He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Monday, March 22, 2010

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection

Posted by Charley Parker at 5:44 pm

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection at The National Gallery - William Merritt Chase, Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Eugene Boudin
American art collector Chester Dale, who had a passion for late 19th and early 20th Century Avant Garde painting (a phrase that, of course, refers to different artists at different times) left a bequest to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC that includes 85 works from French and American artists.

The museum has mounted an exhibition of highlights from the collection, From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, that features outstanding works by Corot, Van Gogh, Picasso, Leger, Matiesse, Renoir, Cassatt, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and and many others.

Dale served on the board of the National Gallery from 1943 on, and was president until his death in 1962. He was a well known collector while many of these artists were active, and the exhibition includes portraits of him by Salvador Dalí and Diego Rivera, as well as portraits of his wife, Maud, by George Bellows and Fernand Léger.

I haven’t see this show yet, but I’ve seen many of the pieces listed as part of the permanent collection over the years, and it should be a very strong show, even if your interest, like mine, is more focused on one end of the collection’s time frame.

The National Gallery, if you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, is one of the best art museums in the U.S.; and one of the highlights of Washington’s cornucopia of cultural treasures (almost all of which have free admission, see my post on The National Portrait Gallery).

To my mind, the exhibition would be worth the visit just for William Merritt Chase’s beautiful A Friendly Call (image above, top).

There is a slideshow of highlights on the museum’s site, along with a PDF version of the exhibition brochure (PDF link).

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection is on display until July 31, 2011.

(Images above: William Merritt Chase, Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Eugéne Boudin)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rudy Gutierrez

Posted by Charley Parker at 4:57 pm

Rudy Gutierrez
Illustrator Rudy Gutierrez began his professional career while still a student at Pratt Institute. In addition to his freelance career, Gutierrez now teaches illustration and is the Illustration Coordinator at Pratt. He was awarded the Distinguished Educator in the Arts award for 2005 from The Society of Illustrators.

His clients include The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, HarperCollins, Viking/Penguin and several recording companies, including Verve Records and Arista Records. One of his most widely recognized images is his CD cover for Santana’s 2002 release Shaman.

Gutierrez has had the opportunity to do illustrations of a number of musicians and other well known figures.

His illustration style is a bright burst of orchestrated chaos — swirling patterns, rough marks and scribble-like lines surround and flow in and out of rendered representational images. Faces and figures appear and disappear within the compositions, which are often complex, but never lack focus or definition.

His visual elements show influences of op art, cubism, expressionism, urban grafitti, distorsions from African masks, patterns from other ancient cultures, and the free lines of children’s crayon drawings. Into this mix he stirs realistic rendering, bright colors and a variety of textures.

Gutierrez’ own web site is under construction, and points interested parties to his portfolios on Altpick, Richard Solomon and Pratt Talent. You can also find a gallery of his work on The iSpot.

He occasionally does murals and large scale work, and is part of Richard Solomon’s Art On a Grand Scale slate of illustrators.

Posted in: Illustration   |   1 Comment »

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ken Auster

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:14 am

Ken Auster
California artist Ken Auster studied for his BFA at Long Beach State University in the midst of the 1960′s surfing craze, and applied his talents to successful lines of silkscreen prints and T-shirt designs that became icons of surfer culture.

In the 1990′s Auster moved into plein air painting, capturing immediate scenes in a painterly realist manner, but maintaining a strong graphic sensibility from his previous experience. The result is painterly evocations of cityscapes, landscapes, interiors and, of course, beach scenes, that have an uncommon graphic and geometric strength.

Auster pushes up against the line of “just enough” to suggest his scenes and convey the light, color and textures of the place and time. He fills his geometric shapes with lush, textural brushwork, wonderful squiggles and blobs of thick paint that make their own drama within the larger image.

His interiors are often of restaurants and bars, finding patterns in walls lined with wine bottlers and glasses, visual texture in the kitchens, and value contrasts in the white shirts and dark vests of servers.

Some of his paintings include scenes in restaurants or bars that have noted works or art on the walls, like several of the paintings currently in the New Masters Gallery that show patrons in front of the Old King Cole mural by Maxfield Parrish in the St. Regis Hotel Bar in Manhattan (image above, bottom; see here for a closer view of the Parrish mural).

I particularly like Auster’s cityscapes, in which he reduces urban complexity to geometric simplicity with apparent ease, finding just the right level of suggested detail to carry the impression of place.

Auster’s own web site, though it features a variety of his work and subjects, suffers from images that are inexplicably small; so much as to be almost pointless, and certainly not large enough to get any appreciation for the textural qualities of his paint surface.

Fortunately, he fares better in the reproductions on the sites of galleries in which he is represented, New Masters Gallery and Jones & Terwilliger Galleries. There are also sources for reproductions of his work, though I haven’t listed them here.

Auster conducts painting workshops in various parts of the country. There are some time-lapse videos of Auster painting, both on his site and on YouTube.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alexa Meade

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:40 am

Alexa Meade
When is a painting not a painting?

Mixed media artist Alexa Meade presents that question in images that look like somewhat painterly expressionist/realist paintings but are in reality painted objects, including people.

For her living paintings series Meade applies acrylic paint to the surfaces of objects and walls in way that mimics the appearance of brushwork in a painting, so that the scene, when viewed in a two dimensional photograph, appears to be an oil painting.

The effect is convincing, so much so that it’s difficult to tell until you see an accompanying photograph that shows the scene out of context. In the Portfolio on Meade’s site, the images that pop up when you click on the initial image are usually part of a series, in which the last image is often the one that reveals the “reality” of the scene.

Meade posts her most recent works to a Flickr set.

[Suggestion courtesy of Mark Miller]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Realist – Asaf Hanuka

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:49 am

The Realist - Asaf Haunka
The Realist is a graphic story by illustrator and comics artist Asaf Hanuka about one family’s search for a new home after their current living arrangements are upset.

The strip was originally serialized in a Hebrew language version in the Israeli Newspaper Calcalist. Hanuka has re-lettered it in English and is publishing it on the web, one page a week.

English speakers may find it interesting to compare some of the English language pages with their Hebrew counterparts in that the Hebrew pages read right-to-left, creating some challenges for the conventions used by comics artists to guide your eye through dialog balloons in the proper order by their position in a panel.

It looks as though Hanuka may have had this process in mind when originally laying out his panels as they work pretty well, with a few exceptions (like a reference to a GPS telling characters to turn right, when the flopped image shows an arrow pointing left).

Hanuka has a spare, single line weight comics art style that is well suited to the nature of the story. His controlled, muted coloring is accented occasionally with brighter colors specifically for dramatic effect.

As of this writing, the posted story is up to week 6.

Hanuka also maintains a more general topic blog, Tropical Toxic, and has a web site with galleries of his illustration and comics work.

I previously wrote about Asaf Hanuka, and his brother Tomer Hanuka, also a noted comics artist and illustrator, back in 2007.

[Via Drawn!]

Posted in: ComicsIllustrationWebcomics   |   Comments »

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Florian Afflerbach

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:10 am

Florian Afflerbach is an architect and architectural artist, and one of the founders of the Urban Sketchers group blog, which I wrote about previously (also here and here).

While many artists who sketch architectural scenes rely on a suggestion or informal feeling for perspective, Afflerbach has a masterful command of its nuances, at times tackling drawings in three point or even curved perspective.

His sketches of buildings, streets and interiors have a wonderful feeling of place, as well as a tactile sense of weight, solidity and, in the case of larger structures, monumentality.

He often lays out perspective construction lines under his drawings, and they are precise in the sense of being accurate, but still retain an informality and sketch-like quality that gives them visual charm and immediate appeal. This immediacy also shows in his sketches of vintage cars from the 1960′s and 1970′s.

Afflerbach has a web site, but his portfolio must be downloaded as a PDF. As a founding member of Urban Sketchers, you can find a good number of his drawings posted there, along with a brief bio. The drawings are often linked to versions on his Flicker set, but they are unfortunately not much larger.

The Ficker set is extensive, though, and features a wide range of drawings and subjects from his native Stuttgart, Germany along with location sketches from his travels in Italy, France and elsewhere.

Posted in: DrawingSketching   |   3 Comments »

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Restoration of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:57 am

Restoration of Van Gogh's The Bedroom
Vincent van Gogh’s now iconic painting of his bedroom in Arles is one of his most famous and favored works.

He described his intention for the painting in his letters to his brother Theo, saying: “This time it’s simply my bedroom, but the colour has to do the job here, and through its being simplified by giving a grander style to things, to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In short, looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination.”

The painting is one of the most immediately recognizable in the canon of Western art, but few know that it now looks quite different than when Van Gogh painted it. In the same letter quoted above, which was accompanied by a sketch of the painting (image above, bottom), he described the colors of the major objects:
“The walls are of a pale violet. The floor — is of red tiles.
The bedstead and the chairs are fresh butter yellow.
The sheet and the pillows very bright lemon green.
The bedspread scarlet red.
The window green.
The dressing table orange, the basin blue.
The doors lilac.”

And in a subsequent passage: “The shadows and cast shadows are removed; it’s coloured in flat, plain tints like Japanese prints.”

Many of these colors, the floor and the doors in particular, don’t match his description, most likely because of his use of a fugitive red pigment (Rose Madder Lake?). Colors like Rose Madder Lake and Alizarin Crimson, made from organic components rather than metals or earths, lose their color in prolonged exposure to light. This has led to the development of modern light-fast substitutes like quinacridone pigments, which artists in Van Gogh’s time did not have.

In addition to the chemical changes that have altered the color over time, the painting was damaged in Van Gogh’s lifetime, both by a flood of the Rhône in 1889 and by being rolled for sending to his brother, who Van Gogh asked to reline the back of it with additional canvas. Theo returned it to Vincent unaltered, suggesting that he copy it first, which he did. There are two additional copies of the painting, one of which is in The Art Institute of Chicago and the other in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The original is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has found it necessary to address restoration of the damaged painting, and has decided to chronicle that process, giving us a rare glimpse not only of how restoration of artworks is carried out, but of some of the difficult decisions faced by conservators.

For example, should areas of the floor that were retouched by past conservators to match the original color (which can be seen under the edges of the frame where it has not been exposed to light) be removed and replaced with a color that matches the current faded state of Van Gogh’s original paint?

The museum has a mini-site devoted to the restoration of The Bedroom, featuring a high-resolution image of the painting, a blog that details the process as it happens, supplemented with images and video, and links to Van Gogh’s letters about the painting (part of the Museum’s wonderful project of posting Van Gogh’s letters online, which I wrote about here).

There is also an informative section of the museum’s site devoted to Van Gogh’s studio practice.

A good place to start are the sections on The Painting, and The Examination. The latter features a video in which Ella Hendriks, the Head of Conservation for the van Gogh Museum, describes the state of the painting, the comparison of the colors and the start of the process of examining the work; and the decisions that must be made in taking on the restoration.

You can then follow the blog posts detailing the process as it happens.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chris Beck

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:12 am

Chris Beck
Wisconsin artist Chris Beck went from the fine art program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to a career as a graphic designer and then found her way back to painting.

Her bright, high-chroma watercolors have been featured in magazines like Watercolor Artist and The Artist’s Magazine and she has been the recipient of a number of awards from juried shows and exhibitions.

In addition to still life subjects and florals, both in still life and in gardens, Beck finds inspiration in the colorful painted metal surfaces of tin toys, which she also calls “Vintage Critters“.

Her painting “Snail Mail” (image above, bottom) has been chosen to share the cover of the upcoming book from Kennedy Publishing, Best of America, Watermedia II (more info here).

Beck maintains two blogs, a personal one called I’m painting as fast as I can… and a more general blog, aimed at the appreciation and spotlighting of various watercolor artists, titled Brush – Paper – Water.

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