Friday, January 27, 2012
Studio Talk: Painting Trees
Trees, like people, are individuals. A maple is different from an elm. A cottonwood is different from an oak. And no two trees of the same species look exactly alike. In painting them, much of your success depends on how carefully you observe. You can always change the shapes and values to suit your own purpose, but a first-hand study of real trees will result in a more convincing painting.
When painting a tree, try to visualize the complete trunk and main branches, even though they may be hidden by foliage. This will help you establish the correct placement for any branches that might show through the leaves.
Distant trees can be painted flat or in detail, depending on their importance or the effect you’re after. But those in the foreground should appear to have depth as well as height and width. This can be done by using light and dark values to represent light and shade.
Foliage is never a solid mass. It should look as though a bird could fly through it. Leave some “sky holes” to achieve this effect—big ones for the big birds, little ones for the little birds!
One way to handle painting foliage is to use the “dry brush” technique, which produces simultaneously the effect of large masses and individual leaves. It’s accomplished by applying the color with the side of a fairly dry brush. The paint is deposited on the ridges of the paper and skips over the depressions. This effect is achieved most easily with a flat watercolor brush.
For a group of distant trees, you can keep them quite simple and yet avoid a flat appearance by giving each tree a slightly different value and color.
Monday, January 23, 2012
From Murder and Mayhem to Art
A new era of photojournalism was spawned in the late 1930’s when one photographer saw crime scenes a little differently. Arthur Fellig - known famously as “Weegee” - developed his own brand of noir-style photography that is still celebrated and studied today. A recent New York Times article details the extensive collection donated posthumously and subsequent exhibitions of Weegee’s photographic works at the International Center of Photography. During his time Weegee’s work was entwined in his exuberant persona. He often reached crime scenes before his competitors, sometimes before even the police. This speaks to the connections he forged in the neighborhoods long before the era of texting. The most poignant description of Weegee’s work in the Times article, which elevates it above simple, shocking exploitation is this: “Tellingly, one of his first acts of genius was not to focus only the events themselves — although his images are certainly strewn with bodies, crushed automobiles and the like — but on the people hanging out of windows or peering over rooftops for a better look, who mirror and encourage our own undisguised interest.” In capturing the most gruesome parts of life, Weegee managed to point a finger at humanity.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Brain teasers for the eyes: the art of Jesus Soto
Jesus Soto, a Venezuelan artist who was active in Paris from 1950 on, was fascinated by the ways in which truth depends on perspective. Although he worked in an era when Abstract Expressionists were all about painting from their inner beings, Soto was more interested in heightening viewers’ awareness of the roles that eyes and bodies play in experiencing everything—not just art, but the world around us. That is, objects change radically depending on the viewer’s position, and another viewer’s perspective will be different again—producing layers upon layers of visions of reality. For example, Soto (1923-2005) created three-dimensional constructions consisting of compositions of stripes and geometric forms painted on sheets of plexiglass. These painted sheets were attached to similarly painted panels, leaving as much as ten inches of space between. The resulting visual experience changes as you shift back and forth to see the relationships from different angles.
Click here for more background information and examples of Soto’s work, which is currently on display at the Grey Art Gallery of New York University.
Page 1 of 1 pages