Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Michael Godfrey

Michael Godfrey, landscape paintings
Michael Godfrey is a painter based in the D.C. area who at one point became fascinated with the landscape and mountains of the western U.S.

His range of subject matter includes both the eastern and western mountains, their related fields and countryside, and particularly their creeks and streams. These he renders with great attention to the character of reflections, the subtle colors of rocks, both dry and submerged, and the shimmer of sunlight across gently rippled flowing water.

In all of his work, it’s the play of light that really is his subject, dappled in woods, carving the forms of mountains or sea cliffs, and arrayed across fields and hills in bands of contrasting values. Alternately, Godfrey explores the subtle characteristics of muted, softer light in mist, haze and atmospheric distance.

Unfortunately, Godfrey’s website does little to display his work — it effectively doesn’t, leaving you to click offsite to the galleries in which he is represented, or his Facebook page, which appears to have taken the place of his largely abandoned blog. (I think artists who concentrate their attention on Facebook buy into the false image Facebook likes to project that “everyone” is on Facebook, and forget that it is essentially a walled garden, largely inaccessible to those who have chosen not to have an account.)

You can find a range of images of Godfrey’s work in the list of galleries I’ve linked below. Most are on the frustratingly small side. The Saks Galleries in Denver have the largest images I could find.

There is also an article from 2010, with an online gallery of images, on Southwest Art.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eye Candy for Today: Jacob van Walscapelle still life

Still Life with Fruit, Jacob van Walscapelle
Still Life with Fruit, Jacob van Walscapelle

In the Rijksmuseum. Image is zoomable (and downloadable if you get a free account). Also a downloadable (but I think oersaturated) image here.

Not only is this beautifully composed and rendered, with the fruits and stems gradually revealing themselves as you peer into the darker corners, I love the dedication to reality (and perhaps allegory) in the presence of the damaged or dried individual fruits, as well as the attendant insects and snail.

Look at the shadows the grapes cast on each other, and the variation in light and dark along the winding stems. A marvel of value relationships and restrained color.

The grapes look good enough to eat — except the ones that don’t.

Tony Auth, 1942-2014

Tony Auth, editorial cartoonist and illustrator
For over 40 years, Tony Auth was a glimmer of sanity amid the news of the day, in the form of his cartoons on the opinion pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 2012, Auth — a winner of the Pulitzer and Herblock Prizes — moved to the local PBS affiliate, bringing his cartoons to their NewsWorks website.

Auth’s cartoons, drawn with a wonderfully sketchy line, and little pretense, carried his commentary straight to the point, often skewering left and right alike, though most would count his politics as liberal (if only because he wasn’t rabidly right wing).

Auth died this month, on September 14, 2014, at the age of 72.

Tony Auth was also an illustrator of children’s books. You can find a number of them, along with collections of his editorial cartoons, on Amazon.

I, for one, will miss his visual voice and that occasional breath of sanity amid the screaming and finger-pointing, particularly now.

For more, see my previous post on Tony Auth (from 2006).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eye Candy for Today: Theodore Robinson’s Old Bridge

The Old Bridge, Theodore Robonson
The Old Bridge, Theodore Robinson

Image on Wikimedia Commons. Original is in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

This is one of my favorites by Robinson, who was among the earliest American painters to adopt the new style of the French Impressionists. It’s one of those paintings that you could divide up into a number of smaller compositions that would all work brilliantly.

I love the range of hues he’s expressed in the stone of the bridge, and the scumbled, broken color throughout.

Bright Light Fine Art / Artists Guild Library

Bright Light Fine Art, David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw and Jacqueline Kamin
Bright Light Fine Art is a collaborative art instruction site featuring three well-known contemporary painters: David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw and Jacqueline Kamin (links to my posts).

The site has bios and sample galleries by each artist, listings of workshops and other news, and a store for books by Leffel and McGraw.

The essence of the site, however, is the “Artists Guild Library”: a subscription-only online library of streaming (not downloadable) instructional videos, for which a yearly membership is $50.

The Bright Light website itself offers little actual information about the videos; for that, you have to go to YouTube, where Kamin, who is apparently taking something of an administrative role for the project, has been posting short (3-6 minute) excerpts from them. Oddly, the Bright Light website has no link to or mention of the YouTube excerpts, which I would think would be a major selling point for library membership.

There are perhaps 30-some videos in the Artists Guild Library at this point, with more being added over time. They are of varying lengths, degrees of production and quality, but the core selection is pretty good. There are a couple of earlier videos of Leffel, produced by Liliedahl (one of which, The Art of Painting, is particularly good); the majority are more recent and are being produced by the Bright Light group. Some, shot at workshops, suffer from a few audio issues, but most are produced well for the purpose of learning, which is of course the point.

These videos do several things right that producers of instructional painting videos often get wrong. They are blissfully free of the pointless time-lapse shortening and annoying music tracks that plague some art instruction videos (particularly those often found on YouTube). They go pretty much right to the point, starting at the beginning and following through to a painting brought to a reasonable degree of finish, given the time constraints.

I much prefer this to compressed time videos. The essence is that of a virtual workshop, watching accomplished painters work in real time in order to understand their approach, step by step. Even the commentary, though often insightful, is to my mind secondary to simply being able to watch a painter you want to learn from work through the process of creating a painting.

The Bright Light videos also do other things right, like showing the artists’ palettes frequently through the process. (Too often in painting instruction videos, the artist’s brush disappears offscreen to be loaded up with just the right color by color mixing elves, then reappears so that artist can simply apply the color — magic!)

The Bright Light videos also linger on welcome close-ups, and the works in progress are generally well lit, giving an advantageous look a the creation of the painterly surface qualities at which these painters excel.

There are videos in which they experiment a bit, one with McGraw and Leffel painting a still life and portrait side by side, and another with McGraw and Kamin simultaneously painting the same subject, presented in split screens. Some are short lectures on things like materials choices or setting up a still life, most are longer, an hour to an hour and a half each, and some are two hours or more, split into two sections. The subjects are still life, portraits and figures.

I’m not entirely certain how many videos have been added in the year I’ve been a member, but the library is expanding.

If you admire the work of these artists, and would like to learn about their approach to painting, I recommend the site.

On a side note, there is currently a retrospective of the work of Sherrie McGraw at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, until November 30, 2014. Unfortunately, the institute’s website does not have a preview gallery. There are a few pieces previewed on the Bright Light News page.

In the meanwhile, you can view McGraw’s work, and that of the Leffel and Kamin, on their own websites, linked below.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ikenaga Yasunari

Ikenaga Yasunari, portraits of women in soot ink, mineral pigments, Menso brush
Japanese artist Ikenaga Yasunari paints portraits of women in serene, often wistful poses, in which the patterns of their clothing and surrounding textiles as as important within the compositions as the stylized design work of Mucha or Klimt.

Though his approach is modern, Yasunari works in tools and techniques from the traditional Nihonga style, painting on linen cloth with a Menso brush, using mineral pigments and soot ink (comparable to Lamp Black in European artistic tradition).

The artist’s website is divided into brief series consisting of paintings of individual models, most of which can be read as portraits.

Yasunari’s delicate line, bold patterns and superb contrast of detail areas and “empty” shapes, make his compositions extraordinarily strong.

His color schemes are almost monochromatic, but with areas complementary colors, usually reds contrasted with greens. Unlike the most common uses of complementary pairs, however, Yasunari restrains the chroma of all of his colors, applying them in delicate balance with the other elements of his composition. The result is a subtle, but striking harmony.