Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . . a beautiful . . . ah well, it's snowing. My daffodils will enjoy a bit of cold today as I prepare to work on my taxes. No studio time today, but will return to the drawing board tomorrow on a new piece and maybe will begin posting in progress shots once again.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More Fun With Triangles

As often is the case when I go off on a "hunt", sometimes I get diverted along the way and other times the exploration expands of its own free will. Such was the case yesterday after my initial posting on triangular composition. In the course of looking for a nice image of the painting by Mary Cassatt that I used as an example yesterday, I got side tracked for a bit when the Rembrandt work (upper left here) showed up in my search listing. The intensity of its triangular compositional format immediately jumped off my computer screen and, of course, that lead to further digging . . . which lead to my finding the beautiful painting to the right by 19th Century Impressionist, Alfred Sisley (whose landscapes have always appealed to me but I had never run across this wonderful still life by him before). Ain't exploration fun?
Off and running then, my curiosity got the better of me and I began to plug in names of artists whose work I have always admired and respected and came across this wonderful, moody interior (on the left below) by Andrew Wyeth. I was instantly struck with his ingenious use of light and shadow to form his triangular composition in an almost abstract field of sharp contrasting tonal values. That shaft of light hitting the wall on the central vertical of the canvas brought my eye into the work and naturally, led it down and across the horizontal surface of the cot with the dog and brightly lit pillow forming the bottom margin of the triangle. Simplicity of design yet sparked by the high contrast and well placed details of the room, which give just enough interest without detracting from the importance of the subjects falling within his triangle, the work is a truly stunning example of balance and strong forethought. 

Early 20th Century American, George Bellows, in one of his iconic boxing works not only portrays extreme movement that entices the viewer, but does it all within the confines of a very apparent triangle. Again, there is just enough "background noise" in the form of the spectators to add a bit of detail to the overall work, but as in Wyeth's painting, that "noise" certainly does not detract from nor overpower the importance of the triangle and its dominant subjects.

In the four works shown above, those artists place their respective subjects well within the confines of triangular compositional fields but have added much more accompanying detail than Wyeth or Bellows, yet their details act to enhance the strength of the triangular shape that their major subjects fall within. In the work to the upper left by Thomas Eakins, one of his iconic figurative scenes, his swimmers form a perfect triangle, their movements and body positions, seemingly "natural" at first glance, have been well thought out as to melding all into that nicely formed triangle yet with enough perceived spontaneity that the viewer feels they have just stumbled upon the scene.

To the upper right, in Eugene Delacroix's The Barque of Dante, not unlike another of his most notable works, Liberty Leading the People, all the characters of his composition take shape within his triangular compositional idea with supporting characters surrounding the two main figures and adding closure and weight to the triangle.

James Whistler, in his work to the lower left, sets his triangle slightly off center to the left, but still quite evident in the position of his figure, allowing the intense contrast of her costume to overpower the "clutter" of the rest of the space, details of which all combine to act as a soft background to the importance of the triangular shape of the seated major subject. With an opposite offset triangle (shifted to the right) forming the major point of focus in the work to the lower right by American Willard Metcalf, his The Ten Cent Breakfast also places the dominant subjects within a well defined triangle formed by the hanging light fixture flowing down to the spread of the bright table cloth. Again, you think you've stumbled upon a rather ordinary domestic scene but digging deeper, you can marvel at the well thought out placement of all the elements of this painting to form a very pleasing image.

With the human form acting as a perfect foil for a triangular compositional format in a work of art, simple portraits will naturally give off the feel of a pyramidal shape, but in the hands of a master, what otherwise might be bypassed as a more common view, can take on deeper appeal. In the first set of three works shown below, John Singer Sargent on the left, Vittorio Matteo Corcos in the center, and Edward Hopper to the right, all have shown strong triangular compositions in a more formal portrait type of work. Each master though, has infused his work with an individuality and a unique flavor that adds so much more appeal and level of interest, they become far more than simple portraits. Sargent has placed his three sitters in a way that emphasizes the triangular form yet the pose each subject has taken comes across as having naturally been achieved when we know for certain that well thought out preliminary sketching and repositioning must have occurred. Coincidentally, and using almost the same tonal values as Sargent, Hopper paints his sitter from behind, adding just that much more interest and evocative impact, and her movement and body position strikes the perfect triangular focus at the center of the canvas. Italian Matteo Corcos, in his monochromatic work, sets his subjects well within a nicely formed triangle and the movement and striking pose of the right hand figure draws the viewer into the work and directly to the top of the triangle with the bright spot of white in the child's bonnet helping to give weight and important balance to the lower margin of the triangle.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, most notable for his wonderful portraits and figurative works, in the three paintings just above, shows how his well thought out placement of arms and hands and body positions in each has resulted in pleasing, inviting and interesting works all based upon a triangular compositional idea.
In three more figurative studies below, Claude Monet (in one of his most recognized works to the left), British born, American painter, John George Brown (center) and French Impressionist, Camille Pissaro have all used a triangular motif to encase their subjects, giving each a unique viewpoint and focus, eschewing a more common approach to a portrait and thus making each work hold more appeal.

In the three more formal portrait type works just above, William Merritt Chase (on the left), Sargent again in the center and Mary Cassatt to the right, have given us more traditionally brushed portraits, though Cassatt has added a bit of whimsy to her painting. What helps to make for the triangular compositional thrust in each is the angle and placement of the arms of each sitter; in Chase's and Sargent's also aided by the natural triangle of the emphasized shoulder positions of their subjects and their unique way of posing their figures in profile with the spread of their clothing adding more of the triangular movement. 
In the final grouping of three paintings, Chase's American student, Martha Walter (in the work at the top) uses the parasol to top off her triangle letting the seated figures on the beach form the remainder of the geometric form toward the bottom of her canvas. Berthe Morisot in the lower two works, forms interesting pyramidal shapes in one, by positioning her two subjects around the tree and in the seated and spread out position of her sitter in the other, with that bit of blanket peeking out on the lower left to balance the spread of her dress and thus, forming the lower horizontal of that triangle.

After spending time delving into the compositional idea of making use of a triangular format, I think I might make an effort in the near future to work up some ideas within that structure and see if I can challenge myself to look to the pyramid as some of these masters have most successfully done.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fun With Triangles

Taking a short break from the drawing board yesterday, I had an itch to explore one of my favorite artists, Gustave Caillebotte (Kai-buh-t), so spent a half hour 'discovering' some works of his that I had not been familiar with before. My favorite painting in the vastness of the world of fine art, Caillebotte's Les Raboteurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrappers), acts as my screen saver and I never tire of seeing it first thing in the morning when the computer gets turned on. So, in my desire to spend a few minutes relishing some more of this artist's output, I came across the images, both left and right on the top line of the above montage, and it got me to thinking . . . triangular composition. I know, you're saying to yourself, "here he goes again . . . more compositional chatter" . . . well, yes, here I go again.

Triangular composition, a format I don't often use myself, is not one that is often seen in the output of historically noted artists, but seeing those two works by Caillebotte, I was immediately reminded of two specific works I have been familiar with, one by Edouard Manet (the one in the center on the top line of three works above), Boating, painted in 1874 and the other, (center of the lower line above) by Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893/94. I was immediately taken with the fact that all four paintings involved water and boaters and wondered if that sort of material/reference lent itself to the format of a triangular compositional idea more readily than other subject matter. So, I explored a bit further and came up with the other two works in the lower line, both watercolors by Winslow Homer, and marveled at the intricate nuances that each of the four artists represented here used to develop most interesting and unique compositions tied to a triangular format. 

Taken individually and seen apart from each other, one might imagine that each singular painting was developed with little connection to some specific concept or plan and generated out of a desire on the part of the artist to portray a particular moment in time. When viewed, though, in related context as above, it can be easily and clearly seen that all six works have a strong link in the way in which each artist carefully placed his or her subjects within the confines of a strong triangular shape.

I've said before and will no doubt say it again, and again . . . well balanced and thoughtful compositional ideas don't just happen or materialize out of thin air. Careful planning and deliberation of placement of the important elements of a compositional idea are key to reaching a pleasing end result. Four artists, here, working at different times (pertaining to the date of completion of each work represented above) have ended up with results that, when taken in tandem as above, might be thought as having been influenced by each other looking over the shoulders of one another, when in actuality, it was simply a matter of each one knowing the ideas behind the layout of a well balanced work within the confines of a well established and historically tried-and-true compositional format.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's been over a month since my last posting of a completed work, but that does not mean I have not been busy at the drawing board. On the contrary . . . I've completed a couple of new works but am keeping them under wraps for the time being as they are being submitted for jury for several upcoming exhibitions. I'll hold off on posting till I hear the results of the jury on those. Currently, I am working on my piece for this year's Birds in Art exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum. Though I no longer have to worry about making the cut for jury to that respected exhibition, I am still going to keep that work under wraps till sometime later on but will post after the jury results are announced in May. And speaking of the Woodson, check out their newly reworked and revised web site through the link above. A very fine job of updating, snazzy and very slick! Congrats to the graphic designer responsible for the update. Once the current work is off the board, I promise to begin posting in-progress shots of what is next up on my work list.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Day Out of the Studio

A day away from the studio yesterday, shared with a couple of artist friends, out to Delaware Bay and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. We did a quick run through Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge before heading inland toward Bombay. The day began rather grey and chilly but after leaving Prime Hook, the sky began to brighten and the sun eventually arrived later in the afternoon just in time for that golden hour of the best time to be photographing. We did not see a ton of activity, but there were some highlights for sure. Here are a few shots of what we enjoyed.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Where has the time gone? March 3 already.
I am pleased to once again, after a couple year absence, have work included at the William Ris Gallery in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

The gallery hosts an eclectic mix of artists, styles and mediums, but in common across the board is a level of mastery that makes it all sing together, in harmony and with emotion.

Next time you head toward the beaches of south Jersey, make a stop in Stone Harbor and see some fantastic work.