Edward Mitchell Bannister

Edward Mitchell Bannister

Edward Mitchell Bannister

Edward Mitchell Bannister was a Canadian-American painter active in the late 19h century. Born in New Brunswick, he emigrated to the U.S. — initially to Boston — and spent much of his life and career in Providence, Rhode Island.

Though he painted a variety of subjects, Bannister is known primarily for his serene pastoral landscapes, done in the American Tonalist manner.

Bannister had little formal art education, and could not afford to travel to Europe to study like many of his American contemporaries.

For someone self taught, he quickly gained recognition and honors, one of which was a bronze medal for his painting “Under the Oaks” (the current location of which is unknown) at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. When he went to receive his award, the judges wanted to withdraw the bronze on discovering that Bannister was African American. The other competitors insisted that the award be given as initially judged and he received the bronze medal.

Bannister was a strong supporter of the effort to gain equal rights for African Americans, but chose not to make overt social issues a subject of his painting, preferring instead to focus on a more spiritual sense of harmony and peace.

In keeping with other American Tonalist painters, who were strongly influenced by the painters of the French Barbizon School, Bannister often grouped his masses into strong value shapes, at times so dark as to be almost silhouettes.

It has been suggested that some of Bannisters paintings have grown darker over time. Perhaps this is due to a painting practice, medium or other factor that he might have been discouraged from using if he had access to formal art education; I don’t know.

Bannister’s dark value statements and brusque brush work gave way to a lighter, more Impressionist influenced style later in his career. Bannister was a board member of the Rhode Isand School of Design and a founder of the Providence Art Club.


Eye Candy for Today: Bierstadt’s Mountain Brook

Mountain Brook, Albert Bierstadt

Mountain Brook, Albert Bierstadt (details)

Mountain Brook, Albert Bierstadt

Oil on canvas, roughly 44 x 36 in (12 x 92 cm), in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose site includes both a zoomable and downloadable version of the high-res image.

German-American painter Albert Bierstadt, who is associated with both the Hudson River and Rocky Mountain schools of painting, is known primarily for his grand and dramatic vistas of mountains and related landscape, but I find fascination in his more intimate subjects.

In this one — likely an invented scene culled from his trips through the White Mountains in New England — he gives us a tranquil scene of a mountain brook, but alive with a different kind of drama, one of light, shadow and texture.


James Gurney’s Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

James Gurney's Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

Screen captures from James Gurney's Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

Anyone who has read my previous reviews of books and videos by James Gurney will not be surprised that I have high praise for his latest instructional video.

Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements is — quite obviously by its title — part of a multi-part tutorial. Whether it is to consist of two parts or more, I don’t know.

Gurney covers a fair bit of information in this video, starting from the ground up and breaking the complexities of painting in color into more easily digestible stages that logically build on one another.

Many artists’ instructional videos on color want to start out running and dazzle the student (i.e. prospective buyer) with promises of color mastery, but undeservedly breeze past these important stages, the most fundamental of which, of course, is black and white, or value.

Gurney starts there, with easily grasped exercises like comparing transparent and opaque methods of making value steps in the form of simple charts. He shows the effectiveness of these basic techniques in a painting of a storefront entirely in grays.

He then steps up to a simple grid of black and white on a light brown toned ground, and proceeds to paint a fully realized painting using the same method with only a few touches of a bright red.

Another painting works in black and white with a few touches of brown and blue, but over a brighter underpainting.

The video moves into transparent and opaque combinations, explores the fundamentals of complementary colors and finishes with a painting in a dramatically unusual combination of bright yellow green and complementary violet. There are additional, more briefly featured paintings and subjects along the way.

Gurney has an uncanny knack for what I think of as “teaching within teaching”. In the process of covering basics, he touches on more complex concepts like like chroma, alternative color wheels, color temperature and color gamuts — not in depth, but in a context that allows a basic understanding and prepares the student for more a extensive explanation later. He lets you absorb these secondary concepts almost unconsciously as you follow his main thread.

There is a discussion of materials, and in the process of showing Gurney painting, the video also captures his brushwork, the choice of brush size and shape, dry brush effects and more.

Gurney is working here primarily in watercolor and gouache, but the principles would carry over into other mediums as well.

Throughout, he encourages you to participate, talks about how to practice and delves into the concept of failure as an important part of the learning process. Gurney’s instructional videos are approaching the structure of a virtual class, a learn at your own speed session with a highly experienced teacher.

The video is accompanied by a PDF “Learning Supplement” that covers materials, outlines exercises and includes a lot of resource links. There is also, as always, more material relevant to the video on Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey.

There is a trailer for the video on Gurney Journey, was well as on YouTube.

Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements is $17.99 for a digital download on Gumroad that includes the Learning Supplement PDF.

Gurney has also started a Facebook group, Color in Practice, for students to discuss the video and related topics among themselves.

If you are interested in pursuing some of these concepts — and much more — in greater depth, a terrific resource to accompany this, and any subsequent videos on the subject, is Gurney’s superb book, Color and Light: A Guide for Realist Painters (see my review here).


Eye Candy for Today: Sorolla’s Sewing the Sail

Sewing the Sail, Joaquin Sorolla

Sewing the Sail, Joaquin Sorolla (details)

Sewing the Sail, Joaquin Sorolla

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project, there is a large file email hidden; JavaScript is required">here, as part of this article: https://arthive.com/exhibitions/3512

This beautiful painting by Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla makes it easy to see why he is sometimes referred to as “master of light”.


Eye Candy for Today: Summer Evening by Emile Claus

Summer Evening by Emile Claus

Summer Evening by Emile Claus

Summer Evening (Soir´e D’ét), Emile Claus

Roughly 38 x 51 inches (98 x 130 cm); link is to Wikimedia Commons; original is in a private collection.

19th/20th century Belgian painter Emile Claus gives us a beautifully evocative impression of a summer evening.


Kelsey Beckett

Kelsey Beckett is a Michigan based illustrator and gallery artist. In the work on her website she focuses on portrayals of young women dressed in sometimes elaborate clothing with the visual interest of lots of drapery folds, layers and patterns, and often accompanied by floral elements.

Her faces are stylized and rendered with restrained modeling, usually limited to the edges and directly around the features, giving them a nicely graphic appeal.

There is a certain feeling of design to her compositions that I find reminiscent of Art Nouveau without being directly related to that genre.

Beckett works in both acrylic and oil. In the videos on her YouTube channel — many of which are of her process — you will also find some speed paintings in gouache and mixed media.

Beckett’s work is also on display as part of a virtual exhibit (in place of the scheduled physical one) at Corey Helford Gallery, that runs until April 11, 2020.