My Work – (Feeling Relationships)

Gently Contained – 30 x 40 in (76 x 102 cm) – mixed media on canvas

In this painting my primary consideration was to space the elements in a way which creates energy.  I enjoy seeking the feeling that emerges when spatial relationships begin to work.   Patience is necessary as it takes a number of readjustments before the painting is responding.  What I find intriguing is how minute adjustments can have such power, dictating unanticipated changes.

Right from the start I wanted to create movement around a centrally placed yellow rectangle using black curves.  I found it necessary to alter their sizes and locations a number of times, until I responded to the feeling I was seeking.

I then needed to embrace their energy with what eventually became the two white angles.  They didn’t quite succeed in providing the containment I was seeking and eventually a series of horizontal lines at the top left accomplished the intent. This didn’t come easily.      I also provided two small vertical marks above the yellow rectangle (see detail) which created the feel of another rectangle, which I like very much.  Can you feel its influence on the curve as well?  

The yellow rectangle’s energy now required re-assessing.  I angled the bottom right corner to refine the shape’s response to the black curves.  I also provided subtle horizontal white lines to enhance the energy and some fine black lines to convey a feeling of support.

The composition still felt incomplete, prompting the search to continue with scratching and removing lines and found myself marking in the arrow.   I like that arrow.

The following day while assessing the composition I felt the yellow needed something else to relate to, which prompted the blue along the bottom.

I then sat myself in front of the painting adding and removing some subtle markings as I do not want to later feel I hadn’t been thorough.

 

 

Balthus – Competing Considerations

Balthus – Solitaire – 1943 – 161 x 164 cm – oil on canvas

These two lovely paintings by Balthus executed ten years apart remind me of how many notable artists struggled with the competing considerations between composition and information in figurative painting.  Which is to be the primary intent, the level of accuracy or the arrangement and altering of the subject matter to lyrically convey feeling.  The choice is with the artist.

In the earlier painting Balthus leaned towards information, focusing on the the figure and her surroundings to ensure our recognition of the when and the where.  We see it in the furnishings, the decor in the room and the style of her clothing.  We are more involved with the information rather than the compositional relationships.

The composition is beautifully considered but is subordinate to the figurative considerations. This was his intent.
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Balthus – Patience – 1954-55 – 90 x 88 cm – oil on canvas

The second painting has a very different “feel” because we respond to relationships and harmony (either consciously or subconsciously) and these compositional considerations were foremost in his mind when working on the painting.

The rhythms and integrations are magnificent.

Let me begin with his sensitive reduction of the room to three horizontal divisions which provides the sense of place.  The tops of the table and stool add to the horizontal rhythmic structure.  I love the elegant vertical arrangement of the legs of the table and stool, with the candle stick and her upper arms.  Can you feel how the horizontal and vertical structure support and integrate with the figure?

Two magnificent integrations (or site paths) are apparent when we notice how the right leg of the table connects with the opening below her torso and right arm and how her left arm integrates with the cat’s tail.  Please note how the shape of the cat echoes the wonderful opening and is also in harmony with the curve of the top of her hair.

The dark patches on the cat also commands our eye to move across the bottom of the painting ensuring a beautiful rhythm supporting her shoe.  Imagine how awkward it would be to return from her black shoe without them.

The shadow from her shoe, the stool and table legs relate to her shadow on the table top. You are meant to feel the relationship rather than see it.

I must mention the subtle rhythmic support for her left wrist.  We sense connection to the shadow on the table which loops, embracing her focus.  The shape of her hair, the curve of the bottom of her sweater and the curve of the stripe on her skirt return us to her contemplation masterfully.  When we engage on this level we actually connect to the artist’s considerations when developing the composition.

We become engaged with the primary reason for the painting because there is less competitive representational detail.

Let us return to the other painting for comparison.  Take in the fingers on her left hand and the creases on her skirt.  They are very well painted of course but do they lead you away from her focus.  Maybe this is why they were changed in the later painting. There are many other adjustments for you to engage with.

We should be thankful to Balthus for presenting these two wonderful paintings for they do teach us how to appreciate art.

My Work – Responding to Composition

Weights-and-Sketches-9½-x-12¾-in-mixed-on-paper

Weights-and-Sketches-9½-x-12¾-in-mixed-on-paper

I began this still life by building up layers of mixed media to establish a textured surface which invites marking and scoring.  I then marked in the table top quickly and gouged the heavy line spanning the wall and turning upwards at the right.

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detail one

I next determined the shape of the table cloth to provide an entry from the bottom edge of the painting.  Then, once on the table, changing it’s direction to harmonize with both ends of the table top.  I decided to have this direction emphasized with a series of parallel edges and lines, and these in turn determined the placement of the sketches and soaking pan.  The rhythm continues with a spatial plane (see detail one) to the right of the table finishing with the edge of the wall.

I used the same considerations horizontally as well, but with some “shifting” to convey the feeling of occupying space, especially along the top edge of the table.  I’m very pleased with the downward shift of the stripes adjacent to the soaking pan and the angle just above (see detail two).  I feel a sense of energy there.

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detail two

 The wall above invited the two rectangles and the circle.  I played with their placements until I was satisfied with how they supported the items on the table.  I especially like how the delicate circle offers a gentle place to pause away from the focus of the weights and soaking pan.

The top of the painting felt a little vacant, and this prompted the arrow, which introduced the finishing touch for the rhythmic parallels below.

The black edge of the soaking pan then needed rhythmic support, resulting in the appearance of the black weights.  I readjusted their placements until they felt right.  The triangular feel of the lower weight in the pan was determined to relate to the shape in the sketch at the left providing the finishing touch for the composition.

I’m always open to where the composition will guide my considerations.

William Scott – Integration with Line and Shapes (Shape Motifs)

William Scott – Still Life – 1955 – 61 x 91 cm (24 x 36 in) – oil on canvas

 William Scott paintings resonate with me and I often visit his work.

This wonderful still life is a splendid example of how sophisticated the reductive process can be.. Any other markings or additional subject matter would be superfluous.

The composition is an exquisite orchestration of rectangles which provide the rhythmic structure. Their arrangement is splendidly supported by a sub-motif of ovals, which include the pears and the two “Cezanne-like” ovals in the glass.

The rectangles are energized by three slightly leaning vertical lines, as well as the left edge of the warm rectangle at the right, and the right edges of both the plate and glass. These “oblique parallels” rhythmically connect the background with the subject matter. The vertical edges of the table and the warm shape at the left support the upright stems and the glass beautifully.

The connection of the glass with the warm shape above is matched with the integration of the pear at the left with the other warm shape. This is a great example of rhythmic integration

Another beautiful consideration is the relationship of the curved side of the glass with the curved edge of the right most pear. Also note how the horizontal stem at the left provides lateral movement supporting the curves of the plate, the glass and the other pears. The structural impact of the angled edge of the left pear magnificently ensures the connection with the glass.

I feel how Scott avoided overlapping the pears is fantastic, as this would have disrupted the rhythm of their placement, which brings me to another wonderful consideration of not indicating cast shadows on three of the pears. This is a superb example of not permitting literal information to interfere with the composition. Yet another wonderful consideration is the Cezanne-like shifting of the table top, which enhances the feeling of space.

I would like to finish with Scott’s sensitively assessed focus of the painting with the beautiful green oval embracing the stem of the vertical pear at the right. When your perusal arrives, you find yourself gracefully being held, which is a fantastic example of orchestrating composition.

Cy Twombly – Abstract Painting’s Invitation to All

Cy Twombly – Cold Stream, Rome – 200 x 252 cm (79 x 99 in) – oil based house paint and wax crayon on canvas

 One of the most fascinating considerations in art is painting the intangible and this wonderful painting by Cy Twombly conveys this magnificently.  He has presented the act of doing, inviting us to participate with our own imaginations.  This is the greatest power of abstraction and I will accept his invitation and proceed with my interpretation of this intriguing painting.

 I immediately engaged with the very core of abstraction, the act of marking, which we have been doing for a long time and continue to do so today.  Twombly’s swirls prompted me to consider how our desire for rhythm played a prominent role in the development of writing. We see this common thread in the symbols from diverse cultures. And we do not have to be able to read the markings to appreciate the desire for rhythmic movement through the symbols or characters.

 Twombly’s natural movement of the swirls represents the gestural root of writing.  The composing of symbols so they flow and come to represent language is our greatest achievement.  His painting provided me an uncluttered gateway to thinking how all those who’s acts of doing became the foundation of culture and civilization.

 I will always look forward to Twombly’s intriguing invitations..

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 On another level, engaging with Twombly’s exquisite composition is a joyful dance, feeling immediate and delightful.   How he contained the wonderful swirls is masterful.  I found myself being elegantly guided through the painting feeling the rhythmic emphasis.  Arriving at his beautifully considered focus in the third row up from the bottom where the swirls are a little tighter and more layered than the rest of the painting was a joy.

I loved how he anchored the composition at the bottom right corner with a line creating a structural triangle. Magnificent.

 

 

Mark Rothko – Integration with Parallels and Shapes

Mark Rothko – Untitled – 1938 – 50 x 37 in – oil on canvas

 

The best way to appreciate an artist’s mature work is to be as familiar as possible with their earlier work.   In this painting from 1938 we see not only how varied the journey can be, but also how accomplished Rothko’s command of composition is.

We feel the couple’s relationship very strongly through his marvellous use of distortion. His integration of the couple with shapes and parallels is wonderful.

I’ll begin with how the rectangles of the structure behind are repeated in the woman’s hat and the collar of her dress.  The integration ensures she is well connected with the structure, conveying a feeling of strength and stability.

Next, the couple are beautifully integrated with each other with a series of parallels.  Let’s begin with the angle of the man’s left arm at the shoulder.   If you follow the angle downward, your eye will connect with the angle of the black shadow on the woman.  The under side of his arm also reinforces this angle.  Other parallels appear in his vest and the collar of his jacket.  The parallel positioning of their forward-stepping feet and their shadows bolster the rhythmic connection.

Value is most important for ensuring the importance of the movement.  If you blur your eyes, the strength becomes more apparent.  I should note the small parallels in the structure behind as well.  Rothko was very thorough and these considerations are meant to be more felt than seen.

There is another series of short parallels, leading us in another direction, which provides more subtle integrations of the figures.  They occur from their right feet up to the man’s right shoulder to the angle of the woman’s hat.

I haven’t forgotten the horizontal and vertical integrations and will let you discover how Rothko used them to integrate the couple with the background.

His thoroughness is wonderful.

To finish may I divert your attention to the fabulous spatial plane in the lower portion of the woman’s dress.  Can you feel how the vertical rectangular shape just above her forward step comes forth?   I love it.

My Work – Refining Composition

Tide – 2011 – 9½ x 13¾ in – mixed media on paper mounted on board

 One of the most interesting aspects of painting is refining a composition.  I do this by working with shapes and markings which lead to unanticipated considerations.

This approach suits my temperament and I have come to trust my instincts through study.  We need a base of knowledge for growth and I feel connecting with the modern masters a great way to develop.

The subject matter of the painting “Tide” was not anticipated when I started this painting. I began with a horizontal line and what I like to term a “loop” as I quite often do.  I never tire of using shapes I have a deep connections with, as they lead me onward, something I learned from Morandi.

As I was marking the painting in search of structure and rhythmic movement, I found myself introducing a wash of blue within the loop.  This is when the rhythmic movement happened. I energized the blue wash with an arrangement of smaller loops, then introduced a circle above the horizontal line.  This immediately provided a sense of place, which I interpreted as a tidal pool.

To provide containment for the composition I introduced two slightly curved vertical lines at the left, as well as subtle horizontal lines across the top, to guide our perusal towards the circle.  The vertical line at the right also holds us within the painting. I then scratched a series of vertical lines across the bottom to complete the subtle containment.  Can you feel how your eye stays within the painting?  This wasn’t done in one step as I removed and remarked the elements a number of times until it felt right.  I enjoy this phase very much.

The same went for the smaller blue loops.  I adjusted their placement and strengths until I said “yes”, being patient with myself.

I should mention the vertical markings on the circle as it may seem odd if your thinking of the sun or moon. hey are there to relate to the verticals across the bottom of the painting.  This is a good example of what I like to term, “composition before information”.

Finally I marked in another (inverted) loop below and to the right of the large loop for rhythmic support.  Can you feel the relationship and its importance?  I didn’t adjust it and I’m very pleased with its placement.

Matisse – Colour and Pattern within Shapes

Henri Matisse - Reader on a Black Background - 1939 - 92 x 74 cm

I would like to engage further with the wonderful movement Matisse provides, both with colour and with his sophisticated use of pattern within shapes.

Let’s begin with colour.   When we focus on a colour we intuitively take in the same colour else-where in the composition.   This creates movement which Matisse orchestrates through scale and placement, like musical notes, determining lyrical engagement.

For example, when we look at the blue rectangles, we also sense the blues in the bouquet, as well as the vertical in the white rectangle at the right edge of the painting.  Do you feel the circular movement?   The little notes of blue on her shoes ensure we are not held in a tight area at the right of the composition, and instead bring us gently to the left, to engage with the wonderful movement through the warms of the figure and the small notes above and to the right.   The same goes for the other colours as well.  I should note that the temperature of the colours is also a factor in movement as we connect the orange with the red shapes Matisse provides the lyrical harmony through using shape motifs.

Another great consideration is using patterns within shapes.  In other words, not permitting the complexity of the subject to disrupt the harmonious relationships of the shapes.   In the bouquet, Matisse does this beautifully by treating it as an oval containing an arrangement of smaller ovals.   The two white oval shapes containing the pattern of yellow ovals and grey markings (which match the line drawings) are a great example of pattern within shapes.  Even the light grey areas in the bouquet with the blue markings read as ovals.

These are considerations used by many artists and Matisse did it better than anyone.

Matisse – Shapes and Eye Movement

Henri Matisse - Reader on a Black Background - 1939 - 92 x 74 cm

 

I love the way Matisse invites us to joyfully participate with his paintings.  My long standing admiration only increases with time.

In this posting I would like to focus on his beautifully choreographed shapes and eye movement.

By reducing the shapes to simple rectangles and ovals, he is able to focus on the relationships of these shapes, and guide us lyrically throughout the painting.  We move through the shapes because of his sensitivity to the spacing and integration.  Modelling or superfluous detail would only disrupt the harmony.

My own initial eye movement begins with the white rectangle.  Then, sensing the vertical integration upwards from its left edge, my eye moves to the light shape above the figure’s reflection.  The curved edge (partial oval) then carries me towards the rectangle with the figure drawing.  I then find my eye moving through the small white vertical rectangles to the blue shapes, which in turn guide me to the vertical green shape.  This leads my eye to the beautiful arrangement of ovals.

Another integrating eye path which I found exciting begins with the small black angle on the figure’s blouse, at the right arm.  Following its upward direction leads me to another line just above her head.  I hope you then can see the connection with a subtle series of parallels guiding our perusal through the red ovals and greenery to the hand of the figure drawing above.

I must point out an alternate path from the line just above her head.  It also connects to the reflection of her hair returning us to her face, providing wonderfully subtle containment.

I would like to finish with the orange oval feel of the figure’s legs.  If Matisse stayed within the lines, the lyrical harmony with her face would have been weakened.

There is so much more such as colour and pattern within shapes. I may do another post.

 

Klee – Reduction and Integration

Paul Klee - Forest Bird - 1920 - 14 x 22 cm - watercolour on chalk undercoat over gauze on paper

 

Klee is one of the great masters of colour and composition, as this gorgeous painting conveys.  I marvel at his sophistication and will do my best to convey his colour temperature ratio and rhythmic integrations.

Colour temperature ratio is the relationship of warm and cool.  We can see it in the influence of the cool blues on the warm orange and red shapes.  The blues poetically energize the warms without competing, creating lyrical variations that are music for the eye.

The black shapes are beautifully balanced and supported by the dark grayish shapes as well as three smaller brown shapes.  Can you feel the relationship of the bird’s gaze with the brown shape at the right edge of the painting and how the other two brown shapes return you to the bird? It’s wonderful.

The sensitive parallels provide a structural rhythm that is more felt than seen. One great example is the relationship of the bird’s front leg, the black line in its eye, the brown line under the orange circle and the black line leading to that magnificent green circle.  The other leg has parallel support as well.

The background shapes run into each other in a number of places, integrating the painting beautifully.   The bottom of the foreground shape of the bird’s neck connects to the edge of the blue shape beautifully.  Klee masterfully provides exceptions to the integrations such as the closed shapes of the circles and where the orange touches the blue just above the bird’s beak.  We sense the variation.

Klee used the consideration of pattern within shapes on the bird.  To hold the viewer just perfectly.

I think how Klee sensitively provides the feeling of the forest is magnificent and I absolutely love that green circle which is beyond explaining.