My Blog About Art

Whistler and Lautrec April 08, 2016 20:40

The Falling Rocket by James MacNeil WhistlerI'm just about finished with the biography of James McNeill Whistler by Anderson and Koval. Although I love his Nocturnes, as he called them, and I think Falling Rocket is a truly great painting (that's it on the left), he was an unpleasant person. Still, I often laughed with identification when I read descriptions of his ferocious doubts and misgivings about his own work. He'd work on a painting for hours and be all happy about it for 15 minutes, "It's GREAT!", bragging all over about it, and then an hour later he'd go and scrape it off the canvas, terrified that someone would see it and think what a crap artist he was. The authors' style is very engaging, so if you have any interest in Whistler, I recommend it. His painting technique is not much touched upon, but there is a lot about the world he moved in and the changes happening in painting at the time, especially the cracking of the tyranny of academic Realist painting

Because I'm almost done, I had to get the next book ready. This is about Lautrec, who has been a favorite artist of mine since I was a child: "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fin-de-Siecle" by David Sweetman.

Meanwhile, I've been working on a cloud painting that has just been giving me the business since I started it. Half of it is just fine and went on without a hitch, but the other half holy carp. I have messed with it and messed with it, and it has improved. I have learned a ton about painting clouds and just paint/glazes from doing it. I hope I will finish it this weekend and that after all the time I have put into it, I can put it up. Maybe not on my art site to sell, but at least here. It was meant to be a study, although a large one. I wouldn't mind taking some of the elements and redoing them. I based it on a photo I took of a storm cloud out east of Seneca Lake last year. 

I've decided to spend the next year working more on technique, because I feel I need to do a lot of work on that. I did get distracted from doing water studies to doing cloud studies (water suspended in air). I've done 3-4 prior to the one I'm working on now, but I was so displeased with them that I just trashed them. Unlike Whistler, this was not some hysterical self-consciousness on my part but just a decision not to keep works that are junk. Sometimes a person can try too hard. 


It's a Size Thing January 15, 2016 11:41


The other day I listened to a podcast of a scholarly paper about abstract expressionism's relationship to architecture. The speaker seemed to think that abstract expressionist painting was unique in how it was used as kind of a space occupying or even a decorative element in large modern apartments and homes--this even though the painters themselves disdained this role. As far as the artists were concerned, their art was not about decorating walls. Customers had a different idea.

Nightwatch by RembrandtThe question reminded me of Baroque art. Here's an example--Rembrandt's Night Watch at 143 x 172", not something that would have hung in someone's home. So might today's non-representational painting be seen as a kind of state art, only this time, the state is composed of wealthy corporatists? A disturbing idea, but given how plutocratic our society has become, perhaps not so crazy. I hate to think.....

Willem Kalf paintingContrast this monster to this 20 x 20" still life by Willem Kalf. This hung in someone's home, even if it was a wealthy home and the picture was painted to indicate that wealth.

I'm not trying to attack abstract expressionism, which I like. Just thinking out loud about things like size and its relationship to painting style and in turn to how the painting is used--whether as simple decoration, as a statement about wealth, or just art (whatever that means). What do these things say together? This is not for me a rhetorical question.

I've been thinking about size a great deal in my own work. For a while, I fantasized about painting on very large canvases (and I mean canvas as opposed to the heavy watercolor paper I've been using for years). In actuality, the largest I've done are a few works 22 x 30". I found that I got a bit lost in the center of the support with that size, so for now I'm working on a smaller and for me, more comfortable size, 16 x 20". I'll probably work up to 22 x 30" or thereabouts again, but I think that's going to take some time. And I wonder how important it is for me to paint big. Maybe painting smaller is more fitting for what I do and what I would like to do in the future--and for my potential customers.

One thing I've noticed along these lines how many artists paint small. For example, I was startled to find that a landscape painter whose work I enjoy often paints small, like 12". His paintings don't look small at all. Others paint in a range of sizes, including small ones as a kind of orbit for people who don't want to spend as much but would still like to get a painting. 

I know I have a long way to go before I settle the size question for myself. Part of me really likes the idea of painting relatively small. Isn't that how most people see art nowadays? On a laptop or in a print on their wall? Or even on a greeting card or postcard. Another part of me still has the big huge canvas fantasy. To be resolved at a later date...

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