Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why Not Impressionism?

You've seen my paintings (online, anyway, if not in real life), so by now, you know I work in a fairly traditional/academic way with just a hint of surrealism to add a little mystery. Three-dimensional brushmarks are minimal, if they exist at all.

And one characteristic that you can't see online (or in any reproduction): I paint in transparent glazes. The paintings have a stained-glass quality, an Old Masters-style "inner glow" that, frankly, adds a lot of time to the painting process. After all, when you paint a layer and let it dry, then paint another layer and let it dry, and again and again and again ... it's a little like making the same painting mulitple times, but on the same canvas or panel. There are many times when I feel if I did abstract work or even Impressionism where globs of color are applied quickly, often while working on site in the great outdoors (my paintings must be done in the studio), life might be much simpler. In fact, my sales might even increase: Impressionism is a more popular style in the USA than the academic style I prefer.

So why not Impressionism? Well, I don't really have anything against that look. I've seen some attractive pieces that were done that way.

However, an impressionistic piece draws attention to itself as a painting. By working as I do, I can do subtle things in paintings that wouldn't seem believable if the painting was much looser; in fact, some of those things might seem like mistakes. Plus, honestly, I really like the look of the Old Masters, including works created in the 19th century. I love the "inner glow" of a Rembrandt portrait or other artwork, which--in many examples--elevates an otherwise ho-hum painting to a higher level because of the sheer beauty of glazes and other techniques that tend to go with them.

At some point, I'd like to discuss some of the techniques of the Masters and how I incorporate some of those methods into my own work.

The attached image is Madonna and Child with Book by Rafael (who did some fabulous glazing on this piece!) The original painting is in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. The Museum Bookstore sells prints of it, but they don't do justice to the painting.

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