Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Magic Panel & A New Gallery

Sunset Pool; Oil 20 x 24
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago
Thanks to everyone who commented or emailed me about making painting panels. I really appreciate all the good information I received. I also tracked down the artist who made the one I found in my studio - which we now refer to as the magic panel -and got her "recipe" for silky smooth panels on birch plywood. So I am making panels this weekend and also plan to try a couple of the commercially prepared ones recommended by several of you who contacted me.

I'm happy to say I am now represented by Hildt Galleries in Chicago. They sell 19th and early 20th century art as well as represent a small group of contemporary artists.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Angus Grazing at Dusk

Angus Grazing at Dusk 8 x 8 oil
Please contact me if interested in this piece

This image has been floating around in my head ever since the drive back from Amarillo almost a month ago. I figure if its still there in my head, I'd better go ahead and paint it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Spring Evening

A Spring Evening oil on board 10 x 10
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

In this piece I'm jumping the gun a bit, meteorologically speaking. Most of the trees around here are still bare but there are a few tantalizing glimpses of spring- flowering trees, daffodils and iris and longer, warmer days. And besides, a girl can dream, can't she?

The big news, at least for me, with this piece is that I painted it on gessoed plywood board instead of canvas. I have pretty much always painted on canvas. When I first began to explore painting in a more indirect way- under painting, glazes, etc- I read a lot about how glazes work better on a smooth surface. I resisted that for a couple of reasons-the main one being that I didn't think I could use the dry brush technique I like to use in my under paintings as effectively without some drag from my painting surface. Another being fear. So when I found this silky smooth board in my studio the other day, I'm not sure why I decided to try it. But boy, am I glad I did! I loved painting on this surface and while it certainly made the paint behave a bit differently, I really loved the way it took glazes. The paint just seemed to float on top of the surface making this lovely atmospheric envelope. Now the problem is I have no idea where this board came from! I'm pretty sure it was handmade, not commercially prepared. So, Steve (my husband) and I have been experimenting this week with gessoed masonite. I found some good information on line about preparing these boards, but I still have lots of questions - like how many coats of gesso, do you need to sand in between or just at the end, whether or not you need to seal them in some way so they are not too absorbent and what to do about larger pieces. So if any of you out there have answers to these questions, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

J.M.W. Turner in Dallas- Part 2

This is the second post on my visit to the exhibition J.M.W. Turner at the Dallas Museum of Art. You can read the first post here.

As I mentioned in my first post, I always feel a bit like I am entering a shrine when I go to an exhibition of this sort. Both as an artist and a lover of art (and those can be two completely different things) being in the presence of the work of an artist I admire and revere is a humbling and reverent experience. In Turner's case, it is perhaps doubly so because his work has had a profound and transformative influence on the art of landscape itself and on the work of so many artists including me.

It is not exaggeration to say that Turner, along with his contemporary John Constable, charted the course of landscape art from a backwater, second class genre to the towering achievement of late nineteenth century art, Impressionism. Turner has been called the first impressionist but I think that is a simplistic, linear way of looking at what he achieved. What he set out to do and did was to express the idea of light, air and atmosphere in his paintings.

When Turner turned to oil painting he came to the medium as an accomplished watercolorist. His early works were completed in a traditional way on a dark toned ground and worked up with a fairly well developed under painting followed by opaque touches and some glazing to bring the whole to completion. As his career progressed, partly because of his watercolor background and partly because of his fascination with Venetian painting techniques, he began to experiment with the use of light colored grounds which would be more reflective and create luminosity, especially when used in concert with glazing. Turner was avidly interested in the new pigments which were becoming available, particularly in yellow and whites, which he believed were necessary to express light in his pictures. He often used a mixed media approach, using both oil and watercolor in the same painting. His experimentation has unfortunately led to some of his paintings being in extremely poor condition - even during his own lifetime.

His quest to portray light and atmosphere also resulted in the forms in his paintings becoming less substantial, often dissolving into or emerging from the light through veils of translucent color. Contemporary accounts of his painting methods indicate that he relied heavily both on glazing and scumbling to achieve these effects. The result are works which appear startlingly modern. Subject matter was essential to Turner but light and color became the most important formal concerns of his art. In that way, he seems to actually leap frog over the Impressionists into modernity - toward Helen Frankenthaler and Rothko.

But Turner most certainly loved the landscape and his devotion to its many facets comes through in these works. He used light and color to describe the idea of the Sublime with which he believed the natural world to be imbued. It is that, for me, which gives these works power and timelessness.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Twilight at Honey Grove Creek

Twilight at Honey Grove Creek Oil 10 x 10

On my way home from Dallas last weekend, I took a new route. I discovered some wonderful countryside and several new creeks and streams. With so much rain/snow the previous week, all the newly plowed fields had puddles and flooded areas- favorite motifs for me. But who could resist a creek called Honey Grove?

I had intended to write my second post about the Turner show and post it this weekend. It's all composed in my head and I've even written a little outline, but the studio called today. Tomorrow- I promise.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

J.M.W. Turner in Dallas

As I mentioned in my previous post, this last Sunday I traveled to Dallas to do a demo and talk for the Pastel Society of the Southwest. Luckily for me, I was able to spend about a half a day at the Dallas Museum of Art which is hosting the exhibit J.M.W. Turner. This exhibit, which was selected by curators of the National Gallery in Washington, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York in collaboration with Ian Warrell of Tate Britain, is billed as the largest and most comprehensive retrospective of Turner's work ever presented in the United States. The paintings are beautifully hung in large galleries- dimly lit, with rich jewel tones on the walls- which show the 140 works to great dramatic effect. For me, it was like visiting a shrine.

J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) is acknowledged as one of the greatest landscape painters in the history of art. Turner's impact on the art of landscape began early in his own lifetime and has pretty much continued unabated to the present day. When he began his life as a professional artist, landscape was considered a second class genre of painting, important only as a backdrop for historical and classical scenes. By the time of his death, he had transformed landscape painting into a vibrant, modern subject for artists who followed him.

The exhibition is organized chronologically, beginning with early watercolors and ending with Turner's late, almost abstract works. Turner's original medium was watercolor but he soon began painting in oil as well. Oil was the only medium which would provide entrance into membership of the prestigious Royal Academy. The painting above, Fisherman at Sea, was the first oil painting Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy. Eventually, he became the youngest artist to ever be elected to full membership. This subject of ships and storms at sea was one he would return to throughout his entire life.

The exhibition follows Turner's career and includes huge oils that are fine and famous examples of other subjects which he returned to over many decades- Venice, contemporary events like the Battle of Trafalgar, whaling, sailing regattas, and views from his numerous travels throughout Europe. Many of the larger paintings are shown with watercolor sketches which were done as studies for the larger works and show the development of his visual ideas. One of the most effective presentations is the gallery containing two oil paintings which Turner painted of the fires that consumed the Houses of Parliament on October 16, 1834.

Turner actually witnessed this event and returned to his studio to produce the watercolor sketches which are displayed with the two oils. These watercolors are among the most beautiful I have ever seen- dramatic spare compositions with almost abstract shapes of luminous color.

Turner's art was in large part dedicated to the idea of the Sublime - a concept which had been around since antiquity, but enjoyed a particular resurgence in the eighteenth and early 19th century. The Sublime as applied to landscape was the idea that certain views or scenes, whether grand, vast, even horrible or terrifying, could evoke feelings of rapture, closeness to divinity, and expansion of the mind. The Romantic sensibility of Turner's time embraced the idea of the Sublime. Turner came to understand that in order to capture it, he must find ways to paint which sensuously presented light, air and atmosphere rather than detail. In my next post, I'll write about those technical aspects of Turner's art and how he revolutionized the art of landscape painting.

Friday, March 7, 2008

March Snow

March Snow Oil 6 x 6
$100 + shipping
Winter just won't give up- we have had snow twice this week. This doesn't happen often here- although there is some difference of opinion about what that means. Our mail delivery person (mail lady?) says twice a year (she's batting a 1000 as of today) but our wood delivery guys say every couple of years, in which case we had two years worth of snow this week.

Sunday I am heading to Dallas to do a demo and talk for the Pastel Society of the Southwest. Happily, the big show of landscape giant J.M.W. Turner is at the Dallas Museum of Art right now. This show, which originated at the National Gallery, includes 140 oils and watercolors, many from the Tate Britain which have never been seen in this country. Turner is a huge influence on my work, so this is a rare treat and I can hardly wait!