Thursday, July 23, 2009

Abstract Pattern in Composition

Has this representational painter lost his mind? What is this abstract piece of crap a five year old can paint doing on this site?

I can't tell you how many times I have heard sentiments similar to those. As a representational artist, I sometimes feel I'm supposed to hate abstract and other forms of art. At least that's what the majority tell me. But I can't. I never did like elitism much, whether it came from someone else's camp of thought or my own. I've learned too much from abstract art. While much of it I do consider poorly done, I love a good, strong abstract pattern. I think it is probably the most important element when designing a composition. And one often overlooked.

It's interesting when we break something down to its simplest form how strong it still holds up as a composition. In graphic design the #1 rule is contrast. In painting it should be the same. An unequal proportion of size, shape and value are far more interesting than equal proportions. Notice how the majority of this work is dark, but you can clearly see where the artist is using
contrast of shape and leading lines to create a center of interest. The shapes are varied in size and form, but you can see the repetition of shapes within the work and how the vertical lines break the diagonal perspective lines to create variety and interest. All masterfully done.

Well, this abstract piece of art is really John Singer Sargents "A Street in Venice" broken down to just two values, black & white. Here you can see the full painting. Now the dark shapes are something, windows, doorways, etc. But, by it being a form our mind can label as something we're familiar with, it doesn't lessen the underlying abstraction. In fact, I believe it adds to it.
When I start a painting I am very interested in that pattern. I think it sets the mood and emotion of the piece.

Below is the underpainting I often do on my work. This is the first stage for one I have in the works. You can see how 2/3rds of the painting will be light, while 1/3 will be dark. You can begin to see how the lines are leading to the focal area. One of the things I know I will need to keep in mind when painting this is that the background trees will need to be kept as a secondary focal area and subordinate to the main focal area in the foreground tree. There are many ways to do this and I will discuss them in another post.

I often paint this abstract pattern first in order to help me know if the painting is heading in the direction I want. If I don't find this pattern interesting, I'm sure others won't either, and will pass my work right up. In my opinion, it's one of those things that separates the pro from the novice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Granville Redmond (1871-1935)

One of California's most notable Impressionists and considered the first resident Impressionist of the state. At the age of two and a half, Granville caught scarlet fever which eventually made him totally deaf. In 1879, he attended what was then called the Institution for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind at Berkeley (now called the California School for the Deaf) in Fremont, CA where a teacher recognized his artistic abilities and encouraged his drawing skills, sculpture and pantomime. After graduation, in 1890, he enrolled in the California School of Design. In 1893, with a stipend from the Institution for the Deaf, he went to Paris and enrolled in the Académie Julian. After five years in France he returned to California.

While living in Los Angeles, he became friends with Charlie Chaplin, who helped in perfecting his pantomime techniques. Charlie sponsored him in silent acting roles and was cast in seven silent movies with Chaplin. Granville often used sign language while in these roles. Charlie was a long-time patron of Granville's art, and set up a studio for him on a movie lot.

Redmond's early works were mostly moody tonal landscapes and scenes. He painted around the Laguna Beach, San Pedro and Catalina Island. By 1905 Redmond was receiving considerable recognition as a leading landscape painter and bold colorist.

He spent time in various Northern California locations, studying and painting. About the time he moved farther north to San Mateo, Redmond turned to painting sweeping terrains with colorful wildflowers, especially the purple lupine and the golden poppy, California's state flower. This subject is what he became known for at the time. He style became linked to Impressionism, though he was motivated more by his subjects than by any aesthetic theory. West Coast critics at that time noted his use of pointillism and likened his art to that of Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. Although Redmond recognized the public's preference for his brightly colored poppy pictures, he generally preferred to paint darker, more poetic scenes.