Jos van Riswick

Jos van Riswick
Jos van Riswick is a contemporary Dutch still life painter, living in Nijmegen, Holland, and working in the general tradition of the Dutch still life painters of the past.

Van Riswick is a self-taught painter, originally having studied and then taught physics. He started painting in an Impressionist style; but then, after becoming familiar with some contemporary Dutch realists, started to reach back and study the masters, and moved to a more finished realist style.

His subjects are often fruit, vegetables, china and glassware; items that have been the staples of still life painting tradition, as well as tin boxes, tools, and other household items.

Van Riswick employs a controlled, subdued palette, with careful attention to lighting and shadow in his compositions. Though his handling is fairly finished, he leaves enough painterly surface to convey the appeal of visible, tactile paint. Texture is also an important element in his portrayal of physical objects; he captures the surfaces of wood, metal, glass and, of course, the various food items, with subtle visual clues and brief notation of variations in color and value.

His web site features his studio work. He also has a blog, Postcard from Holland, that features his more immediate small paintings, supplemented with a secondary web site that archives those smaller works.

There is an article on his site about technique, and he also posts videos to YouTube that are in instructional time-lapse records of the process of painting some of his small daily paintings (image above, bottom left, with finished piece, bottom right). These are very direct and simply done, and as such, are some of the more useful still life painting instruction videos on YouTube.


Jeffrey Hayes (update)

Jeffrey Hayes
I’ve profiled Boston based painter Jeffrey Hayes before (also here and here).

After being an early adopter of the painting a day regimen, Hayes realized that his inclinations required more time, even when painting on an intimate scale. Today he follows that direction, painting small, carefully composed and rendered still life paintings, with an eye to the influence of the Dutch still life painters of the 17th Century.

Hayes frequently utilizes a shadow box, for which he gives basic building instructions here, to compose his directly lit still life subjects in strong contrast.

If you look through his blog, or use the topics links for subjects like “In Progress” or “In the Studio” you will find additional posts about his process and techniques and insightful comments on the the work of a painter, as well as images of works in progress.

Hayes also maintains an archive of another blog that he is no longer updating, Watching Paint Dry. In addition, he has a YouTube channel with video demonstrations of his painting process.

Hayes posts paintings that are for sale, with links to purchase information. I still find it disconcerting that clicking on the images themselves takes you directly to the eBay page for the piece rather than a larger image directly on the blog, but it seems to serve well enough. In addition to a larger single image of the work, the eBay pages sometimes have one or more detail images from the painting.

There is also a link on his blog to Available Work, that also leads directly to an eBay page.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Hayes develop and evolve as a painter over the time since I first encountered his work; his subjects becoming richer with multiple colors, surfaces taking on greater subtlety and character of texture, and the effects of light emerging as a driving force in his approach.

I’m particularly fond of the way he handles reflective metallic surfaces and transparent glassware, with hints of iridescent color delineating edges and bouncing from one surface to another.

(Image above: “Silver, Pottery, Glass”, original post here)


Don Coker

Don Coker
Georgia artist Don Coker found himself at a crossroads this year when the round of cutbacks and layoffs sweeping the newspaper industry (which is being hit by both the economic downturn and the changing paradigm of how news is delivered) caused him to be laid off from his long time position as a newspaper illustrator, cartoonist, caricaturist, art director and designer.

Coker had for a couple of years been following the “painting a day” phenomenon, and was particularly inspired by its originator, Duane Keiser, and an early practitioner, Julian Merrow-Smith (see my posts on “painting a day“, Duane Keiser, and Julian Merrow-Smith).

Coker decided this was an opportune time to explore that avenue, and started a painting blog called “A Daily Curmudgeon“. The intention is to do small oil paintings in the format common to painting a day blogs, 5×5 or 5×7”, but to indulge in his fondness for whimsical character studies rather than the usual small still life or landscape subjects that are the staple of the genre.

Coker says his painting process is to start with a blank canvas or gessoed illustration board and to take a small brush loaded with burnt umber and just start pushing and pulling until an image begins to suggest itself. This has led so far to an array of odd characters as well as a portrait of Shakespeare and a homage to Van-Gogh self portraits.

Be sure to click on the images in the blog to see the large version, and Coker’s technique, which can be painterly or smoothly refined as subject dictates.

Something tells me that Coker’s interests and multi-faceted talents will lead to a wider range of subject matter and approach in the future, but in the meanwhile, his small painted characters are a delight (and a steal at the auction prices he’s asking, I don’t think anyone knows about his blog yet, he just started a few days ago).


Antony Bridge and Carl Melegari

Antony Bridge and Carl Melegari - pochade paintings
I first came across Antony Bridge in the form of his time-lapse YouTube videos about pochade painting, when I was doing research on pochade boxes.

In them you can see Antony painting at various locations in the English countryside and towns, using his small hand-held pochade box, as well as painting small self portraits.

I followed links to the site at where he displays and sells his paintings with other pochade artists like Carl Melegari and Ben Spurling, interviews artists who do pochade painting, (including Carol Marine, who I wrote about here), shares a blog with other painters on the site, and also sells the small hand-held pochade boxes he uses. These are made on a small scale basis by a UK carpenter and designer who works under the name of Red Top designs.

More recently, Bridge and Carl Melegari have chosen to display and sell their work on a joint site called The Pochade Gallery, with a current painting by each artist on the home page and an archive of both artist’s work. (The arrangement of the archive is a little confusing at first glance, take note of the artist signatures above the left and right sets of three columns.)

Antony Bridge (image above, top) studied illustration and, when not pochade painting, works as a freelance designer creating title sequences for TV productions as well as doing event branding. His pochade paintings range from hillsides and town scenes to still life and interiors. He also has a series of self portrait studies.

Ben Spurling (image above, bottom) was also trained in illustration. His painting subjects lean toward coastlines, mountains and dramatic skies, in addition to smaller scale subjects and still life.

They both have a passion for traveling the countryside, pochade box at the ready to capture a fleeting scene. As the description of pochade painting on the site declares: “Who needs a camera?”


Postcard from Provence
(Julian Merrow-Smith)

Julian Merrow-Smith
Back in 2005 I found myself writing an arts oriented blog; partly because I enjoyed writing it, and partly because in the process I was discovering terrific artists I wouldn’t have sought out or encountered otherwise.

One of them was Duane Keiser, who had originated the “painting a day” blog concept; painting daily postcard-size paintings, mostly still life, and posting them to a blog called A Painting a Day. At the time, it was a novel idea.

I then discovered Julian Merrow-Smith, who was pursuing a similar process; but much to my delight, was painting not only the intimate still life subjects that lend themselves most readily to that discipline, but also beautiful small landscapes of the Provence countryside. He was posting these to his aptly named blog, Postcard from Provence.

I wrote articles on both artists; and in the subsequent years I watched the painting-a-day blog phenomenon grow from two to hundreds of daily painting blogs; many of them named for variations on “a painting a day” or “postcard from wherever”.

Over that time I’ve written articles on many of the best daily painters, as well as hundreds of other artists and topics, but I find myself coming back to Merrow-Smith’s site more frequently than the others.

Julian Merrow-SmithI’ve tried to pin down why, exactly. Merrow-Smith is an excellent painter, but the potential subject matter of Lines and Colors encompasses a wide range of visual art, and virtually all of art history, so it’s not like I would favor him over Sargent or Vermeer.

For someone who has been to Provence just enough to respond to images of the area with a wistful desire to return, there was an element of personal identification and visual pleasure in his interpretations of the Provence landscape; and perhaps a projection into the imagined life of a painter in the rural French countryside, evoked by his simple but intensely observed still life subjects; but there was something else that kept me checking back more frequently than to most other sites.

I knew that I particularly enjoyed looking back through his archives, noticing the sequence of his subjects, how long he would pursue a series of still life subjects, then move to landscape, interject a striking portrait, and then return to still life and then back to landscape.

Within each avenue of subject matter there were fascinating smaller cycles of variation in approach, in the type of still life, or composition and choice of landscape; each with recurring themes, like his wonderful shadow-crossed rural French roads or his shimmering views of the Rhone.

In thinking about it, and looking back over his work, I finally realized that what makes his paintings particularly compelling for me is that they represent a story.

There’s a narrative here, a chronology of artistic discovery, perseverance, discipline, economic survival, and the ongoing effort to continue to grow and learn as an artist. Postcard from Provence represents several years of the living of an artist’s life, encapsulated in a series of small paintings, each one of which seems to be a penetratingly direct and honest observation of what the artist encountered as he met his daily joining of brush and paint.

Merrow-Smith has just reached something of a landmark, posting his 1,000th Postcard painting, a beautiful still life that seems to sum up the rich contrasts of value, color and texture that have marked his study of the simple and small (image at top), followed by his 1,001st, a landscape without land, the crown of a lime tree, bright against the Provence sky, not far from the door of his home (image at left, top). I’ve added a few more of my favorites, including two portraits; the one on the left is a self-portrait.

You’ll find his archives can be viewed chronologically by month, sorted by subject; or, if you’d like to see the thumbnails of all 1,001 paintings, viewed by full archive, which gives you an overview and sense of the story that I’ve found so expressive.

The process of writing my (almost) daily blog posts has taught me a few things about creative discipline, and also; after many fallow years, inspired me to take up painting again. And there I find my other fascination with Merrow-Smith’s process and progress — as a terrific example for painters, and other artists, of how to pursue art as a daily practice.

Addendum: The other portrait shown is of Merrow-Smith’s wife, cellist Ruth Phillips. (See this post’s comments.) I wondered if that might be the case, but wasn’t certain.

Katherine Tyrrell has a nice post about his 1,000th Postcard painting, including past comments on several of his pieces and an interesting interview with him about his work and his daily painting process. (See my post about Katherine Tyrrell.)

Also, there is a nice article about Merrow-Smith and his 1,000th Postcard in The Guardian.


Mick McGinty (update)

Mick McGinty
I’ve been writing about the “painting a day” phenomenon for about three years now, along the way looking at a number of painters who aren’t trying to maintain the strict “one painting a day” routine, but are instead painting on a regular but less frequent schedule. Often, these painters can devote themselves to larger and more elaborate works than the small (usually postcard-size) paintings favored by those keeping the daily routine.

A case in point is Mick McGinty, who I wrote about early in 2007.

McGinty has a blog called Twice a Week, on which he posts new paintings with about that frequecy. These are larger, and brought to a higher degree of finish, than the pieces by most of the daily painters, including many of those who are also posting on less than a daily basis. This is partly because of the less frequent schedule, and partly because of the impressive painting skills McGinty developed in his years as a professional illustrator.

His subject matter is also more complex than the often simple still life compositions that lend themselves most readily to the daily routine, varying from complex still life subjects to dramatic landscapes from the Rocky Mountains, and more intimate urban park scenes from his trips east to New York.

McGinty has a terrific command of value and atmosphere, and his tonal contrasts give his landscapes an inviting dimensionality. He also has a great ability to render and suggest textures, whether of the rough edged rocks of mountain passes, the sunlit waters of streams and lakes, or the concrete and cobblestone paths of Central Park.

Texture plays another part in painting, of course, not only the suggestions of texture in the image, but the actual texture of the painted surface. McGinty is one of the few painter/bloggers who posts images large enough to actually see the texture and brush strokes, something I’ve been recommending to other painters for a while. I think it adds considerably to the appeal of a painting to a prospective buyer, who must judge a painting without being able to see the original in person.

As with most painters offering their work for sale directly through a blog or website, McGinty places each work up for auction, in his case (as with most others) on eBay.

I recently did something I haven’t done before and bid on a painting online, one of McGinty’s landscapes, Wandering Creek (image above, with detail below, blog post here, larger version here). To my surprise, and delight, and I won the bid.

I was surprised in that my budget was quite low, as was my winning bid. Like many other painter/bloggers, McGinty has apparently decided on a relatively low minimum, perhaps with the thought that keeping the paintings selling is easier than trying to offer them for sale a second time, or leaving a backlog on eBay.

On receipt of the original, I was again surprised, as I would expect a painting of this size and quality to sell in a gallery for at least three times what I paid for it. (Some of this may also have to do with differences in expectations of gallery prices for art in different parts of the country, I don’t know. I’m on the East Coast, McGinty is in Arizona.)

I was delighted with the surface quality and painterly nature of the piece and very pleased with the color. (Though McGinty’s photographs are good, it’s always difficult to match color in an image. In this case, McGinty has balanced the tone for Windows gamma, which means that for those like myself viewing the image with a Mac, the image will appear lighter and less saturated than the original.)

I was also pleased with the little touches that often not as obvious in the online images; in this case nice little accents of red-brown on the edges of the creek and the underside of the trees where reflections from the sun picking up the color of the creek bottom throw light up under the branches and exposed roots, the subtle blue greens in the background and the varied colors in the stone of the bridge.

Even though McGinty is one of the best at presenting his work online (many suffer from too-small images or make the mistake of offering only a link to eBay, without the advantage of a preview image hosted locally on the blog), I’m still struck by the difference between an online image and the much more immediate charms of an the original work.

It makes it all the more interesting to me how artists like McGinty are to a large extent bypassing the traditional gallery structure and taking their work directly to their buyers through the web.