My Work – (Painting a Consideration)

Don Farrell - Direction V (Moving Square) - 2008 - 137 x 137 cm - mixed media

In this painting I was exploring how to provide movement with a square within a square which was an interesting challenge.  I reworked this painting many times before I had the feeling of achieving my initial intent, which finally appeared with the two parallel lines and the sense of an arrow at the right of the painting.  I hope you can feel the integration of the lines in the square with the two parallels and how they pull you towards the arrow and then beyond.

Movement is the subject, or in other words, this painting is about something rather than of something and the viewer provides the movement!

This is truly a wonderful open challenge for artists to explore.

Wyeth – (Integration and Parallels)

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!

My Work – Shape Motifs, Parallels and Rhythm

Don Farrell - Blue Stripes IV - 2004 - 21 x 29 in - mixed water soluble media

This is a composition which I will continue to revisit as I feel it has endless possibilities for refinement.  I think it is very important to establish a personal and recognizable feel for my paintings.  I have learned this from painters such as Morandi, Mondrian, Matisse and many others.

I am intrigued with the possibilities presented through reduction, and I usually find myself focusing on spatial considerations. This requires removing the superfluous and bringing the composition to the forefront.

Using shape motifs is a great way to establish the foundation of a composition.  In this painting I provided a rectangle motif supported by an oval sub motif.  And I rearranged their sizes and spacing a number of times before I was satisfied.  The white oval above the table appeared late in the painting and I felt it provided both balance, and a little competition, for the shapes and colour on the table.

The three small white lines just above the left edge of the table provide rhythmic movement and keep you in the composition.  There is a vertical at the right directs your eye movement, connecting to a subtle line which loops over the white oval, returning you to the three white lines and then to the shapes on the table.

I must mention the line in the white oval which parallels the blue stripes.  This provides a very important rhythmic integration.

In composition all of the above should be “sensed” rather than seen.

Bonnard – (Providing Structure, Rhythm and Harmony)

Pierre Bonnard - Landscape Near Vernon - 1915 - 38 x 56 cm - oil

This landscape by Bonnard is a superb example of how a master, whether instinctively or intentionally, provides structure when developing a composition. I say this because a good artists will not permit their formulas to overrule their intuition.

There is a wonderful horizontal rectangle formed by a small white vertical at it’s left and a small bright green tree providing the right vertical,  the top is formed by a roadway running behind the tree.  When you see it and feel it’s impact on the composition, I hope you will appreciate the sophistication.  And remember the viewer does not have to see it, a master is very aware of the power of suggestion and knows we connect to shapes subconsiously.

The tree shapes are magnificent.  Try to feel the movement provided by the parallels of their shapes, particularly that wonderful squarish shape at the right edge and how it supports the other two trees.

I must also mention the harmonious movement in the sky.  There is a square like indentation in the tree at the right edge, which provides the sense of a parallel movement with the other trees and the placement of the cloud above creates the same movement in the blue sky.  I hope you can feel it as well as the wonderful integration of the other clouds with the trees.

There is another beautifully assessed rhythm leading us into the composition from the left.  The harmonious relationship of the three white verticals and the white vertical which forms the left edge of that marvelous rectangle.

Bonnard was a great master painter.


Cezanne – (Rhythm, Parallels and Integration)

Paul Cezanne - The Great Pine (Mont Sainte-Victoire) - 1886 - 60 x 73 - oil on canvas

Cezanne did a number of paintings of Mont Sainte – Victoire which is fortunate for us as we can see the consistencies in his compositions.  These paintings show us that repeating and refining is a strength in art.

We see the same considerations in this composition as the last post.  It takes time and a great deal of effort to develop a masterful composition and good artists will continue to refine the endless possibilities.  I think the first composition in a series, whether figurative or abstract, is an opening to infinite refinements   We see this in the work of most masters, no matter what their discipline.

I don’t know which of these paintings was first, no matter, what is important is we see the same rhythms and integrations.  What matters is each painting required its own refinements which are assessed differently to suit each composition.  In other words has it’s own voice.  One key difference are the angles we see in the branches, paralleling the road and other lines in the fields.  Wonderful integration providing oblique movement leading into the composition from the bottom right and great structure.  I also love the sophistication of how that black rectangle provides the focus.  Also, note the green line coming up from the tree towards the black rectangle is fantastic!  Do you see the triangle it creates reinforcing the importance of the rectangle?

There is also a harmonious rhythmic line running across the bottom, supporting the rhythm of the branches. I must also point out the parallel lines in the mountain directing us towards the black rectangle.

What a painter!


Cezanne – (Rhythm and Integration)

Paul Cezanne - Mountain Sainte-Victoire - 1886 - 67 x 92 cm - oil on canvas

We can see the care given to rhythm in this painting by Cezanne with the beautiful relationship of the mountain and the branches above.  The sweep of the lower branch at the right matching the curve of the mountain is superb.  I love the one at the top right and how it’s curve connects to the left side of the mountain.  Do you sense the movement running across the painting in the branches?  What a painter!

There is a very sophisticated integration beginning with parallel lines which bring you into the painting from the bottom right and connecting your eye movement to the lower branch at the left.  I hope you can feel it, as it is very impressive.  Can you also feel how this movement is in harmony with the mountain and the branches above?  His thoroughness is outstanding.  What a painter!


Wyeth – (Integration)

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!

Wyeth – (Composition before Information and Parallels)

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.


de Kooning – (Integration with Line and Indicating Time)

Willem de Kooning - Two Men Standing - 1938 -155 x 122 cm - 61 x 48 in - oil on canvas

De Kooning’s use of line for emphasizing the structure of the composition is very impressive. The horizontal line at the right edge of the painting, near the figure’s shoulder superbly balances the composition. Without that line we would have difficulty moving away from the dominant figure.  It provides not only a pull, it also completes a wonderful horizontal integrating division of the composition.

Another beauty is the line under the shoe which not only supports the figure it is also provides rhythmic support for the line above at knee level.  There is another which shows us how sensitive and the thoroughness of de Kooning’s considerations.  It’s the faint line in the orange area, connecting the men at their elbows.

De kooning was also working at conveying time in this painting as we see in the right arms of both figures.  We see two positions of the arm in the dominant figure and at the hand of the other man.  And I think this explains the dark rectangle in front of the indistinguishable hands of the dominant figure.  There are basically two methods for conveying time.  One by inviting the viewer to move (not physically, but in their mind) and the other is to indicate the movement of the subject which de Kooning used here.  Both are very challenging.

I also would like to mention how the shoes are actually a pull, bringing us to the bottom.  And a fantastic pause.  The light mark at the left end of the line at knee level.  It’s influence on  the composition is superb!

I think his choice of not completing the legs of the man at the right is interesting and leaves us with an open consideration for discussion.


Mondrian – (Integration and Rhythm)

Piet Mondrian - Tree on the Kalfje - 1902 - 23 5 x 37.5 cm - oil on canvas

This small painting by Mondrian shows us how an excellent artist considers the composition even when quickly done.  Can you feel the connection between the tree and the bridge?  This is superb integration.  Another very sensitive integration is provided when your eye follows the river bank from the right of the painting, then connecting to a delicate branch which embraces the bridge, (see detail).

This painting also has a consideration which has stayed with me for years, that wonderful cross at the bottom right.  Why is it there?  It actually is a structural element, providing an oblique movement when you sense the parallel with the pruned branch.  It also completes the integrating eye paths by directing your eye back up to the river bank.  And on top of that the vertical of the cross is part of a rhythm of the tree trunk and the two sensitive verticals to the left.

The painting was probably done quickly, which is all the more impressive.  A composition does not have to be complex to be great, and this is a fantastic composition.

May I also mention another branch at the left which bends down, providing containment.