I was at the studio of a good friend and sculptor the other day. The humorous opinion developed that, nowhere in art does dullness shine brighter, than from the lamp of perfection.
We were having a stimulating conversation that somehow landed on the idea of extremes. We were comparing perfect technique versus an intentionally naïve approach. Perfection in technique we decided, especially in the age of the camera, is pointless. The humorous opinion developed that, nowhere in art does dullness shine brighter, than from the lamp of perfection. An artist’s technique can get so perfect, there is nowhere to allow for the art to exist. Little actions that are left not “corrected” can do several things. The so called “dithers” of tool or brush handling adds a certain life to the work. These little leftovers can add interest that compels us to want to look closer.
Sometimes the artist must make a decision to pull back the perfection for some specific reason. A purposeful distortion may provide an excitable energy or a quiet a mood. Artistic intention can make the poetic idea or message be better communicated to the viewer. In other words, these are the things that turn a perfect rendering into a work of art.
It is in our human nature to share our experiences. Telling a story with embellishments makes it really captivating. However, one must first learn to speak before exercising artistic license. Oh, but that certainly, would be another and perhaps very long conversation.
Note: This painting (Aycil with Orange Chair Unfinished, 2018) is of my friend and working partner, Aycil Yeltan who is an actress and art model. She is certainly not dull or uninteresting! Thanks to her again for posing, What, I ask myself, would we artists do without our hard working models?
Landscape paintings are easy. A tree is a tree, so a landscape may be rendered any old way and still describe what it is. Eh … yes and no. Is there a quantity that often cannot be measured? A tree, it is true, does not usually have the familiar given proportions like that of the human body. Some freedom of the so called “artistic license” is understandable when looking at a tree in a painting. So here perhaps, is a large point to consider when it comes to looking at art. It is a point often discussed. Is it necessary to render a thing so exact for the rendering to be considered art?
The human face, for example, requires more exacting observation in that we are built to intuitively understand the basic proportions and placement of our features. We may look at ourselves in the mirror and lament that our forehead is too high or our ears are small or too large. These are little moments of micro analysis, as we instantly determine how our features measure in relation to other things. How much of this analytical critique is actually necessary in regarding the essence or character of the face or for that matter, the landscape?
A common remark about paintings is about its detail. Yet, many artists often remind themselves not to get hung up on the details. The Mona Lisa by none other than DaVinci, is arguably the most famous and possibly greatest portraits of all time. It captures the sitters mystery that beguiles us to this day some six hundred years later. Yet the portrait itself may only be a contemporaneous characterization of the woman? For that matter, consider the lonely yet moving work of Edward Hopper, famous for his painting “Nighthawks“.
A lot of importance is placed on determining the quality of a work of art by how accurate it is in the rendering of the scene. However, it is possible that the intrinsic impact toward the appeal of our emotion may be the real power behind a work of art. Those deemed as great art possess a quantity that often cannot be measured.
One of my most favorite painters is a woman named Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. She was born in 1755 and died in 1842. She was born a French citizen. As a teenager, she was already gaining recognition from prominent artists, aristocrats and even royalty. She painted a portrait of none other than Marie Antoinette. During the French Revolution she left the country, which led her French citizen status to be revoked and she was forced to divorce her husband. She eventually returned to Paris and her citizenship (including her marriage) were renewed after some petitioning from fellow artists.
Aside from her life story, I just absolutely love her paintings. Considering the time she was alive, she clearly made enough of an impression to be invited into the mostly male circle of reputable artists. And how can I not see why? Every self portrait I’ve seen of her provides the allusion that she must have been having a blast. Her moods are usually light but not too dainty. Her self portraits seem honest enough to make one believe that she must have painted herself as she really was. She clearly was quite beautiful also.
This portrait of her is amazing in that it shows her many sides. A socially upward woman who also possesses some humor and humility, her palette being very important to her in life and spirit. I don’t know if she was aloof to the rigors of life or not. I prefer to imagine that she simply negotiated herself away from conflict to focus on simply creating beautiful things as being important enough to not be set aside. That perhaps was her breastplate and her triumph.
I remember the lesson in speaking about an artwork that seemingly has no meaning. Begin with what you know about the piece. Start with the obvious stuff like describing the physical properties of the artwork. The dialogue might begin with its dimensions or materials and whether or not it is framed. This method is similar to a first introduction to someone whom you’ve never met before. Following an initial introduction, more insightful aspects begin to reveal themselves.
Sometimes, making art is similar. The motivation to start something may be quite large or even perhaps unknown. If this is the case, then a deliberate crossing of the threshold must be made for something to begin. A brush mark, placed anywhere, initiates and introduces the obvious framework of the construction of forms. This the “what”, and is in this case, the head of a young woman.
As the process of making the “what” continues, the sense of the idea, as mysterious or out of reach it seems to be, also begins to articulate itself. This is the part that connects with something far more compelling than a simple rendering. Now, the translation of the subject starts to communicate a mood as the artwork then, hopefully, takes on the curious properties that compel us not only analytically but also emotionally.
Note: This painting was made while referencing an earlier study done with a professional studio model, the incomparable Toni Czechorosky, who posed for it. I sincerely appreciated the time working with her.
New work is beginning to happen in the direction of made up images of portraits depicting fictional characters. Here is a progress shot of a painting that is based on an earlier piece called “The Heiress”. The original Heiress painting was made from studies done with a live model. In turn, that painting became the basis for the new one shown here, which will probably be given the same title.
Each iteration has improved and I like the direction these are going in. I’m starting to develop a story line that inspires new ideas for new paintings that will probably tie in together as one whole body of work at some point. It’s exciting right now as I start to see it come to fruition.
The violin is an instrument that is as beautiful looking as the sounds it makes in the hands of a talented musician. The range of instrument is from festive to mournful and everything in between. The dramatic volume it makes all together in a powerful symphony delivers the wild storms of Wagner for example. Yet, in the hands of a soloist, the sounds can be like a suspension of the breath to something contemplative and soothing like a pastoral painting. The connection made between the performer and the instrument can at times be transcendent, thus the common understanding that the violin is considered a very emotional instrument.
I have a feeling that the violin may start being a regular feature in some future paintings, this one is the first. This painting was at first a quick oil sketch done from life, while working with Aycil Yeltan. The pose was something we both liked and the pose and the painting was continued and finished later from memory and imagination.
I had no idea I would be spending my Sunday afternoon painting inside. There was no plan to do this. This was a spontaneous set up. I was not at my studio, but there were some materials laying around, so I simply worked with what I had.
Getting the Afternoon Started
My wife wanted to read her book. She was leaning back in the day bed near the open window. A breeze was gently blowing in and the air was fresh. Immersed in the book she was reading at the time, she agreed to let me do some studies of her, so long as she could rest. No problem. I laid down a sheet, set up my small easel, put out three colors on my palette with a white and started working.Continue reading “My Sunday Afternoon Painting Inside”