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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Corot featured in "The Art Journal"

I'm sitting here with the 1889 edition of The Art Journal. Published in London by J.S. Virtue   & Co. Limtd., this thick seven pound 13"x 10.5" volume is elegant in its writing, beauty, quality of printing, and fine art reproductions

While in England several years ago visiting family, I stumbled upon three editions of The Art Journal in my uncle's house. To me, it was like finding a precious gemstone  on the beach. Expressing my delight in discovering these books, my uncle kindly offered them to me. They are the most cherished of my art books.

What caught my attention in this volume was an article on Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, by Mr. R.A.M. Stevenson, and I want to share some of his comments from the article.

The most important Victorian magazine on art in England was the Art Union Monthly Journal, founded in 1839 by Hodgson & Graves. In 1848, Mr. George C. Virtue purchased the magazine and renamed it The Art Journal. The journal eventually became the premier art publication in Great Britain, and by the time he retired in 1855, Mr. Virture had published  more than 20,000 copper and steel engravings of various works of art. 
The journal became known for its honest portrayal of fine art. Under the editorship of Samuel Hall, the journal exposed the profits that custom-houses were earning from the import of Old Masters, particularly of Raphael and Titian, that were actually fakes...having been manufactured in England. In their desire to alert people to these misrepresented works, they created much skepticism and caution among the buying public which in turn greatly affected the art market.

I think it interesting that The Art Journal took a strong stand against fakes in the art market, and yet, one of my very favorite artists, Mr. Corot, probably has more fake copies of his paintings in the world than most. I'm sure the journal would have been repulsed by that fact.

Early on, the journal strongly supported The Clique, a group of English artists that rejected Academic high art in favor of genre painting. They felt the academic ideals had become stagnant and believed art should be judged by the public, not by its conformity to some academic standard.

James Sprent Virtue picked up publishing duties after his father's retirement, but by 1880, the journal faced strong competition from the Magazine of Art and changing public taste, influenced by Impressionism. The Art Journal was last published in 1912.

The Augustan Bridge at Narni - 13.39"x 18.9" - Oil - 1826

It's hard for me to explain why I am so drawn to Corot. From the first day I became aware of his work in a college art history class, I was hooked. Primarily, of course, it's emotional. One's emotional response to a painting is influenced by subject, mood, composition, etc. Corot's paintings are powerful, in the same way a whisper in the ear might be in a noisy room. There is an undeniable harmony, balance and perfection in his work. Critics have said it's like poetry. I am attracted to his magnificent use of gray, to the embracing peaceful, quiet of his paintings. Among the screaming paintings of today, Corot enters the room quietly, almost unnoticed. There's a certain humility in that which is appealing to me. 

Another reason I like Corot is because he got a late start, age 26...and I relate to that.

Diana Surprised at Her Bath - 61.68"x 44.38" - Oil - 1836

The Italian Goatherd, Evening - 32.38"x 24.68" - Oil - 1847

Corot was a great man in a great century. He broke new ground both as a picture-maker, and as an observer of facts...and now, let's hear what Mr. Stevenson has to say, quoted from his article of 1889:

"I think Corot's marvelously clear good sense, his long course of early carefulness, the slow growth of his style, and, above all, its sole foundation on nature, prevented him, when he once attained the expression of his own ideas, from ever feeling that doubt of his style and that uneasy wish to turn back and see if nothing has been left behind."

A Village Near Beauvais - 15.75"x 11.8" - Oil - 1855

"Corot had been taught by the men of the Classic school, men rigid in drawing, rigid in their rejection of any facts outside the beat of Poussin and the ancients, rigid too in their devotion to formal arrangement, in a word, sticklers for convention."

"Corot was conscientious in his purpose of modelling the large masses perfectly, and of suggesting the smaller detail only so far as he could do it without sacrifice of what is greater."

Wooded Peninsula - Oil - 1868

"Some have argued that Corot lacked the gift of colour, proclaiming him merely a "tonist". That belief is a total misapprehension of the aims and merits of modern painting. People who cannot call a man a colorist unless he knocks them on the head with red, blue, and yellow, are, of course, justified in their taste, though wrong in their principles of criticism."

"Corot was quite sincere in his intention to render the open air, and surely no one denies the reality of open air colours, or that they are as beautiful, subtle, varied as the pigments in a colour box or the stuffs in a draper's shop."

"Corot works on a composition made of broad, simply arranged, large masses. These he surrounds and overlays with a lovely lace-work of light branches and floating leaves."

A Shady Resting Place - 18.5"x 15" - Oil - 1873

"So much for Corot's realism; there is also a decorative beauty in his art, consonant with, and, to my mind, inseparable from, his view of the world. One dare not say how much of his beauty is, as it were, realism sublimed. Your eye embraces his pictures in their entirety and nothing distracts or worries the attention. A great part of this unity, this harmony, comes from his logical and consistent rendering of atmosphere, the result of his most unusually complete grasp of the field of vision as a whole. Yet we may detect a residuum that is pure style distinguished from observation of nature."

For the complete article...and earlier blog postings I've done on Corot, click links below

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(Next blog posting will be 5 May. Thank you for checking back at that time)


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why draw? Let's just paint

Some years ago when I was asked to teach a weekly art class, I gladly accepted. I expected a class full of eager, enthusiastic students, ready to tackle the challenges of becoming fine artists. The class was full alright (17 students), but when they were given a simple drawing exercise, I quickly realized none of them had the slightest understanding of perspective. Desiring to actually teach them something and not just collect their money, I told them to put away their paints, we were going to concentrate on learning how to draw the cone, sphere, cube, and cylinder in perspective. The next week, one student showed up...and that was the end of that.
Having taught many workshops over the years, students are extremely excited about color and paint. They just want to get that paint on the canvas.. It is easy for them to acknowledge that their drawing skills are weak, but it's a whole other thing entirely to see them diligently buckle down and do the hard and sometimes tedious work necessary to improve that skill.
Fortunately, the emptiness of the "modern art" movement has awakened many to the importance of drawing. After all the hype negating its importance, artists are in fact realizing that drawing is at the very heart of our ability to communicate as artists. I call it the foundation of all painting. Just as a house built on a lousy foundation will not stand, neither will our paintings hold up if the drawing foundation is unstable.
As positive as the current craze for plein air painting can be, I still say, without the foundational knowledge and ability to accurately represent on a two-dimensional surface the perspective, proportion, and values of the subject before us, well, there is no hope of adding anything of note to the fine arts.
As with the Impressionist and Expressionist Movements, the current Plein Air Movement can also become an excuse for not really confronting serious deficiencies in our drawing ability.

Deane Keller

What is this thing we call drawing?

Jack Hines: Drawing is the basic, most pervasive element of all visual art. If an artist can't draw, he can't create great art. Drawing is much like handwriting. The direct, unencumbered connection between eye, brain, hand and paper constitutes the purest statement an artist can make. None of the complications of paint, surface texture, brushes, knives, solvents and color get in the way. Personality, knowledge, technique and emotion become obvious in drawing, and if an artist can't draw, I dare say that he can't convey personality, knowledge, technique and emotion in the artwork.

Ken Riley: Drawing demonstrates two capabilities, that of analyzing what is seen or thought, and that of recording it, and these two faculties in combination constitute the very foundation upon which art production is based.

Michael John Angel

Michael John Angel: I define drawing as the creation of (the illusion of) form, as does Harold Speed. The painter draws with colour, the sculptor draws with clay or stone, etc. I call simple outline drawing either outline drawing, or the map (when it's an underpainting).

Drawing, in its widest sense, is used to develop an exciting and personal visual vocabulary. The importance of practicing drawing to develop mark-making skills, encourage selectivity, closer observation and create compositions are some of the points made by artists from a variety of disciplines.

John McCartin

John McCartin

John McCartin: Drawing can be defined in several ways: 1) A linear representation of objects. 2) Measurment - triangulating the position of points or edges relative to one another (includes drawing as applied to accuracy in painting). 3) A pictorial representation of objects rendered by graphical means. 4) Graphical methods of rendering surface qualities and textures. eg. Pen & ink, pencil, charcoal, conte, and pastel, have distinctly different methods of rendering the same thing. 5) A quick pictorial note akin to handwriting. A kind of shorthand.

David Gray

David Gray: Drawing, as I define it, is the decisive and appropriate placement of various elements of pictorial expression (line, tone, shapes of value and color, etc); the collective whole of which make up the picture.

Giorgio Vasari: Drawing is the necessary beginning of everything in art, though this is an important element of their value; they also facilitate the artist's creative process by describing what is seen, visualizing what is imagined, and symbolizing ideas and concepts. Although widely used as a means for artists to conceptualize their ideas for a painting, drawing serves a variety of other functions as well. Some of these other functions include: Descriptive drawing, ornamentation and illustration. Drawing as social commentary. Drawing as a means to clarify or crystallize an idea. Drawing as a means of self-expression.

Edgar Degas: Drawing is the artist's most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing; it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.

Thomas Reis

Thomas Reis: Drawing: The term is generally defined as a graphic form of delineation - representation by use of monochromatic lines. Personally, the word helps me to identify the methodical, measured aspect of the painting process from its massed, nebulous, painterly cousin. I like to think of drawing as the underlying/overarching structure of painting - so interwoven as to be inextricable. I'm not sure that good painting can exist without good drawing. I was thinking of how we generally associate the act of drawing with the use of certain tools...pencil, pen and ink, chalk, etc. Sometimes, we may even think of oil paint and brush, but the word "drawing" seems to always evoke an essentially monochromatic end product.

Richard Schmid: Line drawing is only a representation or diagram of our visual world. Painting, on the other hand attempts to create an illusion of that world. Drawing is simply measuring. In painting, drawing comes down to nothing more than figuring out the width and height of color shapes and then fitting them together.

The importance of knowing how to draw.

Skip Liepke: The main thing when painting isn't rendering photographically; it's learning how to draw - learning about form, about how light hits an object, about how it falls across a head and reveals the planes of the face. That knowledge give you freedom. A writer who has a good vocabulary is the same way, the writer doesn't use all the words he or she knows, but they are always at the writer's disposal.

Drawing, in its widest sense, is used to develop an exciting and personal visual vocabulary. The importance of practicing drawing is to develop an exciting and personal visual vocabulary, to develop mark-making skills, to encourage selectivity, create compositions, and encourage closer observation.

Camille Pissaro: It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you will discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character.

Peter Paul Rubens

Rembrandt Van Rijn

Gerard Houckgeest

Leonardo da Vinci


Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres: To draw does not simply mean to reproduce contours; the drawing does not simply consist in the idea; the drawing is even the expression, the interior form, the plan, the model. Look what remains after that! The drawing is three-fourths and a half of what constitutes painting. If I had to put a sign over the door of my atelier, I would write: School of Drawing...and I'm certain that I would create painters.

John McCartin

John McCartin: Drawing is important for a number of reasons: 1) Selectivity - knowing what to leave out comes with time and practice. 2) Development of hand/eye control. 3) Working out composition - arranging shapes etc  in different design formats as small thumbnail sketches. 4) Developing tonal precision - learning to see in terms of tone rather than colour. 5) As preliminary studies - certainly a good way to highlight potential pitfalls. I've often had to backpedal on a painting simply because I was too keen to paint the picture and didn't take the time to draw. 6) It develops accuracy in painting - drawing errors are probably the most common.

William Bouguereau: Paint as you see and be accurate in your drawing; the whole secret of your art is there.

Leonardo da Vinci: First learn perspective, then the proportions of objects. Perspective is the rein and rudder of painting.

John Ruskin: The art of drawing is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing. It should be taught to every child just as writing is.

David Gray: The importance of drawing lies in the fact that the underlying drawing of any painting gives context to the painterly expression. Particularly for the realist (but also other forms of pictorial expression), without this understanding of the importance and skillful execution of drawing, flashy brushwork, exciting color relationships and other painterly effects lack context and therefore become meaningless.

Michael John Angel: As for the importance of drawing, this depends on one's aesthetic. The more decorative branches of painting (Art Nouveau, Art Deco, even much of French Impressionism) don't give much importance to it, but I think that a strong illusion of form on a flat canvas has a truly emotional clout (and emotional clout is the most important aspect of painting, in my opinion).

John Singer Sargent

Nicolas Poussin: Drawing is the skeleton of what you do and color is the flash.

John Sloan: Drawing is the cornerstone of the graphic, plastic arts. Drawing is the coordination of line, tone, and color symbols into formations that express the artist's thought.

Arshile Gorky: Drawing is the basis of art. A bad painter cannot draw. But one who draws well can always paint.

Betty Goodwin: Drawing is the simplest way of establishing a picture vocabulary because it is an instant, personal declaration of what is important and what is not.

Ken Danby: Without good drawing, the foundation of a painting will collapse.

Alexander Creswell: Drawing is the backbone. It is no good having a lovely sense of light and color if there isn't the firm foundation underneath.

Sir Kenneth Clark: It is often said that Leonardo drew so well because he knew about things; it is truer to say that he knew about things because he drew so well.

Sergei Bongart: Never become an artist if you can't learn to draw.

Henry Tonks: It's by drawing that we make our records of form. Its importance cannot be exaggerated. A school of painting in which drawing is not taught and drawing dissociated from painting is not worthy of the name of 'school'. When a student begins to paint he will soon perceive the relation of drawing to painting.

Michelangelo: Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.

David Kassan

Newell Convers Wyeth

Howard Pyle

Tom Lovell

So, how can we learn to draw?

  • Go to a really good school that is serious about teaching drawing.
  • Study under a great teacher that can draw.
  • Get one of many books that teach perspective. Start at page one and don't move on to page two until you understand everything on page one. Work through the book in this manner, and do all the drawings on each page.
  • Draw anything and everything and draw every day. Work from life and not from photos at this stage.
  • You only learn to draw by drawing.
  • Now, get after it.
James Gurney is a  guy who really lives and breaths drawing. It won't take very long, as you read his daily blog, to realize this is true. He's a big inspiration to me.

James Gurney

Important Links:

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013

What can I say? While attending the opening reception of the Outdoor Painters Society Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013, held at Southwest Gallery in Dallas, I learned one of my paintings was selected "Best of Show".

Honored, shocked and delighted are words that come to mind. Honored because of the overall quality of the show, and because of the great respect I have for the judge, George Strickland. Shocked because it's a first for this show and I totally didn't think I had a chance. Delighted because of all the kind words received from others...and of course, the prize money, free magazine ad, and painting sales that resulted. It was a pretty special evening and one that doesn't come around nearly as often as I'd like.

Celebrating its seventh year, Plein Air Southwest Salon has become one of the premier events of the Spring. The Outdoor Painters Society sponsors the event to promote an appreciation for the process of painting "en plein air", which is French for "in open air". Most works are completed in a single painting session, painted outdoors on location and are characterized by the bold use of color, design,and freshness of paint application.

Opening night, Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013, Southwest Gallery

Plein Air Southwest Salon's are juried competitions. Participants selected for the show are carefully chosen by a jury panel. Award winners for this year's show were selected by George Strickland. His works are regularly featured in the most distinguished invitational shows, and he has earned numerous prestigious awards throughout his career, including Gold and Silver Medals and Artists' Choice awards. He is a Signature Member and past president of the Plein Air Painters of America, a member of the Northwest Rendezvous, and the California Art Club.

Artist's signatures were covered before judging began, and from what I hear, Mr. Strickland took his job very seriously, studying each painting thoroughly...just the way it should be done. As artists, we put a lot of effort into our works, it's nice to have a judge that does the same. So, a big thanks to George Strickland.

"Left Behind" actually began as a larger painting but was cut down to improve the composition. Painted in one six-hour session, on-site, few refinements were needed back in the studio. Originally titled "Beside a Fallen Giant", the new title popped into my mind while laying in bed two nights before the show...better expressing the story I felt while creating the piece.

Special thanks to Southwest Gallery for hosting the show, and to all the sponsors for supporting this event. 

...and here are the other award winners:

John Pototschnik - Left Behind - 9.75"x 15" - Oil
Best of Show, Southwest Art magazine awards

Catherine Elliott - Sanctuary - 16"x 20" - Oil
Plein Air magazine Award of Excellence 

Ted Clemens - Red Window - 10"x 18" - Oil
SourceTek Award of Excellence

Kathleen Dunphy - Ready to Roll - 12"x 16" - Oil
Fine Art Studio On-line Award of Excellence

Jason Sacran - After Dark - 9"x 12" - Oil
Blick Art Materials Award of Excellence

Kaye Franklin - Mexican Petunia - 10"x 10" - Oil
Utrecht Award of Excellence

Bob Beck - The Big White House - 11"x 14" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Wind River Arts Award

Robert Rohm - Cliff Shadows - 12"x 16" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Raymar Art Award

Fran Ellisor - Terlingua - 12"x 16" - Oil
Honorable Mention

Janis Krendick - Connemara Preserve - 8"x 10" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Judson"s Art Outfitters Award

Laurel Daniel - Summer Morning - 9"x 12" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Asel Art Award

Lee MacLeod - Eucalyptus Grove - 12"x 16" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Airfloat Systems, Inc Award

Peggy Kingsbury - Aspen Shadows - 11"x 14" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Jack Richeson & Co. Award

Joshua Been - Cactus Dance - 18"x 12" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Jack Richeson & Co. Award

Rusty Jones - Palo Duro Overlook - 12"x 16" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Gamblin Award

Judy Crowe - King Williams Court - 11"x 14" - Oil
Honorable Mention - Gamblin Award

Not Shown:
Lawrence Rudolech - Old Lancaster - Fredericksburg Art School Award

Tom Lockhart - Remains on the Back Road - Honorable Mention

John Cook - 11"x 14" - Quick Draw - Artist's Choice Award

Important Links:
Outdoor Painters Society
Southwest Gallery
George Strickland

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