Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chasing Shadows

Summer Lighting is an oil done in plein air by Shirley Fachilla.
I’ve written about the backlit, about a Degas sort of stagelight and of course, cool, even north light, the standby of every artist. But I haven’t written a thing about one of the favorite lights for painters… dappled light.
Painters and dappled light have something of a love/hate relationship. We love that beautiful play of light and shadow which speaks to the very nature of visual reality. But we can hate it because its effects are so very hard to capture in paint.  Painting dappled light in plein air is like trying to trap sunlight in a bottle. Just when you think you’ve got it, it changes. What was in shadow is in light and what was light is shadowed.
It’s an almost irresistible temptation to chase the light (a plein air painting no-no).
For a truly exquisite tour de force of dappleness, take a look at Renoir’s Ball at the Moulin de la Galette or The Swing.  He not only did a masterful job of rendering dappled light, he managed to capture the feel and movement inherent in that light and shadow dance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Makes a Painting Intimate?

It isn’t that a painting is physically small or that it shows someone, or something, that is delicate and tiny. It’s not that its subject is a domestic scene, like a woman in her bath or putting up her hair.
Of course, all those ingredients can give a painting a feeling of intimacy. But none of them are essential to create an intimate painting.
I think what is necessary is a sense that the viewer is looking into a private world. Renoir’s little knitter, Georges de la Tours’ Mary Magdalene and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina offer the viewer glimpses into private spaces and private thoughts… sometimes thoughts not intended to be shared.      
Looking over Her Shoulder is a 20x10 oil done in open studio by Shirley Fachilla. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tree Portraits

Mighty Oak is an 8x8 oil done in plein air by Shirley Fachilla.  
Painting a tree is a bit like painting a portrait. In a portrait, the artist usually tries to catch both the essence and the likeness of the subject. Trees, especially as they age, seem to develop their own “essence,” their own character, if you will.
To paint such a tree is to paint a subject that is very much a distinct being, unduplicated, even in a forest of trees!   
To see what I mean, you might visit the website of Tennessee artist, Charles Brindley. He has painted many beautiful, aged trees; each Brindley tree is a one-of-a-kind; each is a beautiful portrait.
(My Mighty Oak lives on a nearby golf course and I think has character to spare.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Archangel is a 24x36 oil by Shirley Fachilla.
A couple of posts ago, I put up an invitation to a juried show I am delighted to be in. Above, you see my painting from the show.
It was done primarily from my imagination which is quite different from my usual. (I normally work from life or from several photo references.) Though I’ve literally painted hundreds of faces, with his, it was very hard to achieve even the vaguest facsimile of what I wanted.
I wanted to paint, an intimidating, otherworldly creature who was, at the same time, very corporeal. I thought I knew just what I wanted; I thought I saw, in my head, my entire painting.
I had an instructor who once said that artists often think they imagine their complete paintings and that they think what they see in their mind’s eye only needs to be put down on canvas. He went on to say that they really are picturing only parts and shadows of paintings in their heads, not the whole at all.
And so it was with me. I know I saw shadows only… archangels are elusive. 

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 ...