Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Edouard Manet, as much as any fashion-conscious denizen of Manhattan, loved black. He used it to shape his compositions, create his forms (often quite flat ones) and engender high drama.
His friend and sister-in-law, painter Berthe Morisot, tried to persuade him to paint in the lighter hues of the Impressionists. But though the Impressionists were both his friends and his great admirers, Manet followed his own muse and continued to explore the many uses and advantages of black.
Right now at the Frist in Nashville, Tennessee, we are lucky to have a splendid exhibit from Musee d'Orsay. Along with numerous other masterpieces, the exhibit gives us a cornucopia of Manets in which Edouard shows us the depths and wonders of the non-color black.
My painting, Like a Melody also uses black for composition, contrast and drama. It's a color needed in almost every palette... even the impressionistic.
Like a Melody is an 18x14 oil done in open studio.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Sense of Place

 Visual art and the written word can both give a wonderful sense of place. Read Faulkner and you'll come to know Mississippi without setting foot there; explore the poetry of Robert Frost and you explore New England. Read Donna Leon (my current fav) and you'll feel both the present damp and the ancient splendor that is Venice.
Paradoxically, I think it may be harder to capture a place in a painting than it is to capture it with words.
But in my part of the world, Middle Tennessee, there are many superb visual artists who succeed in painting the beauties of this place and in capturing its special feeling.
To prove my point, on the right side of the blog, I've added links to landscapists and plein air groups that specialize in painting Tennessee and the southeastern United States. I'll mention one specific painter among the many that I find especially adept at conveying not only the look but the feeling of my state. Kevin Menck can paint a field and make it so real and immediate that I know it's got to be just down the road and around the bend.
My Cold Thanksgiving is a plein air 18x14 oil; its place is a century plus farmhouse here in Middle Tennessee.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Kind of Town...


Even a flood can't keep a city of bluegrass and honky-tonks down. This is a very slightly modified skyline of my hometown, Nashville, Tennessee.
Cityscapes are hard. I love them, but really don't like to do them. The perspective, figuring out just how to do all those little windows, I find very difficult.
But there is a painter who made cityscapes look easy. In the 1700's, Canaletto painted his hometown of Venice over and over. It's said he painted many outside, on the spot rather than in the studio, making him, I suppose, one of the true plein air pioneers.
Canaletto had a fluid brushstroke and a wonderful way of capturing light. Most of his paintings were done for wealthy English tourists. Now they hang in museums, an unusual end for a travel souvenir.
Another master of the cityscape, William Wray, also possesses a fluid stroke and a great way with light. But rather than beautiful Venice, Wray paints the urban blight of Southern California and makes it quite beautiful as well.
My View from Metro General  is an 8x16 oil.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let's Hear It for Negativity!

Negative space, that space surrounding each and every object in a painting can be wonderful. Velasquez turned it into painted air so real it's almost breathable. Vermeer infused it with the softest of sunlight. Van Gogh used brushstrokes to transform it into motion and energy.
Surround a figure with negative space like Hopper and the mood will turn solitary. Eliminate negative space by bringing the figure up close and personal, as Klimt often did, and there will be instant intimacy between viewer and subject.
In my painting, the chair and the parasol leave the model with almost no negative space to call her own. But she doesn't seem to miss her bit of breathing room; in fact, she's rather like a seatmate on a bus, very busy ignoring us all.

Paper Parasol  is a 20x20 oil. The girl was done in open studio; the parasol was finished later in my studio.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Last Picture Show... for the Chestnuts... this year

My city is blessed with an array of urban parks, one very special one is Radnor Lake. It's in a rather ritzy residential area and is protected enough from the city so that once you enter its grounds, you enter a quiet zone. Sounds heard are forest noises plus the occasional voices of others enjoying the park along with you.
For years, the Chestnuts (plein air painters for the land) have painted pretty pictures as a fund raiser for Radnor. The Radnor/Chestnut show is happening this coming weekend. Nashvillians can support their park by purchasing a reminder of its beauty to hang on their wall. Paintings will be on display Friday, November 5 through Sunday, November 7, from 8 to 6 daily at the Radnor Visitor Center, 1160 Otter Creek Road, Nashville, Tennessee.
Just a Walk in the Park is an 10x8 oil. Most paintings in the show will be of the very lovely lake itself. 

Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...