Friday, August 31, 2012

Stapleton Kearns

Stapleton Kearns
Stapleton Kearns is a landscape painter based in New England.

When I first encountered his work some years ago (it can take me a while to get to these posts, folks), I felt it had a nice feeling of being influenced by early 20th century American landscape painters like John Fabian Carlson and, to a lesser extent, Emile Gruppe — painters who, while not American Impressionists, carried forward their bright colors and immediate brushwork, along with a solid underpinning of realist tradition in draftsmanship and composition.

It was later, on reading his blog, that I found Kearns mention his admiration for another artist with whom I was only passingly familiar, Aldro Hibbard. In the process it led me to a better appreciation of Hibbard’s work (likely the subject of a future post — here is a search for Aldro Hibbard on Kearns’ blog).

Kearns studied in the studios of R.H. Ives Gammell, a painter who championed the traditions of academic and classical realism in the face of the wave of modernism that acted to suppress them in the early to mid 20th century. Gammell was himself a student of the great American painter Edmund Tarbell.

In addition to his own blog, Kearns contributes to the group blog, The Boston School of Painting, devoted to artists in that lineage.

Though certainly worth checking out, Kearns’ own website is unfortunately not the showcase for his work that it might be; the portfolio is somewhat awkwardly arranged and the images are frustratingly small (there are some larger ones on the Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art gallery site).

It’s unfortunate, in that Kearn’s paintings, in those few examples I’ve seen in higher resolution, have a wonderful surface quality, as well as details of color variation and paint handling that would make larger images rewarding.

Even in the smaller images, however, you can see his strong sense of composition, economy of notation, harmonious application of color and dedication to capturing the light of his scene on location.

Though his website feels like it hasn’t received much attention for a while, Kearns’ blog is another story, and has evidently received much of his attention over several years. It is nothing short of a treasure trove.

Not only can you find some of his work reproduced larger (by searching for the label “my paintings“), you will also find a wealth of other topics accessible by the labels toward the bottom of the right hand column for topics like “art technique”, “art history”, “color”, “painting outside” and many others; as well as by simply looking back through his posts.

Kearns, both as a teacher of workshops and classes and through the blog, is handing down much of what he has learned from the lineage of his training, his interest in art history and his own experience as a painter. There is even a feature called “Ask Stape” (which is essentially an email contact), in which he writes or appends posts in response to reader questions.

The combination of personal experience, articles on artists from history and musings on aspects of art and painting like color, composition, materials and other topics puts me in mind of James Gurney’s remarkable blog, Gurney Journey (which I have written about previously).

Here, for example, is a terrific Kearns post in which he talks about dealing with summer greens and “smuggling red”.

When looking through the blog I find myself constantly making bookmarks and going off on searches related to topics or artist names he brings, up, some familiar, some new and some, like Hibbard, marginally familiar but to which I have not paid enough attention.

The latest of these has given me renewed awareness and enthusiastic appreciation of the work of Edward Seago, a brilliant English painter who will undoubtedly be the subject of a post in the near future (here is a search for Edward Seago on Kearn’s blog).

I find it particularly rewarding to use the blog’s search feature (upper left), searching, for example, for terms like “color palette“.

There is such a backlog of fascinating information on Kearns’ blog (not to mention strong opinions and amusing snarkiness from “Stape”, as he is called) that I’ll do something rarely called for in a post about an individual artist, and issue my Time Sink Warning. Enjoy.

3 thoughts on “Stapleton Kearns

  1. elise marten

    I’ve learnt a lot from stapleton kearns and have half a notebook full of his tips to keep reading over and reminding myself. Edward Seago is my tutor’s inspiration .

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