glass. The process gives us an opportunity to make similarly vivid effects with paint. Here is a  step-by-step illustration of the process in oil. My example begins with a spray of dogwood blossoms in oil over dibond aluminum.

Example 5. Step one, laying in a field of merged colors,

Example 6. Step two, finding the shapes, patterns and fracture lines,

Example 7. Step three, applying color and modulation to the shapes.

My next two examples present shorelines with the interstitial space patterns created by arranging rocks. Notice in example 8 how the rocks are depicted at a variety of angles.  Some catch bright, warm sunlight.  Some reflect the blue in the shadows.  The rocks are pitched at varieties of angles just as classical mosaics have subtly pitched angles with their individual tiles. This gives variable sensations of reflectance as your eyes move across the image.

Example 8. Blue Shores, oil on dibond aluminum.

Example 9.  Bright shores, oil on dibond aluminum.

Using more of a micromosaic pattern I present example 10, an oil on brushed silver  dibond aluminum.

Example 10. Oil on brushed silver dibond aluminum,






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Turning Blue

Woad, Indigo, Lapis Lazuli, Azurite, and Smalt, were all sources for blue since antiquity. Blue was viewed skeptically by Romans because their enemies to the North possessed unfamiliar blue eyes. Blue, a color for the mischievous Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Vishnu meant blue could be fun but, tricky (example 1). Blue’s opposites yellow, red and orange were the preferred noble colors in India and Asia. The Indigo dyers in India were of a lower caste so that any well respecting Brahmin knew to stay away from them and blue.  It wasn’t only tinted; it was tainted!  Contact with indigo required ritual purging for the Brahmin.

Example 1. Krishna on a field of blue,

But, blue held attractions.  Lapis Lazuli and Azurite (a more cerulean blue) were mined in Afghanistan and required careful manipulations before being converted to useable pigments. The ultramarine derived from Lapis Lazuli was deep and extended into purple making it more appealingly royal for Romans and later Europeans. And, it was expensive! Scarcity usually improves market value.  By 1400 ultramarine blue had become the preferred color for cloaking the Virgin Mary (example 2). Ultramarine blue was seen as the color of the dome of heaven. Azurite, its less expensive substitute (though greener and paler) grew in value as well.

Example 2. Mary and Jesus depicted by Benedetto di Bindi in 1400 in Ultramarine blue.

By the 18th century Mary was cast in Ultramarine, Azurite, Carmine and Vermillion.  If she were depicted ascending to heaven then the predominant colors were azurite and ultramarine blue (example 3). Tiepolo’s example gives a feeling of movement and atmosphere. The didactic sharp edges of 1400 have given way to atmospheric space.

Example 3. Tiepolo’s Ascension of Mary.

Notice the relationship of yellow (ochre or gold) against areas of blue.  By the 20th Century artists and color theorists proposed proportional color relationships. A bright yellow was better balanced with dark ultramarine blue when it occupied much less space within the painting.  Johannes Itten provided proportional color wheels to help divine the proper quantities. These lessons are still taught in contemporary design schools.  They affect how our clothing is colored and how our homes are painted. Examples 4 and 5 present Itten’s proportional color program as used in the famous Bauhaus school.

Example 4.  Proportional color wheel,

Example 5.  Complementary color proportions as balanced,

Richard Diebenkorn and other artists would take these color-balance recipes to heart as you see in example 6.

Example 6.  Diebenkorn balcony after Matisse,

I created the following images (oil on dibond) pursuing a blue atmosphere and, the proportionally balanced color complements of blue and yellow. Consider example 7, 8, and 9,

Example 7.  My original multilayered, color adjusted photo of Grand Central Terminal,

Example 8.  Step one, in ultramarine blue,

Example  9. Step two, with yellow and blue atmosphere, “Turning Blue”

Examples 10 and 11 demonstrate my reconsiderations of a design while adding more atmosphere.

Example 10. Step one, solitary figure which I deemed as too focal,

Example 11.  Step two, more atmosphere and a crowd a more unified design,”Approaching Light”,

I persevered searching for a more ethereal light which explains my example 12, “Walking in Blue”.   The recipes for proportional color balancing between yellow and blue are loosely applied here.   The figure wades into an atmosphere of blue light.  Hopefully, you, the viewer will follow.

Example 12. “Walking in Blue” oil on white dibond,.

I invite you to join me on Sunday March 5th, 2017 for a lecture on Color: Its Meanings and Uses across Time and Cultures at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. 203 966 6668 ext2.





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Decalcomania Painting

Earlier in the 20th century, before surrealists like Max Ernst discovered the magical effects of decalcomania other artists from as early as the 1500’s had tested its possibilities. At its core, decalcomania begins as a type of transfer or monoprint. The artist spreads his pigment over a surface then presses paper, stone, or canvas on to it.  The resulting textures can resemble the effects of a frosted window pain.

The variety of effects depend upon the media (watercolor, ink, acrylic or oil) and, in the case of oil paint, the effects depend upon the thickness of the paint, the viscosity of the oil paint, and the pressure applied (pressure can be applied directly in the transfer or by pressing and simultaneously sliding the top sheet over the bottom sheet of canvas, copper, panel, paper etc).

After the pressing artists like Ernst would fill in selected areas of the decalcomania effects. Ernst filled such areas with flat fields like sky to isolate and feature the decalcomania effects.  (See examples 1 and 2)

Example 1, Max Ernst, 1942, full image,

Example 2. Max Ernst, detail from full image,

I will walk you through the decalcomania process beginning with the photo I used as my original inspiration (example 3, photo).  This photo is the result of combining two different photos. I wanted to create a visual field that would not anchor me to tightly representational information.

The next step was to cover a sheet of dibond aluminum with pigments that were a loose interpolation of my photographic resource (example 4).  I then pressed the dibond face down onto another sheet of similarly sized dibond.  I then pried them apart.  The resulting image was then carried over to my easel where I worked into the paint (example 5).

Example 3, source material, photo assemblage,

Example 4, Painting before pressed transfer process,

Example 5. Image after later reworking.

Within example 5 you should be able to discern areas resembling frosted window effects that were the consequence of the transfer pressing.

I omitted illustrating a critical step in the process with the previous examples 3 through 5.  Here is another step by step sequence including the omitted step.  The first step is the preparing a sheet or plate for the transfer process (example 6). The second step represents the image as it appears after the transfer process without reworking with other tools and paint (example 7). The third step represents the image after reworking (example 8).

Example 6. The panel as prepared before the transfer pressing,

Example 7. The effects of the transfer pressing,

Example 8. The later working into the image.

Finally, I moved to larger decalcomania works. The first images were 12×12. These last images are 24×24. They each represent unfinished states. If I do not want to completely erase or obscure the transfer effects I must wait for the paint to dry before applying other layers. They are represented as examples 9 and 10.

Example 9,  Autumn Meadow, present state,

Example 10, Shoreline Flora, present state.

I invite you to join me on Sunday March 5th, 2017 for a lecture on Color: Its Meanings and Uses across Time and Cultures at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. 203 966 6668 ext2.


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Cutting the Light

Sequencing empty or negative shapes can be used to create space and rhythms such as a circling pattern around an ancient Greek bowl.  2500 years ago Greek artists appreciated defining forms with negative and positive shapes.  When the artist arranged figures in a frieze around a bowl their designs paid equal attention to the mutually defining dark and light shapes.  The interstitial dark shapes defined the light figures just as the figures defined the dark space between them. This same attention to interdependent negative-positive shapes was also given to the decorative banding. (example 1)

Example 1.  Greek volute-krater, 450 BCE,

Chinese artists in porcelain or paint similarly built their shapes from mutually defining negative/positive shapes. In example 2 you see a Qing dynasty bowl from the mid 1700s.  Observe the leaf, limb and fruit shapes appear to float above a field of white.  The white shapes define, unify and stage the natural components. Notice the twisting and turning limbs and leaves.  I use these qualities in my following examples.

An antique Japanese dragon-tree also demonstrates another model for twisting dragon-like tree forms (example 3).

Example 2. Chinese, Qing Dynasty Vase, 1700s,

Example 3. Japanese, wall screen, dragon tree,

As I walked into cold winter’s piney woods I recognized forms from historic Chinese and Japanese works.  My first painted example borrows the light background shapes from the Chinese vase as well as dragon-shapes for my tree limbs. I use these sources in both of my painted examples.

Examples 4 presents light interstitial shapes to create a luminous background. I carved these light shapes out of the paint with a squeegee, paper towels, and flat wash brushes.  The two trees use vanishing points set at the top of the picture to exaggerate a feeling of foreshortening.  I use strong complementary colors to infer strong, lateral afternoon sunlight.

Example 4.  Waving Pines, oil on brushed silver enameled aluminum,
present state,

Examples 5, 6 and 7, present the sequential development of an image of tangled pines in February’s afternoon light.  Example 5 shows the blocking-in of the initial colors on white enameled laminated aluminum.  Example 6 presents an interim stage which demonstrates how I find patterns of serpentine limbs. I used paper towels wrapped around my fingers (and finger nail) and flat water color wash brushes to excise and apply the paint in sinewy forms.

Example 5. Step one, Tangled Pines,

Example 6. Step two, Tangled Pines,

Example 7. Step three. Tangled Pines present state.

I invite you to join me on Sunday March 5th, 2017 for a lecture on Color: Its Meanings and Uses across Time and Cultures at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. 203 966 6668 ext2.

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Sunlight and Atmosphere

In the 1600s Claude Lorraine experiments with light, atmosphere and distance. He observes that foreground information can be tucked into shadows with deep darks broken by a few sharp light edges. He further concludes that a feeling of great distance can be built from dissolved edges and light colors. When juxtaposed within a picture these two opposing conditions create a poetic meditation with an infinite feeling of distance preceded by intimate, shadowed foreground (example 1).
Many artists built on Claude’s discoveries. Among them were J.M.W.Turner and later, George Inness. Inness takes the obscuring atmospheres of Turner and applies them to the northeastern US. He finds tranquil domestic landscapes bathed in a fog of light as you see in Example 2. You can visit this painting at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA courtesy of the generosity of Catherine and Frank Martucci. Inness offers us rich darker foreground textures to a distance dissolving into luminous air.
Example 1. Claude Lorraine from 17th century,

Example 2. George Inness from 1891, Montclair NJ,

In my first example I begin with an older painting which already has a soft atmosphere. I will use this painting as my underpainting (example 3). Step two (example 4) demonstrates me blocking in my next painting as I cover parts of the underpainting. Step three (example 5) presents the painting further developed but, lacking the obscuring luminous atmosphere which you see applied in Step four (example 6).
Example 3, step one, the original underpainting,

Example 4, Step two, Blocking in,

Example 5, Step three, further developments,

Example 6, Step four, after glazing with semi opaque pigments,

The universal depth-giving qualities of atmospheric perspective can also be seen in my painting of city streets  in example 7. The painting is an abstracted view of a street corner and receives its feeling of space from both linear and atmospheric perspective.

Example 7 presents the first stage of this painting.

Often I feel an image can become crowded with too much  information and begs for simplification. The application of a luminous atmosphere can be of great service here. Observe the painting as it appears in step one then, simplified in step two (examples 8 and 9).
Example 8, Image before simplification and abstraction,

Example 9, Image after Simplifying and abstracting with atmospherics,

Examples 8 and 9 demonstrate the value of simplification but, there can be a reversed solution such as you see in examples 10 and 11.  In example 10 I begin with simplicity as you see with the graphic blocking-in of shapes.  I follow-up with an application of more textures and shape varieties as developed in example 11.  Example 11 also relies on atmospheric obfuscation along the top of the tree line and the edge of the meadow.

Example 10, Step one, “Cattails,” with graphic Blocking-in,

Example 11. Step two, “Cattails,” with later application of more visual noise with varieties of shapes.

I invite you to join me this April 20-23, 2017 (Thursday through Sunday) the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach sponsors of workshop with me; two days on location and two days in the studio. Call Sara Bass at 904-280-0614 x 204 or register at www.ccpvb.org/programs/adult/adult-workshops .
Please join me for a lecture on COLOR: ITS MEANINGS AND USES ACROSS TIME AND CULTURES  at the Silvermine Art Center  in New Canaan, Ct. on Sunday March 5, 2017 at 4:30 pm.

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Overlapping Rhythms

We cannot ignore the small flicker of a candle in a darkened room or the motions of a distant headlights in the night. Small light shapes pop against darkened backgrounds. They are the break-spots, the anomalies that steal all our attention, the jewels in the crown.  Bright shapes jump in front of the darkened field, unless a darkened form crosses their path and overlaps them. From before Titian through today this principle enriches and informs paintings.  This principle reinforces our sense of reality when applied within a painting.

When overlapping contrasting shapes are arranged in rhythmic but, non-repetitive sequences they offer a feeling movement, of music. My first example is a watercolor by Andrew Wyeth which is followed by another watercolor (also late 20th century) by James Weidle.  Wyeth’s watercolor contrasts light shapes over a darkened field while Weidle’s watercolor contrasts dark shapes over a field of light forms. (Examples 1 and 2).

Example 1. Andrew Wyeth watercolor,

Example 2. James Weidle watercolor (1982),

Using these same principles I constructed two similar paintings. All the following examples were painted alla prima, painted at one setting.  The first example (examples 3 and 4) is laid over a white enameled laminated aluminum. The second is an over-painting laid upon an old street scene (examples 5 and 6). Observe how the more massive shapes both rhyme and refute one another.  Observe how the arrangement of the grass fronds further reinforces the rhythmic sequence and a feeling of movement as well as coalesce to keep the viewer within the picture frame.

Example 3. Step one of Autumn Grass, with translucent oils,

Example 4. Step two of Autumn Grass,

Example 5. Step one (opaque painting over city scene),

Example 6. Step two (opaque painting over city scene) unfinished,

There will be a step three for the opaque painting but, I must let the painting dry before applying more color or, I risk muddying the colors.

My last example presents a wintery view of London. I manipulated the painting to reinforce the feeling of an iconic atmospheric London reminiscent to me of Charles Dickens, Peter Pan, and Sherlock Holmes. It’s quite a sentimental stew in which I worked to avoid saccharin.  I bet you also detect my homage to Monet’s, Whistler’s and Turner’s misty images of London here. (example 7) Here the rhythmic effects are created by my arrangements of architectural features as opposed to the earlier curvelinear flora.

Example 7. London on brushed silver enameled aluminum,

I invite you to join me this April 20-23, 2017 (Thursday through Sunday) the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach sponsors of workshop with me; two days on location and two days in the studio. Call Sara Bass at 904-280-0614 x 204 or register at www.ccpvb.org/programs/adult/adult-workshops .


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