Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Edge Of Autumn, Paul Cezanne

The Edge Of Autumn
 oil on panel  9" x 12"

"With an apple, I want to astonish Paris."
Paul Cezanne

Cezanne had a penchant for the simplified, in both his painting and his comments. ("Monet is only an eye but what an eye!")  His constant effort was to get at the essence of his subject by eliminating the superfluous and unnecessary. Whether a mountain or an apple for subject, his painting was a battle against his limits of technique as tempered by his intense commitment to his ideas. In this painting I have switched my technique a bit - focus on breaking color, light, and value into controlled flat shapes - staying away from painterly modeling and tonal differentiation. I wished to get hold of the feeling of thick woods and an impenetrable wall of foliage - with the light beginning to get through as leaves begin to change and fall - the first edge of autumn as it happens. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Maine Swamp, Wolf Kahn

Maine Swamp #2
 oil on panel  11" x 14"

"Nature is quite generous for providing material for one's imagination.
A work of art is, above all, the celebration of the particular. 
This applies to thought as well as practice."
Wolf Kahn

Wolf Kahn is not stating opposites here, though at first reading it may appear so. Instead he is describing the absolute bedrock for any painting worthy of being considered art - the foundation of that 'celebration of the particular' - read as true seeing and not approximating - must be present as the gateway to the artist's imagination and as a tool for reaching the expressive intent. Within the patterns and spaces of this swampy marsh imagining can take flight, buoyed by the discipline of looking and exploring.
That's the fun of it - getting the color and the marks of paint to describe while not dictating - to allow artist and viewer to imagine.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Down The Road #2, Richard Diebenkorn

Down The Road #2
 oil on panel  6" x 8"

"Attempt what is not certain. Tolerate chaos."
Richard Diebenkorn

When I begin a new painting it seems I have certain difficult lessons to learn all over again. At the outset, emptiness of the picture space and the swirling, throbbing visual world must be brought to a common ground and there seems no sure path to get what I'm feeling and truly seeing into comprehensible form. The key to starting is to welcome these uncertainties as a gift, a challenge, an opening. Soon enough it will become a battle. During each one there comes a moment early on when one is lost, when the chaos of subject and marks are in disarray - then I step back and reconnect with what attracted me to begin - what I loved about this place in time - and then dive back in with renewed clarity. The vision clears and the image is rediscovered.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Roadside Shed, Balthus

"Roadside Shed"
 oil on panel  11" x 14"

"Painting is the passage from the chaos of the emotions 
to the order of the possible."

Could not pass up this deserted old shed along a rural road somewhere in the White Mountains, near the border of New Hampshire and Maine. Seems the buildings are slowly sinking back into the tangled grasses and saplings rubbing against the walls - only the power line pole still keeps its posture erect. I find these sorts of places magical in the combination of the temporal man-made and the relentless natural - a visual tension that defines the space. The painting just tries to capture the essence of that tension.

September Woods, Nicolas DeStael

September Woods
  oil on panel  9" x 12"

"True painting always tends towards the impossible sum 
of the present moment, the past, and the future."
Nicolas DeStael

Coming to grips with the chaotic visual stimulus found in nature is a large part of figuring out how to paint. I have never been interested in scenes or views - and while there are maybe hundreds of painters here in the States doing well while recording or illustrating the great mountains and shimmering lakes of the Rockies or the surf crashed cliffs of California - these things have never triggered me to paint them.  I am drawn instead toward the rough fringes rural places where they bump against the populated and developed; the tangled wood's edge, the fallow fields, the junkyard or the collapsed buildings. I guess part of the attraction is to be left alone to deal with these things, un-jostled by tourists or painting clubs. Wherever I am or whatever my subject, the only way to organize an approach toward "the impossible sum" of past, present, and future that must be compressed into a painting, is to stop and look and discover the poetry of the moment and place. 

"September Woods" is a small section of the edge of a copse of trees somewhere in Maine. Nondescript and easily passed by this place is nothing special - except that it holds everything vital and beautiful about life on a sun drenched day.  Shadow and light, color and space organized by the dancing vertical tree trunks moving forward and back, amongst the diagonal tumble of light as it falls on clusters of leaves and grasses.  The painting exists as simple evidence of one attempt at the impossible, pitted against one painter's limits, 
fueled by the joy experienced in the attempt.