getting ready for flowers

 

Kuschan flowers 1 oil on paper

Since the Bazille show is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, I’m getting ready to study several of the beautiful flower paintings featured in the exhibit.  It’s great good fortune for me that these works are visiting now because doing large flower compositions has been one of my ambitions for a long time.  I knew of the early Impressionist flower compositions from books but I haven’t been able to see any of the actual paintings until now.

Above is a flower painting I did many years ago.  And below is Bazille’s grande machine of flowers currently in the exhibit.

 

bazille-flowers-1868

And here they are side by side (magic of the internet):

Bazille gives his permission

To artists afflicted with worry about green, Frederick Bazille gives us all permission to do whatever we like.  I know, “it’s not easy being green.”

But you can be all the green you can be.

It’s okay. There are no rules.  Not even for green.

The National Gallery of Art is hosting an exhibition of works by Frederick Bazille, and I am learning all sorts of things from the great artist and his Impressionist pals. And I’m going to share it all with you, here at my blog.

many parts make one whole

100_9427 (2)

It’s like the joke about the Dalai Lama ordering a pizza: “Make me one with everything.”

The picture above is a detail of a detail.  I copied a portion of Paul Cezanne’s Chateau Noir at the National Gallery of Art.  (I posted that one recently.)  This picture is a detail of that drawing (which portrays a detail of Cezanne’s painting).

Already this post is turning into Russian nesting dolls.

Anyway.  I like looking at details of pictures (including — I don’t mind telling you — my own pictures).  And for those who want to do abstract painting, you could find motifs for the abstractions by enlarging a small bit of some representational image.

What I like about the parts, though, is the way they reiterate whatever good things are happening in the whole.  At least in a really well organized picture the parts will be doing on a smaller scale whatever the composition is doing on the large scale.  It seems to me that this is true in the works of all the great masters.

So the lesson is — actually I’m not sure what the lesson is.  Just be a great artist.  There you go.  Easy peasy.

 

Drawing at the National Gallery

cezanne copy

Visiting the National Gallery, I made this drawing in oil pastel of a portion of Cezanne’s Chateau Noir.  The colors in Cezanne’s picture are so dark and subtle that mine looks very brilliant in comparison.  I was mixing together colors to get closer to what I think might have been some of Cezanne’s choices.  But his picture is dark in ways that might be effects of age as well.

Certainly he was wont to mix together lots of pigments to achieve his effects, and the long term consequence of so many pigments being mixed together may be both a darkening and dulling of the colors.  Whatever the case, his picture is magnificent in its somber darkness.  Those qualities would be difficult to capture in the medium I was using though — especially with the particular palette I had available — not impossible, but very time consuming and difficult. So I contented myself with brighter effects. Plus I enjoy making a version of the painting, an interpretation.  My choices are informed in part by what I know of Cezanne’s use of watercolor during this same period.

Here’s his painting and a view of the left hand section featured in my little drawing, which is 9 x 12 inches.  Cezanne’s painting measures 29 x 38 inches.

First time Fishing

A16813.jpg

I remember such a long time ago.  I was a high school student who had fallen in love with a much, much older guy — this guy above, the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna who painted this picture of Jesus calling Andrew and Peter.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

For me the calling I heard was to become a fisher, a fisher of pictures.  When I catch people, I catch them through art.  Drawing and painting have become the bait I use to catch people.  When I catch them, it’s to say “Look!  Look!  The world that God made is filled with marvelous things! Let’s look at them and think about them together.” Okay, maybe I don’t say it in quite that goofy way but that’s the basic sentiment nonetheless.

Let’s pay attention to what we see because we are surrounded by marvels.

In my youth I fell in love with “the Italian primitives” at the National Gallery of Art.  I started my journey in Gallery No 1, and it was shock and awe from thence onwards.  I had no idea how to do any of the things I saw, not drawing, not mixing color, not painting.   But I felt instinctively that it was the thing for me.  Somehow I would learn.

Little did I know how lasting the influence of the first loves would be.  Little did I know how much just Duccio di Buoninsegna’s painting alone would affect me.  Decades later I am mesmerized by lattices such as the one in his painting, the net that holds the fish.  I paint them in different ways than he did, but they occupy lots of space in my cranium.

grill-detail

Even a fish’s body has a lattice incorporated in it.

testfish

So, artists and art lovers, let yourself fall in love with art — and see where it will take you.

Cezanne Shapes

I got to see an old friend

after-cezanne

after many long years separation.  Cezanne’s Vase of Flowers is back on view at the National Gallery of Art.  For years and years it had its own special place and I visited it, studied it, drew it, copied it — and then it was gone.  But it’s back, and recently I made this quick and rough drawing in front of the painting, drawing a portion of its features approximately life size.

It’s not the sort of drawing for getting a likeness.  I was instead keen merely to make the gestures that I see in one small part of the painting. And I want to do many more such drawings in the future — private drawings that I make for my own use even if I do also afterwards make some of them occasionally public by posting them here.

The painting, for those not familiar with it, is reproduced below.

cezanne-flowers

You can learn more about the painting and can use the zoom feature to see it more closely here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.45867.html

I’ve drawn it many times before, as for instance here: https://alethakuschan.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/my-cezanne/

The portion of the painting I was drawing above can deciphered by comparing the same area from one drawing I made in the past.

 

Shopping for ideas

img_2536

I’ve been visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington on recent weekends.  Monet’s painting of his garden has been a particular destination.  I’m painting landscapes now, and I look at Monet’s surfaces and seek answers to questions that I’m encountering in my own painting.  I have five landscapes in the works at present, each in different stages of “almost there.” Mine are small paintings, 18 x 24 inches.  Monet’s painting is quite large. His measures almost 60 x 48.  The room is so large that the painting doesn’t seem that big when you’re standing in front of it, but — wow — it is. Some sense of the scale is available by seeing it with museum visitors.

img_2761

Details of Monet’s painting are visible on NGA’s website.  You can zoom into the nuances.

 

75 Years Young

IMG_2688

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is celebrating a birthday.  As part of the celebration the museum’s education department has a “Sketching is Seeing” program going until April 24th.  Visitors to the gallery can get a free notebook and pencil — pencils are courtesy of Faber-Castell company — and the Gallery is encouraging visitors to enjoy the art they see by making drawings of their own.  You don’t have to be an artist.  Just draw.  I got my free notebook and made a couple sketches  yesterday while I was there.

It’s a big planet and not everybody can come to the museum for the party.  But part of how the museum has changed over time includes this thing called the internet. Many paintings, drawings and sculptures in the museum’s collection are available to see on the museum website.  So even if you can’t be in Washington, you can still make drawings wherever you are and can post them on social media using the hashtag #NGAsketch.

That’s what I’ve done regarding the drawing above.  Using the website zoom tool while looking at Fragonard’s “Young Girl Reading,” I made this drawing.  At home I have the pencil, notebook and a flexible erasure.  Given the tonal character of Fragonard’s image, I find it helpful to smudge the graphite and pull out some of the lights.  Next time I visit the Gallery, if I want to draw Fragonard’s girl again, this drawing I made at home will help me better understand the image.  Think of this as a rehearsal.

If you’re near DC, come visit the museum in person.  The Education Department has some nifty displays set up in the Information room (that’s where you get your free notebook and pencil) — and these displays are themselves really fun.  Currently they’ve replicated a Harnett trompe l’oeil painting so that you can draw a still life set up rather similar (in a theatrical sort of way) to what Harnett might have been looking at.  Now doesn’t that sound like fun.

So go to the party in Washington, if you can make it.  Or if you’re far away, join the party from your internet location. And just draw!

 

When in doubt, draw

100_6341 (2)

I think the best way to learn how to draw is to copy the works of great artists.  The practice of copying is better than an association with any living teacher (as wonderful as that might be) because you can learn aspects of what the great artist knew without having the great artist standing there nagging you.  (Degas does have something of a reputation, deservedly or no, for being a bit of a crank.)

Many, many years ago I began my habit of acquiring art books so that I would have good reproductions of paintings to look at, enjoy, copy, and study.  And now the internet offers an added opportunity to learn that is so amazing that it’s difficult to characterize how revolutionary it really is.

I just learned, for instance, that the National Gallery has updated their website and it’s possible to see enlargements of their paintings now online.  I made my drawing of Edgar Degas’s “Girl in Red,” using the enlargement at NGA’s website.  So I am able to peer right into Degas’s girl’s face in a way that I could never do in front of the actual painting.

sketch 1

I made some fast sketches too because I enjoy just putting down the visual ideas as they occur to me.  It’s fun.  There’s something very freeing about looking at something and taking aim.  Some people go to the Carnival and toss balls at the bucket hoping to win a prize.  I throw pen lines at a notebook, and it’s Carnival all the time.

sketch 2

The image changes in subtle ways.  Your hand goes to different places.  But then too, after a while, you have all these notebooks that you open, and have these faces that look back at you.

sketch 3

I make some drawings from memory too.  I think about the image after I have spent a long time drawing it, and the memory is physical almost more than it’s visual.  I remember the image in my hand.  Sometimes I draw with my non-dominant hand, though I didn’t yesterday.  Of course it’s easier to draw with one’s dominant hand.  My right hand has many more memories than my left hand.

sketch 4

I also think it’s good to draw late at night when you are too weary to fight yourself, when you can be persuaded simply to let a drawing be what it is, when drawing and dream meld together.

Can you imagine a person at the Carnival who just kept throwing balls at the target?  Someone would not give up!  There might be a hundred balls lying about that missed the target, but he was determined to win the prize!

Absolutely no photography allowed!!!

I just returned from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC where I got my first look at the just opened Willem van Aelst exhibit.  Evidently most peoples’ reactions to seeing these intensely realistic-looking paintings is to take a photograph, and photography is prohibited (since the paintings are all loaned by various different parties some of whom don’t want their property photographed).  The guard was having to tell people over and over again while I was there, “No photography!”  I said to him that the invention of the camera was the bane of his existence, and he corrected me: “No, the cell phone is the bane of my existence.”

So, obviously everyone should do like me and make a drawing!  There’s no prohibition against drawing.  This drawing is a detail from, “Still life with Snail,” one of the several ornate and sumptuous still lifes.  It’s a beautiful exhibit.  Sharpen your pencils, everyone, and get thee there.  (And leave your camera at home.)