Eye Candy for Today: Early Autumn, Montclair by George Inness

Early Autumn, Montclair, landscape painting by George Inness

Early Autumn, Montclair, landsape painting by George Inness
Early Autumn, Montclair, George Inness

The link is to a zoomable version on the Google Art Project; there is a high-resolution downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Delaware Art Museum (which unfortunately doesn’t have its collection online, though there is more on the Google Art Project).

This is one of my favorite paintings in the world.

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and still live nearby in Pennsylvania, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this painting at the Delaware Art Museum on a frequent basis since I was a teenager.

I still find it striking and enlightening every time I see it, and as my understanding of painting grows, so does my appreciation for George Inness and what he accomplished.

This painting — a somewhat idealized representation of Montclair, New Jersey, where Inness lived at the end of his career — is a tour-de-force of value relationships, color temperature, brush handling, and especially edges.

Inness was a master of soft edges and suggestion in painting, allowing your mind to participate and fill in what he has only suggested, but he was equally adept at bringing hard edges to the fore when it suited his composition.

Here, he uses both hard and soft edges with dramatic effect. The sapling on the left barely seems to exist; the dark tree toward the center has a more forceful presence, and main branch of the central tree — where Inness wants your eye to go — has an almost three-dimensional extension into the space in front of the canvas. (Actually, that branch really is three-dimensional in the physical thickness of the paint.)

Look at the difference in the brush handling across the composition; everything outside of the primary focal area is diffuse — almost a textural variation on Da Vinci’s sfumato — while the main tree is so painterly and tactile it’s a joy to follow the brush marks with your eye. The paint looks to have been applied by natural forces in layers of mist and strikes of lightning.

Inness has broken compositional “rules” here with casual aplomb; the main subject is smack in the center of the painting and the horizon divides the canvas in half vertically — almost as if he was taking a dare to break those assumed norms of things you “don’t do” in composition.

The colors are equally remarkable. There are a few relatively high-chroma oranges, but in general the colors are muted and the palette reserved, yet the color relationships make the entire painting feel rich and vibrant.

The painting is a delight, and I think a fulfillment of the goal Inness had of conveying the Swedeborgian doctrine that the spiritually divine could be found in the contemplation of the natural world.

The season is deliberately transitional, and the painting as a whole suggests that the weather could be either sunny or cloudy; the landscape contains both natural and man-made elements and the central tree is in both light and shadow. Everything is binary — Summer and Autumn, dark and light, hard and soft, muted and colorful, suggested and represented, traditional and modern.

I’ll also point out that the painting’s subject is Autumn, and that today is the Autumnal Equinox, which — like the Vernal Equinox at the start of Spring — is a point in the Earth’s yearly journey around the sun at which the sun’s rays strike the tilted Earth directly on the equator, rather than above or below it.

Everything in balance.


Yuko Shimizu (update)

Yuko Shimizu illustration


Yuko Shimizu is an illustrator who I first profiled in 2007, mentioned again in 2010, and featured prominently in the article I wrote on contemporary illustrators for the Summer 2013 issue of Drawing Magazine.

Shimizu (not to be confused with the Japanese designer with the same name who created “Hello Kitty”) is orignally from Japan and now based in New York City. Her illustration style is a fascinating blend of influences from Japanese traditional and pop culture, American pop culture, comics, classic illustration, woodblock prints, and probably a myriad of other sources I haven’t picked up on.

She works in both traditional and digital media, often drawing/painting with ink and traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes, and then taking the drawing into Photoshop to apply digital color.

She also frequently will take her brush and ink line and translate it into color, producing a distinct and fascinating contrast with the more traditional ink line and color fill common to woodblock prints and other illustration techniques.

Shimizu’s line work is full of energy and verve and her color choices are frequently unexpected, particularly in the way certain colors are juxtaposed against one another. I very much enjoy the way she plays with floral and animal forms in her images — sometimes as subjects, and sometimes as design elements in the composition.

The gallery on her website can be filtered by genre to a degree, but I find it fascinating to simply leaf through, enjoying the contrast between subjects.

You can also find her work on Behance, Instagram, Tumblr and her Online Store.


Francis Seymour Hayden

Francis Seymour Haden, etching

Francis Seymour Haden, etchings and drawings

Francis Seymour Hayden was a successful surgeon, and also a dedicated and influential etcher. Active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hayden was already an etcher when James McNeill Whistler became his brother-in-law.

Hayden was enthusiastic in his studies of past paster of printmaking, so much so that created an noted catalogue of Rembrandt’s etchings and wrote an important monograph, The Etched Work of Rembrandt critically reconsidered.

Among the examples of his work on the web, you will also find some accomplished pencil drawings and watercolors.


Eye Candy for Today: Andrew Wyeth drybrush & watercolor

Flat Boat, Andrew Wyeth, watercolor and drybrush

Flat Boat, Andrew Wyeth, watercolor and drybrush, details

Flat Boat, Andrew Wyeth

Watercolor and drybrush, roughly 22 x 29 inches (56 x 74 cm). Image and link is from a 2013 Christie’s auction sale.

While I don’t always respond as strongly to his more formal and conceptual works, I very much like Andrew Wyeth’s watercolors and drybrush watercolors, in which he is just directly observing from nature and interpreting what he sees in simple, often spare compositions.

This is a combination of both traditional fluid transparent watercolor, and drybrush, in which passages — particularly those involving texture — are built up with short multiple strokes applied with most of the paint wiped from the brush before application.


Self-portraits #14

Self-portrait Ivan Shishkin

Self portraits: Ivan Shishkin, Laura Johnson Knight, Antonio Mancini, Asher B. Durand, Egon Schiele, Joshua Reynolds,  Jose Manuel Capuletti, Gustave Courbet, Lovis Corinth, Marie Bracquemond

Another in my series of posts of artists’ self-portraits.

The series started when I got tired of hearing about “selfies”, and came out with an attitude of “You want selfies? I show you some selfies!”, but gradually relaxed into an ongoing series based on variety.

(Images above, links to my posts: Ivan Shishkin, Laura Johnson Knight, Antonio Mancini, Asher B. Durand, Egon Schiele, Joshua Reynolds, Jose Manuel Capuletti, Gustave Courbet, Lovis Corinth, Marie Bracquemond)


Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson, illustration

Andrew Davidson, illustration

in an age of digital illustration, Andrew Davidson is a UK illustrator who uses some of the most traditional illustration techniques from previous centuries, wood engraving, color woodcuts and gouache painting.

The result is a delightful blend of traditional and contemporary sensibilities. Some of his wood engravings, in particular, have a great feeling of illustration history, but applied to such modern titles as the Harry Potter series.

There is a variety of illustrations in each of his mediums on Davidson’s website. You can find some larger reproductions on the sites of his artists’ representatives, The Artworks Illustration and Mendola Associates.

There is also a brief video of Davidson on Vimeo, in which he discusses and demonstrates some of his process.