Influences (Andrew Wyeth)

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


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