Friday, September 28, 2012

Roses and Apples

This unfinished oil painting, entitled "Roses and Apples" , was mainly  an attempt to study colors and values.  It was fun to play with hues and their complements under a warm light source.  Even in its present state (done ala prima in 2011), it was enough to attract a collector who admonished me "not to touch it".  (I still feel the urge to bring it more finish and have held the collector at bay, by mentioning it needs my signature before I part with it!)  The painting represents a few hours work -- not including the two-hour set-up time-- and succeeds, I think, in the intention of it being a study.  Bringing "finish" to a study does seem somewhat of an oxymoron.  Perhaps the best that can be done with a study is to make it more "presentable" as a painting if it is intended for exhibit.

  This "unfinished" oil is of more recent vintage and had as its object the study of the same observable factors; namely hue, value, and complementary colors under a warm light source.  In addition, I wanted to weave into the chroma and shadows the dimension of expression , still keeping the forms recognizable.  I think both paintings use light, spatial arrangement, patterns of light and shadows as well as chroma to express mood.  The mood in the earlier painting seems to be lighter, airier; whereas the mood in the more recent study perhaps seems deeper, more intense, without any note of pessimism.  Keeping the shadows on the  tablecloth transparent, airy, I think, helps. Note:  I put my signature (lower right) on this one, although I would like to finish it a little more before bringing it to a "serious" exhibit. The goal is to bring greater depth of expression to painting without becoming an abstract expressionist.

   As far as "finish" goes for any painting, we can say a painting is finished (to the painter) if it achieves the aim of the painter.  But anyone outside the painter-- say the collector, the art loving public, the non-family viewer--can help stop the disease of "over-finish".  I'm waiting for the vaccine!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


At left is a self-portrait done by my first teacher of oil painting.  Pat Corso, educated at the Art Students League in New York, came to Rhode Island around 1981 -- just in time for my return from a temporary assignment in Washington, D.C.  I remember seeing his photos of his realistic work in the local newspaper which also announced that he would be giving lessons for $15 a head at the Guild in Wakefield, RI.  Three of us showed up to take lessons from this outspoken artist, but two of them backed down, intimidated by his harsh, critical manner.  He asked me if I would be willing to take private lessons at the rate of  seven dollars for a couple of hours.  I agreed .  Surprisingly, he knew what I was after -- the knowledge and craft of Monet.  He yelled back that it would take years and years to begin to paint like that.  (At the time, I thought the words an exaggeration, but now I know better!)  His three dogs would often require his attention -- usually through his threatening to kill them when they misbehaved or had their family squabbles.  When I completed what I thought was my best painting, he barked, "You'll be a good painter -- in twenty years!"
       While instruction from him seemed to put this student on the edge of a razor for each session, his urgings were essential to the serious-minded. "What color do you see in that tree trunk?"  "Purple", I hesitatingly replied.  "Then paint it that way!!"  He was always prodding one to LOOK and COMPARE.  He was difficult, proud. " Father Sicilian, mother Jewish".  An outstanding painter up against the incursions of modern abstract art .  I can still hear his urgings in my subconscious, even though I could be called a rather poor student of his for only a year or two.  My mistake was to push his in-your-face instruction away too soon.  A greater artist, a greater soul would have stayed the course for at least another year, with the ability to ignore all the melodrama, acidic criticism, and insistent pessimism.  With all that, I am indebted to him for the strong start he gave me in painting. One other artist, Solace Loven , also counts Pat as one of her teachers.  Corso passed away in 1989, victim of a "routine" hospital procedure.

   After Corso, I had several other teachers, nationally known, and a few of which were his contempory artists at the Art Students League.  From each teacher, I have gained another way of looking at nature , of turning paintings into art.  Here are a couple of experiments inspired by some of my readings :

       .   At left is actually a painting of sunflowers, despite the presence of "my little teapot".  It's an oil on linen, 16x20.  Past still life work I have done was a little more "realistic" and perhaps had a tonal mood, but here I was after a little more expressiveness.  An artist must paint with emotion, according to the teachings of Sergei Bongart.   I have also done a still life with roses, with the same thought in mind.  ( I reserve this painting for the next blog opportunity.)


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plein Air Productions

The image on the left , an 11x14 oil sketch, was done at Pt.Judith toward the end of day.  I found a wonderful perch , a circular concrete base for an old gun emplacement, where I could face the fishermen on the rocks across the way and paint/study fairly undisturbed -- until some youngsters came along to toss some of the rocks into the sea.  Such a spot is almost too good to be true for a plain-air outing.  The Point is usually breezy, so no worries about being bitten by pesky flying insects, and the hottest day can be pleasant here.  Since I was able to accomplish much uninterruptedly, very little, in my opinion, is necessary for "finishing".

The next image , a blurred one I'm sorry to say, is of an old fishing boat, Artemis II which I sketched in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.  It was a beautiful day with a mellow sun late in the afternoon.  The whole charm of the scene had to do with low tide which had the vessel pitched forward, her screw out of the water aft.  Of course, with the changing tide, by the time I left, the boat was afloat by the dock.  Plein air work is indeed a combination of observation, imagination, and memory work!
  Artemis II seemed to me more picturesque than seaworthy -- but that was its lure to this artist.  I think to help the composition, studio assistance might include some other boats in the harbor .

These last two images are oil sketches of scenes within one or two miles from my present studio in East Greenwich, RI.  The top is a view of the harbor in East Greenwich just as the sun is close to retiring for the day and the other image is the most recent sketch of one of my favorite local subjects , the Green Boat.  Again both of these remain as sketches until more thinking about them is accomplished -- before any "improvements" are made!