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.

Giacometti – Shape Motifs, Spatial Planes and Integration

Alberto Giacometti - The Artist's Mother - 1937 - 24 x 20 in - oil on canvas

Giacometti was a master of composition.  In this painting he demonstrates this with how he merged his mother with her surroundings.  I will do my best to explain some of his superb considerations.

One of the best ways to convey a sense of space is to frame the subject, which Giacometti does beautifully.  We are looking through a large rectangle which seems to be suspended in front of the figure.  Can you feel the space?  We then engage with the arrangement of rectangles which make up the structural elements of the wall behind.

A good entry point to how Giacometti uses these supporting rectangles is with the horizontal black line running across her chest forming the tops of a series of vertical rectangles.  These rectangles relate to another series of verticals on the wall behind.  If you look closely you will also see how they connect or integrate with the figure, especially with the vertical rectangle integrating with the light ones on her shoulder and below.  If you blur your eyes the integration is very strong.

Note how the lines of the wall support the figure, especially at the shoulders and that wonderful angle at the top of her head.  The lines extending from her shoulders, stabilizing her, is magnificent integration.

There are some wonderfully subtle rectangles which are actually spatial planes.  We have the feel of one in front her upper left arm with its top being the line extending from her shoulder (see detail)  It is not initially apparent, but becomes strong when you become aware of it.  There is another just below.  I should also point out the dark vertical rectangle just above and how it provides a very sensitive support for the figure.  Remember the intention is they are meant to be felt more than seen.

                  Her face is very complex with some wonderful cubist planes. (see detail)   The most noticeable are the white shapes in her hair above her forehead with the sensitive lines connecting and extending the planes onto her forehead.  I love the vertical one in front of her neck and mouth leading up to her nostrils, connecting to a thin line leading to the left forming the top of another plane.  The vertical also continues upward connecting to the vertical above, solidifying the figure with the background.  At the risk of over explaining this wonderful integration, reverse the direction from the top.  Your eye will connect to the light vertical leading down to her hands.

I marvel at the quality of the horizontal forming the bottom of her hair behind, then, at the right connecting to vertical shapes which create the feel of planes in front.

I mustn’t neglect how he relieved the strong vertical and horizontal structure with a very sensitive oblique rhythm of parallels.  Let’s return to the white plane in her hair pointing up towards the right. Just below to the right is another small plane paralleling the direction.  When you go to the left of her head you will find other markings echoing the movement.  And a most important light one below her collar.  We may not notice the oblique movement but we will certainly feel it.

Once you train your eye to notice the complexity you come to appreciate the sophistication of his considerations.

Fernand Léger – (Cubism Evolving, Shifting Integration and Using the Picture Plane)

Fernand Léger - Still Life with a Beer Mug - 1921-22 - 91 x 60 cm - oil on canvas

Cubism has intrigued many artists and Léger is showing a refined approach to this great consideration.  In this painting he uses cubist shifting, which is showing two or more views of an object simultaneously.  We see this at the top edge of the table and at the top of the mug.  Léger broadened the shifting consideration to include integrations, most notably the integration of the vertical in the mug’s opening with the vertical black line above, providing a key connection in the composition.  He has also done this on the mug’s handle and with sensitive restraint where the white line joins the white of the bowl containing the fruit.

Léger’s traditional modelling of thecurtain and the items on the table is perfectly restrained and beautifully balanced with the flattening of the background and floor.  I like how we feel the roundness of the mug even though the shapes on the front are flat.  How he combined cubism with it’s sense of space with the raising of the background and mug to the picture plane is wonderful.  Can you feel the yellow and red shapes trying to come forward to the level of the mug and table top?

I’ll finish with a wonderful example of integration.  Run your eye up the table leg below the fruit bowl.  Do you feel the sense of the leg on the table top?  That is why he painted the two shadowy shapes.

Léger enhanced and refined two great movements in twentieth century painting.

 

My Work – Repeating Shapes for Rhythm and Balance

Rough Wall - 2013 - 9¾ x 13 in - mixed water soluble media

This recent still life is an excellent example of using shapes for continuity or rhythm in a composition.  Repeating shape motifs organize my considerations, permitting me to search for an interesting arrangement within the context of my chosen shapes -(rectangles, half ovals and triangles).  I begin with the basic rectangle of the table.  The rest of the composition is not predetermined, but rather develops through playfully scratching in the paint, then removing and rearranging the shapes until I respond to their relationships.

Next I playfully marked in two parallels which define the edges of the tablecloth.  Can you feel how your eye moves up and to the right along the angle determined by the edges?  I also played with the half oval shapes of the chair and the place mat, adjusting their relative positions and sizes until I found myself marking three rhythmic half ovals on the wall above.  I then refined the shapes which were formed by the tablecloth painting them blue to represent the table.  There is a very important triangle at the bottom (on the tablecloth) which leads you  towards the boxes and a playful small one just below the boxes.  I also indicated a partial triangle above on the wall.  I am now responding to the painting and continued to orchestrate with various markings to enhance the viewer’s participation

I love spatial planes which also can be read as shapes.  There are two in the painting, which I marked in just after the half ovals.  One is the sense of a rectangle protruding above the top edge of the table and the other on the wall, which appears the come forth.  I like the sense of depth they provide and their relationship with the shapes of the boxes and the blue cup.

 

My Work – Working with Shapes and Spatial Planes

Blue Table - 2012 - 10 x 12½ in (24.7 x 32 cm) - mixed water soluble media

I find it interesting how restriction can lead to new considerations, such as becoming involved with spatial planes as we see in my painting  “Blue Table”.  Presenting a harmony with planes and shapes can be quite elusive and I love the challenge. They always seem fresh to me because they are not predetermined, except for the primary shapes, which intentionally read as a still life.  I then play with the shapes and planes until I begin to respond to their relationships and I must say they are not meant to be apparent.  I wish the viewer to “feel” rather than see them.

Let me begin with the shapes which provide the lyrical unity of the composition.  To ensure this, I used an arrangement of rectangles and triangles, conveying harmonious relationships.   I actually adjusted their sizes, colours, values and locations several times until my sense of harmony was satisfied.  I enjoy this immensely, and working  and reworking water soluble media permits endless play.

Now to the planes which providing the sense of space.  They are both shapes and edges of shapes which connect or integrate elements in the painting.  For instance. the left side of the table integrating with the edge of a plane above, which then takes your perusal to the cool rectangle above the orange stripe.  You then take in the yellow triangle.  Can you feel the yellow triangle sitting on a vertical plane which seems to come forth?  The feeling of space is also felt where the top edge of the table shifts, merging the table and the wall as well as providing the sense of movement.  The small box is also sitting on a plane, and I love that small angle below the rhythm of black dots and how it comes forth.

I mustn’t finish without pointing out how the blue triangles provide a base for the composition and I’m very pleased with the triangles at the top corners as well.  I then provided a curve within the soaking pan which leads you towards the box through the four dots, which were rearranged a number of times.  There is another relationship providing an important rhythmic support for the prominent black sides of the soaking pan.  It’s the long parallel rectangle adjacent to the blue triangle to the right.  This came forth during the process.  I am grateful for having the patience to allow a composition to evolve, no matter how many revisions are required.

I hope you enjoy finding other subtle notes, such as the little black line at the top of the blue triangle at the left .  Can you feel it’s impact?

Giacometti – Composition (Integration)

Giacometti – Self Portrait – 1921 – 32 x 28 in – oil on canvas

Giacometti’s command of composition is absolutely marvellous in this superb painting.
I will focus on his wonderful integration of the figure with the other elements in the composition.  Let’s begin with how your eye is taken across the painting from the seat of the chair, along the bottom of his jacket, to the bottom of his right leg, then you are guided up to the verticals behind.  Another beautiful integration is how the curve at the bottom of his pant leg rhythmically connects to the curved element to the left, which in turn, guides you up to his hand. I love it!  Also take note how the bottom of his trousers connects to the lower edge of his other leg and how the bottom of his pant leg then integrates with the chair leg.  I was and still am taken with how he integrated the other chair leg (between his legs) with his pant leg.  Can you feel how the angle in the chair runs into his pants creating a small blue triangle?  (see detail)

detail

This very impressive small dark blue triangle provides a sense of overlapping. The top edge of this gorgeous little triangle also parallels a dark line above which in turn integrates with the edge of his palette.  Can you feel the movement and shapes?  There is also another sense of an angle at the bottom of the dark line (creating another plane) which parallels the angle in the chair leg.  There is more.  That dark line also connects to a subtle purple line which carries downward into his leg, creating another wonderfully subtle triangle.

Note the line just to the left of his pocket and how this guides you up to the front of his neck and how his chin and his collar connect to the horizontals behind.  Just one more, it’s how he leads you upwards through his arm from the opening in his jacket.

There is more for you to engage with, and I hope you enjoy this wonderful early composition by this twentieth century master.  I am impressed with how Giacometti permitted to show Cézanne’s influence.

 

Willem de Kooning – (Spatial Planes and Time)

Willem de Kooning - The Glazier - 1940 - 137 x 112 cm - 54 x 44 in - oil on canv

In this painting Willem de Kooning conveys his superb understanding of spatial planes.  The sophistication of his considerations is very impressive, providing a sense of space without the appearance of freezing the subject matter, as we would see with traditional perspective.  If he had used representational detail and modelling, the image would appear frozen in time, in the same way a photo captures the moment. This would be fine if that was the intent, and fortunately de Kooning and many other artists wanted to delve further, and explore the possibilities of planes and time in painting.

 

Let’s begin with the five vertically arranged planes at the right which include the mirror behind the vase  Their positions are intentionally ambiguous in space, inviting the viewer to determine where they should be.  Note how the plane in the table cloth connects to the upper three and how the bottom right of the painting is a plane as well. We sense flatness and depth simultaneously. We feel time because it is not clear where they are in the space because de Kooning intentionally leaves that for us to determine.

I am very impressed with how de Kooning integrated the figure with the plane (the mirror) with the brown triangle, (which is another plane).  How he integrated the triangle with the figure is masterful.  The top edge connects to the left shoulder and the bottom carries across the figure to another brown triangle.  This is truly sophisticated.

The ambiguity and sense of planes at the left of the figure, from the ear down providing a feeling of movement is magnificent.  His knowledge of the considerations in early twentieth century art is very apparent, and I feel he is truly mastering time and planes in this wonderful painting, especially between the figures legs.  Ask yourself why he painted this the same colour as the pants and then you will sense a plane, emphasized by that wonderful vertical black line.  Also, there is a wonderful curve at the top of the right leg giving us another sense of a plane.

One more beautiful consideration before I leave you to engage further with this wonderful painting. There is a subtle triangular plane overlapping the brown triangle pointing towards the face. Do you feel the plane it provides? Fantastic.

My Work – (Influences and Spatial Planes)

Two Boxes – 2012 – 23 x 33 cm – mixed water soluble media

This recent painting is an excellent example of how I permit influences to show in my paintings.  My first consideration in this composition is the feeling of the space between the orange chair and the blue boxes and the use of spatial planes (Paul Cezanne).  I also refined the composition through reduction (Ben Nicholson), and determined eye movement with Paul Klee’s approach to guiding the viewer’s perusal.  I’m not thinking of these masters when working on the painting, but recognize their influences afterwards.

My own sensibilities are prominent, which have developed over time through studying many wonderful artists.  Their work and knowledge has provided me with a strong foundation.  The key is appreciating the process of the masters.

The spatial planes are very important and fascinating, as they can be quite elusive when developing the sense of space.  They usually require a considerable amount of time to feel or refine, (which suits my temperament), ensuring continuity in my work.

Thank you Cezanne for this beautifully open consideration!

 

 

Mondrian – Committing to and refining Spatial Planes

Piet Mondrian - Still Life with Ginger Jar II - 1912 - 91 x 125 cm - oil on canvas

Mondrian’s dedication to refining the consideration of spatial planes as presented by Cezanne is most impressive and it the beginning of his journey towards abstraction.  It is important to note that most abstract art has a figurative base, and I think it is fair to say Mondrian was one of the few who managed to venture beyond the figurative, which will take a few years for him to achieve.

In this painting we see the early steps of his journey by reducing and raising the subject matter towards the picture plane.  He also breaks the space into planes as well which unifies the subject matter and the space it occupies

This wonderful refinement of cubism is truly a great step in art which is still difficult for many to accept, and I think it is much closer to our reality than traditional depiction or perspective.  We don’t live in a world with perspective because we and every thing else are constantly moving through time, and in painting, spatial planes provide the viewer the ability to move around, (in their minds), in the paintings.

Mondrian, Picasso, Braque and other notable artists of the time, understood this, and journeyed through the door Cezanne presented to them, leading the way to the wonderful world of twentieth century painting.

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Influences – (Cezanne on Mondrian)

Piet Mondrian - Still Life with Jinger Jar I - 1912 - 65 x 75 cm - oil on canvas

This painting by Mondrian is an excellent example of master painters permitting influences to show in their work.  Mondrian is acknowledging the importance of the great considerations of Cezanne, and his refinements are wonderful.

In this painting he provides a balance between traditional representation and the new approach to creating the sense of space.  We see this at the bottom right where he provided a couple of angles and a horizontal line.  These create planes in space which are meant to be felt more than seen.  Can you feel the space in front of the table?

When we focus on the drapery we sense volume and space through the feeling of overlapping triangles which also are raised towards the picture plane.  What impresses me is that diagonal which seems to come forth and how it also parallels beautifully with a second angle, the one connecting to the top of the blue ginger jar.  Again try to feel the space between the parallels.

When these spatial considerations were coming to the forefront in painting something interesting also took hold. It was the idea of suggesting rather than explaining, and Mondrian displays this idea in how he treats the subject matter in the upper right of the picture.This is just one of the seeds that will eventually lead Mondrian towards abstraction.