I will often write about artists here on lines and colors whose work I have only seen in digital reproduction on the web. It’s always preferable, though. when I can see the actual work in person, and even better on those rare occasions when I get to meet and speak with the artist.
I wrote about Maine artist Colin Page about a year ago, when he last had a show at the F.A.N. Gallery here in Philadelphia. I did have chance to see his work in person on that occasion, catching his essentially sold-out show on its last day.
This year I was able to make the opening of the new show last Friday, as the First Friday Old City gallery walk was in progress in the midst of the city’s July 4th events.
I was pleased to have the chance to meet Colin and talk with him about his palette, his approach to plein air painting, color theory and his direction in terms of new subjects.
We also talked briefly about his decision to work a bit larger at times, and in more open compositions. Scale is one of those things that you can’t readily get a feeling for when viewing images online (or in print, for that matter), and it makes a difference in your impression of a painting.
Another aspect of looking at paintings that I am often frustrated with when viewing images of paintings rather than originals is the surface texture, the physical character of the way the paint is applied, particularly in impressionistic or painterly realist works.
Page’s work, in particular, has a wonderful appeal in the brush strokes and texture of the paint on the canvas. His lively, remarkably free brush handling, which actually seems to have gotten looser and more confident over the past year, gives his canvasses a kind of textural sparkle that is an integral part of their character when seen in person, but doesn’t often come through in reproductions.
This is one of the reasons that my suggestion to artists like Colin, and many others who show their work on the web, would be to post a few large images, or at least some detail shots, that show more clearly the character of the painted surface.
It also helps, I think, to supplement images of paintings which have been photographed with flat lighting, in an attempt to show the work lit as evenly as possible, with additional images intentionally lit at an angle to show the dimensionality of the paint.
Up close, Page’s paintings are dappled with crisp, textural strokes of brilliant color, that can look almost haphazard, but, on stepping back resolve beautifully into his intended subject. His broader areas of color, when seen up close, likewise break up into fascinating combinations of vivid hues, that can almost seem unrelated at times, but from a normal viewing distance blend optically to make a clear and perfect tone.
He applies his technique, and his terrific knack for strong compositional geometry, to subjects in rural Maine and urban Philadelphia. His trips here to visit family afford him the opportunity to paint the urban landscape, which he describes as a refreshing change from the subject matter in the rural area where he lives. I particularly like the way he uses patches of light and shade in his urban subjects to control and organize the patterns of color that make up the scene, giving focus and depth to what might otherwise be a chaotic jumble of shapes.
You can see a gallery of his work on his web site. You will also find additional paintings on his blog (journal), to which he has been posting with increasing frequency, along with occasional works in progress and thoughts on painting and technique.
In addition, there is a selection of Page’s work on the F.A.N. Gallery web site. (The F.A.N. is one of the few galleries in Philadelphia that I count on to consistently show work that I find interesting.)
Colin Page: Recent Paintings runs at the F.A.N. Gallery until July 26, 2008.
Colin Page at F.A.N. Gallery
5 Replies to “Colin Page (update)”
You’re description makes his paintings sound a lot like Monet’s work. Definitely something that could be worth seeing in person. If only I could travel more…
Oooh…such a classic style, very beautiful. I agree that it reminds one of Monet. Love his stuff!
A very good review of Colin’s work. I agree about our reproductions robbing us of the surface quality and that wonderful get-your-nose-to-the-painting rush. But it does give us an idea and the desire to see the work for real. Thanks for featuring Colin’s work.
An interesting feature of Colin Page’s paintings, which becomes evident when one attempts to photograph them in a way which conveys their immediacy in two-dimensional print, is the response of the paintings to different modes of lighting. Paintings that he has done outdoors are what I’m going to define as “natural lighting specific” and “light attitude specific”. The paintings appear different under different conditions of natural light (sunny, overcast, and so forth) and under different orientations of the painting to available sunlight. I think some of this may be due to the fact that Mr. Page is a fast and skilled plein air painter. I spend some quiet mornings or afternoons putting some of his paintings outdoors to try to determine which direction he may have been facing in relation to the sun, and at what time of day, when he was putting the paint on canvas. Add the other factor of the thickness with which he applies paint – as you say, the order of paint strokes creating the surface texture – which gives the painting a somewhat mosaic, almost photorealist quality, in terms of values, and there, essentially is presented the problems of a set of paintings made outdoors that are difficult to photograph, much less properly view in person in any kind of indoor lighting situation. His paint strokes, thereby, can have gnomon-like properties, and at certain times of day, in proper outdoor lighting, his paintings fully evoke the moment.
Thanks, all for your comments.
snothy, thanks for the insight into the difficulty presented in photographing Colin’s paintings.
I think that almost any painting looks different in different lighting conditions, which is one of the reasons some museums are starting to use sunlight spectrum lighting like Solux to light galleries (particularly those with plein air paintings). Most commercial galleries have not yet followed suit.
Some paintings, like Colin’s, are probably more difficult than others for the reasons you mention.
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