Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fruit Basket and Peonies
30 x 34 Oil on Linen

Rejoice oil painters! Be happy! Celebrate your uniqueness! For you have the only medium in all the visual arts that is fat. Acrylics, watercolor and printing inks are all lean. Pastels, drawing and sculpture are dry. Oil painting has a distinct advantage. Grind your pigments in linseed oil to achieve the richest colors. Add some lead to your oil and it will dry faster. Heat it in the sun to thicken it. Cook it in a pot with lead, mastic and turpentine and it will become a gel. Use a loaded brush for a thick bold stroke or lay it on thin for a subtle glaze. Make it as solid as a rock or as transparent as stained glass. Use walnut or poppy oil for a more delicate effect. Blend it as much as you please or let each stroke stand alone. Beautiful, rich, voluptuous, lively, vivid, lustrous, fluid, dynamic. Use your oil, fellow painters, to your advantage...make it a part of your expression.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Studio 7 at the Art Students League has a unique and remarkable history. In the last 100 years only 2 instructors have taught the afternoon class there, Frank Vincent DuMond and Frank Mason. It is where I learned to paint. When I was a student in Mason's class it was sometimes so crowded that I couldn't see the model. I would use that opportunity to paint the other students as they worked or paint the plaster casts that were available for us to study. My favorite cast was Donatello's David. A heroic yet touchingly human version of the biblical hero. Since it was a white plaster cast against a gray wall it seemed logical to me to do a black and white painting. I did my best to create the illusion of form, of light and shade, of weight and atmosphere. Frank made a few kind remarks about my efforts then gently manipulated what I had done, making it both stronger and more subtle. He used the shadows in the background to create a composition and reinforced the lights on the figure. Then came the lesson that I never forgot. "The entire spectrum of light is coming in through the skylight" he said, "so why are you using only black and white?" He deftly added a few cool blues to my gray shadows and then splashed some warm reds and oranges to express the reflected lights. "Never let your painting die" he said.....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Apple Harvest
35 x 45 Oil on Linen

A few weeks ago someone came into my studio and complimented me on my "daring and courageous use of negative space" in The Apple Harvest. It may not have been a correct usage of the term but I knew she was referring to the area in the upper right hand quarter of the painting that contained no objects. "Thank you" I said, perhaps unconvincingly. It made me realize how much the language of modern art has permeated our culture. When she looked at my painting she saw diagonals and shapes, edges and tension. I saw depth and form, harmony and atmosphere. In the space where she saw nothing I saw light and air flooding into the painting. To reinforce the harvest theme I designed the blanket to fall from deep inside the painting and spill out to the front to suggest a cornucopia in which the apples rest. This moves the viewer's eye in and out of the painting, a pleasant journey over the blanket, through the apples, into the bowl, up the blanket to where it is nailed to the wall and back again. The daring and exciting aspect is not the negative space but the use of light in that space. The light surges into the painting and boldly crashes into the still life washing over the objects in a most dramatic fashion. Our pleasant journey has been hit broadside, we are taken by surprise and our hearts skip a beat. It is unexpected, bold, perhaps daring and courageous, certainly dramatic. The space is not empty at all but harbors the protagonist of our drama.....