Previous month:
February 2012
Next month:
April 2012

March 2012

Narrative in Landscape

 

Levitan-The-VladmirkaOne of my favorite stories is about Vladimirka Road (1892, Isaak Levitan, oil on canvas, 79 x 123cm, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, shown left).  It comes from the book Isaak Levitan Lyrical Landscape, by Averil King. 

Long considered one of the artist's masterworks, the story behind Levitan's inspiration is recounted by his friend:

"Kuvshinnikova recalls how she and the artist were returning from a hunting expedition when they suddenly found themselves on the old Vladimirka highway.  Now re-named Highway M-7, running eastwards from Moscow, the ancient road formed the route taken by generations of prisoners to spend their lives in Siberia.  The modern town of Gorenki, from the Russian word gore meaning grief, lies at the site of its first staging post, the place where countless families saw their loved ones for the last time.  Levitan started as he recognized the road, calling to mind 'the many unfortunate souls who trod the road, clanging their chains, on their way to exile'.  He and Kuvshinnikova sat at the foot of a weather-beaten roadside alter and talked about the fates witnessed by this highway and the sorrowful supplications that must have been addressed to the little alter."

The story continues to describe how Levitan returned to the site the next day with a large (31 inch x 48 inch) canvas and began to work directly from nature; over the course of several days, he produced what is widely regarded as his masterpiece, a stark, endless landscape under stormy skies, with a solitary figure standing in front of the roadside alter.  As author Averil King states, "It is a picture filled with sadness and foreboding, clearly suggestive of the despair of the shackled men and women who had trudged eastward through these lonely wastes."

Narrative in art is easier to understand when expressed through still life and figure, but for many landscape painters the question becomes more nebulous: is it enough to paint a scene because it consists of interesting elements? 

Certainly a beautiful painting will generate its own narraive in the mind of the viewer.

But when the artist's emotional response to a scene is also grounded in the narrative, the result can be powerful. 

What do you think?

 

*****

"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too.  She’s already doing most of what you suggested...she hates self-promotion like most of us do..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist


Easy Value References for your Palette

Strong compositions require a good grasp of tone or value.  When I recently replaced my painting surface, I took advantage of these two simple value tips to make the palette super efficient.

My palette is low-tech. I use a large sheet of glass and back it with mat board. For this project, I purchased a scrap piece of mat board that measured 8 on the 10 point value scale, where white is 10 (take your value scale with you to get a sheet in the lighter range of 7 to 9, but not white).  

Using a straight edge and utility knife, I cut the mat board to fit beneath my 18 inch by 28 inch sheet of glass.  I taped the two pieces together using several layers of blue painters tape, making sure the sharp edges were completely covered.

 

  DSC08614

(Palette and blue tape, slightly used)

Next, I used acrylic paint from Liquitex called Neutral gray value 5 / mixing gray, and painted the blue tape on opposite corners so I would have a readily available mid-value to use when judging color. I also painted in a triangular section in the corner of the palette closest to the edge of my taboret, giving me a larger area to use for value comparison. I can easily scrape this paint off using my scraper when it becomes too dirty, and re-apply fresh paint.

DSC08613

(gray corner, slightly used)

 

DSC08615

(This image shows a comparison using a printer's 10 step value scale.)

I found that while the acrylic paint measures at value 5 using this printer's ruler, it can also be read as a value 4 using Daniel Smith's printed card. But for me, what is more useful is understanding the value step - or distance between the lightness and darkness of two colors - and now I can easily control this simply by using the value of the palette and the value on the tape/corner as a guide.  I like this method better than just using the mid-value gray as the palette color because it keeps me focused upon working with value differences and strong contrasts. 

So,

Tip #1 - select a lighter value to use for your palette surface and know what that value is compared to white.

Tip #2 - paint the edge of your palette with a darker value, and know the distance on the value scale from the value of the palette, as well as the distance to black.  This should give you a good basis for a 3-point value plan - light-mid-dark.

The best advantage is that color mixing becomes automatic when you use this simple value scale.

 

Looking for inspiration?

 

THUMBNAIL_IMAGE

"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too.  She’s already doing most of what you suggested...she hates self-promotion like most of us do..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

 

 

 

 

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

 


How They Do It - The British Landscape Painters

I recently came across several DVDs that focus on the British Plein Air Landscape Painters that were quite inspiring.  I enjoyed Oil Landscapes - Quick and Easy with Brian Ryder the most, but all three instructional dvds offer insights into this painting approach from different perspectives.

 

41VnGZ+0qNL._AA160_

I really enjoyed Brian Ryder  - he was funny and very approachable, offered plenty of information and created terrific paintings.  Watching him paint the sea wall was a master class in color and abstraction. I found Oil Landscapes - Quick and Easy with Brian Ryder by chance on Amazon and it is one I will watch more than once.  

 

 

 

 

41o48WrNJXL._AA115_You might also enjoy Painting the Light in Oils with Peter Wileman, who has a book out with the same title.  Much of the information is in both sources, and while the book is less expensive, I enjoyed the dvd more, hearing the artist  talk and watching him work.  I have been experimenting with his method of using MDF and preparing it using acrylic primer.  I've had to adjust the ingredients as we don't have the same brand names in the US, but at this point it is an experiment and I will post on the results later.

 

 

 

51ejSATDNML._AA115_If you have been following Stapleton Kern's blog  you know he had several posts on Edward Seago awhile back.  The dvd Edward Seago Oil Landscape Techniques with Miles Fairhurst offers insights into the artist's approach from "Miles Fairhurst...a Suffolk artist whose father knew Seago well."  All three artists are using what is described as the "Edward Seago Approach" - starting with a toned ground, "scrubbing" on the color, and each dvd had high points and boring parts. Worth the modest $40 price range, but perhaps you don't need all three. 

 

 

 

 

Need a nudge?

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle UK Store - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist