Andrew Wyeth - The Mill - 1959 - 35 x 57 cm - watercolour
Wyeth’s work is far beyond figurative considerations, engaging with us on so many levels, and in this post I will focus on his composition, which is remarkable. His integration and the wonderful movement he provides with parallels is very impressive.
First to the very sensitive rhythm of parallels he created with a diagonal board in the fence, the eave of the roof just above and the roof line of the building behind (see detail). These guide us to the focus of the painting which is the dark window and to the flight of the birds.
Now to his poetic integration of the birds with the tree and the fence post as well as the top curve of the pickets, is a superb example of how graceful and sensitive compositional structure can be. You either take the path of the post to the strong rectangular shape of the foreground which will return you to the parallels. The other path is absolutely fantastic! Follow the birds to the tree and then along the top of the pickets. We are then guided to the roof line returning us to the flight of the birds. I hope you can sense the wonderful shape, or loop, which also gently returns us to the focus. It is brilliant.
I must also mention the triangle shape projecting up from the large dark foreground shape pointing into the building at the right. Can you feel how it parallels harmonizes with the triangles all the buildings?
This is visual poetry! And there is more for you to discover. Enjoy!
Andrew Wyeth - Glass House - 1991 - 20 x 27.5 in - watercolour and drybrush
This gorgeous high key painting is wonderful, Wyeth was truly a master of light as well many other considerations. And I will confine this post to his elegant integrations.
Lets begin with how her head integrates with the vertical elements behind her, particularly the verticals connecting to her forehead and to the back of her collar. Can you feel how the structure supports her confident posture? Another connection is how the vertical mullion connects with her knee and how the front of her leg parallels the window sill. Fantastic!
There are two more examples which show us how sophisticated integration can be. The first is how the shadow behind continues across her body and then on to the bottom right of the painting. Oh how lyrical integration can be in the hands of a master. The other brilliant integration is how the birds connect to the trees in front and behind her resulting in a harmony for her dress.
I should mention how the shadow running down the bottom right is supported with a parallel shadow at the left and how the horizontal mullions integrate with her eyes. There are more for you to discover and I hope you can see why Wyeth is considered to be a great visual poet!
Andrew Wyeth - Fast Lane - 1987 - 36 x 42 cm - drybrush
Andrew Wyeth’s work was instrumental in my development, particularly through studying his wonderful shapes and subtle abstractions. And this painting has a beautiful example of abstracting for the sake of the composition. I feel Wyeth would never allow the subject to dictate and would adjust to suit how he wished the viewer to participate in his visual poetry.
Lets begin with the light source and how it bathes the house. The light is coming from the upper right and it would not be possible for it to wrap around the end of the house, which begs the question, why?. The reason is composition and by abstracting and allowing the light on the end of the house he has directed your eye down to the unfortunate squirrel. The angle is far more important than ending the light at the corner (producing a vertical) for the sake of accuracy’ which would disrupt the rhythm guiding you to the squirrel. Wyeth has provided a rhythm of oblique parallels which include the trees at the far left, the light, on the house, the squirrel’s legs and the shadows on the building at the right behind the tree. He also abstracted the shadows leading down from the porch railings to harmonize with the squirrel. This is the primary movement in the composition.
The other strong rhythmic movement leading in from the bottom left is beautifully done and masterfully support the squirrel. That strong triangle at the boom right is absolutely wonderful. Can you feel how it holds you and how it harmonizes in value with the darks in the upper area of the painting? Last but not least are the yellow lines on the road and how they frame the squirrel conveying what had just happened.
Wyeth was a great poet! He was far more than a realist.
Don Farrell - Margaret's Basket - 1983 - 23 x 33 cm - 9 x 13 in - watercolour
Margaret’s Basket is one of the first paintings in which I consciously allowed myself to be influenced by another artist.
Around 1980, I was still mostly concerned with representation and accuracy in my work. I was studying the wonderful details of Andrew Wyeth when it suddenly occurred to me – Wyeth’s strength is in the shapes he chooses! This insight changed my approach forever. Realizing that the viewer responds to shapes before detail, my new focus was trying to achieve a harmony of shapes. This harmony is not something that the viewer needs to be aware of, in fact I expect it to be mostly subconscious. The artist, however, uses shapes to direct the viewer and inform the details.
Margaret’s Basket is an arrangement of triangles. There are three prominent ones that hold the painting together, as well as other supporting triangles. Another way of putting it is this painting has a triangle motif.
Of course, shapes aren’t the only considerations for a painting, and I would quickly like to introduce one other because of how easy it is to see in this painting. I call it “integration”. Notice how the left handle of the basket is in line with a fold in the drapery below it? I used this to keep the viewer’s eye from straying out of the left side of the painting.
The beautiful pursuit of art is not in just knowing these things, but in being able to use them poetically.
Andrew Wyeth - Wolf Rivers - 1959 - 34 x 33 cm - 13 1/2 x 13 in - tempera