Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feeling Ambitious

Study of Central Park, 2009, oil on paper mounted on panel, 8 x 10 inches
I've been slaving on Asheville Trail and it's gotten to the point when I'm no longer able to judge the painting. I have become frustrated due to loss of spontaneity, which the painting had in its early stages. Working with green became a problem and trying to distinguish foreground, middle ground, and background within the space became difficult to manage. Tonight I made some progress, but not as much as I would like. I can't rush it though if I want it done right. To unwind after so many hours of working on one painting, I decided to make a quick sketch for a larger landscape I will to tackle soon. This will be an ambitious painting since it will be the largest I've painted since 2004, and the subject I've chosen is a dense, layered composition. I'm hoping that working on a larger scale will help me loosen up again, I know for a fact that this one will be a fun painting to make. Big brushes, bigger blobs of paint, and constant body motion is what I've been missing for so long.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not So Sure

Last week I thought this painting to be finished. I was so sure about it that I could taste it, but the next morning after I claimed it "finished" I realized it was far from it. As I have said before, and as I'm told, green could be a very difficult color to deal with. I've never been an expert in that color, or in landscapes, but I've managed well; that is up until now. As I see it, this painting is starting to look like a ambitious amateur try.
I found myself desperate to find the solution to my problem, and where else would I look for the answer? None other than the Met Museum. I went to take some notes on Corot, Rousseau, Denis, and other landscape painters in the 19th century European galleries. I've never taken so much time to study the many little landscapes found there. Most of the ones I found most beautiful were small studies. Greens in almost all the paintings were muted, grey, shades of olive, ochre, brown, and deep blue green. There wasn't much detail, just shapes blocked in by a general color which gives the illusion of trees in the distance. Corot was the most spectacular of all. His palette was very dark, no bright greens were to be found in most of the paintings on display. He had a hazy touch, trees seemed to disappear into air. What is the secret I keep asking myself? I sketched and took notes hoping that it will all come together in my painting.
I walked around some more, took notes and made my way to the Hudson River School section. I was on a mission to see Innes. Just like Corot, his landscapes are hazy masses of beautiful colors. The paintings are like whispers in the air, and one is not sure if the scene presented is a dream, or part of past memories. Nothing is clear, but the light, air and warmth are all there making it too real. What can I do to achieve this kind of experience with my landscapes? I left the museum inspired and with more knowledge. I thought of painting scenes from my imagination or memory, maybe this way I might be more successful at achieving the look of an eternal ideal moment. On the train ride home I started sketching a landscape on my sketchbook, somewhat of a test to see if I can create my own world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Looking at Velazquez

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Juan de Pareja (born about 1610, died 1670),1650, oil on canvas, 32 x 27 1/2 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
"Juan de Pareja was a mestizo or half-caste from Seville . He was about forty years old at this time, and had been in Velazquez's service since boyhood. He was a gifted painter, as the seven authenticated canvases of his which have survived show; and he had taught himself to paint, so the story runs, in the time-honoured manner of Tintoretto, by sneaking into the studio before dawn to apply the lessons he had picked up while grinding his master's paints."
Jon Manchip White
Diego Velazquez: Painter and Courtier
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful portraits in the history of western art, a picture unembellished by dramatic effects or colors. This might be what draws me to it, the honesty and humility of a gifted painter so sure of his talent that all he needed were quiet muted tones to captivate an audience. The painting "was generally applauded by all the painters from different countries, who said that the other pictures in the show were art but this one alone was 'truth,'" Palomino writes. According to Jon Manchip White, Velazquez painted the portrait of his servant and companion during his second trip to Italy in 1650. As he explains, Velazquez had received an invitation to paint the portrait of Pope Innocent X, but after tending to aristocratic matters on behalf of King Philip IV, the master felt a bit rusty and decided to paint Juan de Pareja as a warm up before starting work on the Pope's portrait. White explain, "the portrait of his servant was put on view in the Pantheon, where its ripe harmonies created a sensation, and as a result the painter was immediately elected to the Academy of St. Luke."
Juan de Pareja after Velazquez, 2009, pencil in moleskine sketchbook
I have always admired Velazquez. His hand at work is always visible, giving his pictures a certain raw quality with a great dose of finesse. Every time I visit the Met I stop in the Spanish Paintings gallery, where a good collection of his works hang proudly. Amongst these pictures is the portrait of Juan de Pareja. Little by little I became more intrigued by Velazquez and started reading up on him. I recently got done with Jon Manchip White's "Diego Velazquez: Painter and Courtier," and was very surprised to find that Velazquez was a slow worker and that his output is much less than his contemporaries. This doesn't rob him of his genius as a painter, and many of us can benefit from studying his art. This is why I decided to copy Velazquez's Juan de Pareja. Feels like the time is right for me to do so, and in preparing myself I took a short trip to the Met recently to sketch the painting and familiarize myself with it more. The application process for this will take a few months, it seems like the Met has a long list of people wanting to copy paintings in the galleries and they only allow a limited number at a time. However long this may take I'll be visiting the museum as always and will keep looking at Velazquez.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Out of Control!

Is there a thing as bookaholics anonymous out there? If there is I think I'm ready for my first meeting, and if there isn't I think it's time someone got to it and create such a group! Strand Books took most of my money during the first few years of my stay in New York. I couldn't get enough art books, especially after discovering the heavenly second floor of this store, packed wall to wall, and rack to rack with new and used art catalogs, monographs, and other low priced hard to find jewels. But thanks to work moving uptown it made it a little difficult for me to make it downtown, so Strand was put in the back burner. But after switching jobs to Soho Art I'm downtown again, and yes have taken a few trips to this store. Tonight was such a night and I went on a crazy shopping spree that has finally made me realize that I may need help. I've amounted a large collection of books, at least for a young single guy my age. And I can't stop. I go through the catalogs while I paint, this is my way of finding inspiration and solutions to some of my painting problems. So to some extent this may be a good investment, but the purchase of so many books weights heavy on me, physically and metaphorically, when moving time comes. You would think that after my recent move I might have learned my lesson; no! I bought seven more and I'm feeling a little dirty. But let's put it this way, at least I'm not buying crack or other unuseful substances. I wanted to share my purchase with you since they are really good buys for under twelve dollars each:

The Journal of Eugene Delacroix edited by Hubert Wellington

Paul Cezanne Letters edited by John Rewald

Camille Pissarro: Letters to His Son Lucien edited by John Rewald

Anthony Van Dyck A Life 1599-1641 by Robin Blake

From A High Place A Life of Arshile Gorky by Matthew Spender

James McNeill Whistlre Beyond the Myth by Ronald Anderson

Clement Greenberg A Life by Florence Rubenfeld

So it seems that I will be busy trying to get through all these plus the other books I have on the selves waiting to be opened.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

More Layers

I resumed work on the latest landscape. It feels so good to paint again, is what I needed most in my life I think. Painting is very therapeutic and relaxing for me, and after a rough week dealing with different aspects of my personal life, there's nothing else I want to do more than spend hours in front of a canvas.
I'm adding more layers to this painting, and the more I add paint the harder it is for me to keep it loose and spontaneous. I'm not looking to render every leaf here, most important is to keep juicy paint moving around. Yes, I said it, juicy paint! This may be one of the most challenging paintings I've done so far, but then again it always seems to be that way with each new painting. But this is more difficult for me since I'm not very good with greens. I can't seem to mix different hues, they all end up looking the same.
But I'm still forging ahead, besides this is such a fun painting. It seems this may take a couple more weeks but I'm not rushing it.