Monday, March 31, 2014

Seascapes and still lifes

Forgive me avid blog readers, I've been slow to post up some of my latest pictures.... So here I am, catching up with a bumper post!

'tulips bathed with light' 
Acrylic on panel                   16X20
Really like the colors and brush work in this one. I like the abstract cloud like patterns in the background, they create a nice flow through the image. 

 Colors of the coast reprized
Acrylic on Panel                     18X24
Using a warm color for distant hills shouldn't work with a cool ocean in the foreground. But somehow it holds together.

 Around the rocks 
Acrylic on canvas                       18X36
I originally painted this in 2012. I then went in the following year and beefed up the vegetation on the right to balance better with the central rocks. Just last week I went back again and tweaked a few things. Definitely done now!

 sheltering cove 
Acrylic on wood            14X24  
Really like this little study, nice confident brush work and good color choices. May work this to a larger painting in the future. I feel it could be effective. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Patrick Caulfield

I've just returned from a super quick trip to Britain. I visited my parents in the Lake District in Northern England. Their town of Kendal has a rather special art museum called the Abbott Hall. It's not big, but over the years I've seen a number of really great exhibitions there. Exhibitions that often times have been far more prestigious and interesting than the small northern location should allow.

This trip gave me Patrick Caulfield  (1936 - 2005). I think it's fair to say there's a lot of  Braque influence in Caulfields work. He's also mixed into the modern pop art movement, a label which I believe he was never to happy with. But it's hard not to see that he's very much part of that movement, all be it perhaps one of the more tasteful and skilled?

 Caulfields work boils the subject down to it's simplest form. Presenting flat color and strong confident black edges.The balance of form and negative space is king, and his careful construction of content provides real power to the work.  Many of his paintings use domestic house paints on hardboard, but he also worked with more traditional oils and silk screens (among other mediums). 

A quick glance may dismiss his work, but with more study the strength of his compositions and unswervingly accurate sense of form and weight, elevates his work to another level. I found there much to relate to;  an artist who works with strong form, bold outlines and confident colors, what's not to like right?...


Some of Caulfields work also illustrated a transition through levels of information in a single painting. Sometimes he featured a three dimensional element glued to the canvas, while another element in the painting would be highly rendered in paint; followed finally by the rest of the work presented in his flat tonal forms. I've sometimes attempted a similar idea in some of my still life works, though without such a stark contrast or a 3D element. Personally I felt these pieces less effective in Caulfields work, the transitions not working smoothly and the contrasts to jarring. The example pictured above, shows one of his transitions at play, from highly rendered grapes, stepping back to block flat forms. Despite this paintings transitions appearing smoother I still find these pieces less effective than his best works. When less color and from is used, and the closer tonal shifts and outlines are left to do the work. 

This painting titled 'Sweet bowl' was my favorite in the show. A wonderful sense of space and balance distribution, the blue color shifts perfectly chosen.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Passion for Petals

 I've been invited to contribute to an art compilation book, focusing on flowers as a theme. The book required that I provided some words on 'why I'm inspired by flowers'.  Now I do like flowers, but the subject is a difficult one. In truth I'm pretty passionate about the importance of the 'Still life' subject as whole (perhaps a post for another time?), but I see the flower as only part of that equation.

Within still life it is the combination of objects that excited me. The grouping of forms - geometric structure of tables and bowls, vases etc. mixed with organic geometry from fruits; and finally the organic sprawl and drama of a bouquet of flowers. The combination of these elements creates the drama! But having said that, I needed to focus on only the flowers for this book. So here, for your reading pleasure, are my thoughts on the subject, (with only a little bending of the truth and embellishment)...

* * * 


Why Flowers?

The everyday subjects of a still life are all around us in our day-to-day existence. They are unseen and forgotten. ‘Still life’ painting asks us to stop and consider these objects, to appreciate the beauty within them, to no longer take them for granted. ‘Still life’ demands our attention for these objects, and no object is as important and dramatic within a ‘still life’ composition than the flower.

To me flowers are an intense distillation of the world around us. Every color imaginable can be found within their petals, leaves, and thorns. Their complex organic geometry a wonder to behold - soft curves endlessly turning into each other, or perhaps strong hard angles and vertical lines, the one overlapping the next. The variety and complexity or each flower is always new fresh and exciting. At any given moment they can show us a range of visual information or emotions - elegance, beauty, simplicity, complexity, life and of course death. 


A single flower can yield untold beauty and nuance. It is the job of the artist to present his message and that of the subject within each painting. Just like a camera, a painting captures a single moment in time, a snapshot in the short life of a flower. But what moment to catch, what message to hold for all time? A newly opened flower freshly cut from a spring garden, or perhaps the last hours of it’s life, stems bent, leaves spotted and yellowed, petals fallen to the ground? It is this endless journey of exploration, study and transformation, that present continual inspiration to me.

My work is strongly rooted in the post-impressionist movement. Many link ‘Fauvism’ and artists such as Gauguin, Cezanne, and Matisse to my work. However on closer examination elements of late expressionism and modernist abstraction can be witnessed. For example, my palettes are often bolder, the compositions more contemporary, and color planes presented flatter than the traditional post-impressionists. It’s been said there’s nothing ‘still’ about my ‘still lifes’; each shows movement and energy within the application of brush strokes and colors, nowhere do I feel this is shown better than in the tangled beauty of the flowers.

When approaching one of my ‘Still life’ paintings I always begin with the flowers. From there I find sympathetic drapes, cloths, vases, fruit and other elements that will work with the plant or flower bouquet. It begins with the flowers and the idea grows from there. Color is all important, - the process of translating the color and mood of the flowers within the environment, finding the voice and theme within the painting.

I want my paintings to translate what I see before me, but with my own feelings and ideas. I strive to create a singularly unique vision on the world. A projection of my feelings, and imagination on the subject, providing a distinctive voice that is unlike anything else. I wish to elevate the subject, take the everyday and empower it with the drama and greatness it deserves.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

White Tulips

I intentionally kept this one a little softer, not restating the 'Cloisonnism' outlines as strongly and leaving a lot of under painting to shine through. I took some of the palette ideas from work I used to do 7 years ago or so.... I rather like the final effect, not quite as punchy as some of my recent still life pieces.

White Tulips throwback
24X18 Acrylic on Panel

 detail - lots of nice under painting