Friday, September 25, 2009

Yorkshire Terrier Pastel Painting

My little Yorkshire Terrier, Fenway, in lots of color. Yes, he is named after Fenway Park. He is a character and lives up to his unique name. He weighs only 6 pounds, but his spirit and ego are as big as the park. He bosses us all, including a much larger Portuguese Water Dog I have yet to paint. I like to see the opportunity for art in subjects and make the most of them. I tried to artistically capture his look with textural stokes and his personality with the expressive use of color.

Three artists, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Paul Gauguin, opened my eyes to the expressive use of color. They often chose color for the sake of color rather than to use the actual colors of their subjects. Example are Henri Matisse's Woman with a Hat, 1905. and The Riffian, 1912-13. Several more examples are Marc Chagall's Le Cheval de Cirque, 1964 and Great Circus, 1984. Two interesting examples with very different color pallets and ambiance are Paul Gauguin's Landscape with a Dog, 1903 and Mountains in Tahiti, 1891-93.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Work: Pastel Paintings

I love art. Favorite artists are Vincent Van Gogh, Henry Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin , Marc Chagall and the Fauvists Andre Derain and Maurice de Ylaminck; all for their use of color, texture, patterns and pleasing originality.

Vincent Van Gogh means to me vivid color and interplay of detailed strokes and dots that express texture and create the intricate ordered patterns that then become his very unique paintings. Swirls, circles and hatch marks are employed to create unique stylized elements. Van Gogh mastered color by painting lively complementary colors side by side. Complementary colors are colors from the opposite sides of the color wheel. The opposite of blue is orange, the opposite of red is green and the opposite of yellow is purple. No color is perceived in isolation. The juxtaposition of complementary colors creates a contrast in which each color appears brighter, more vivid and powerful by their use together. With this dynamic, expressive use of color Van Gogh merged varying styles into an innovative, exciting and coherent whole.
This is illustrated in his Portrait of Pere Tanguy, 1887. Using impressionistic brushstrokes, Van Gogh combined symbolic flat-perspective Japanese images with a classically modeled subject.
He was not just rendering what he saw but using what he found in nature for his creative inspiration and his imagination. He was giving us original, exciting images and at the same time images we can recognize and relate to. Favorites include Starry Night, June, 1889, Wheatfield with Crows, 1890 and Flowering Garden, done in Arles in 1888.

Henri Matisse means expressive use of vivid colors, interpretive, dynamic perspectives and wonderful, exciting patterns. I see broad strokes. I see small strokes. I sometimes see pointillism. Images are flatter, less modeled. Images are often given vivid colors without regard to their natural colors. I see images I can recognize, relate to but also I see whimsical, unique imaginative images that inspire and thrill me. Favorites include Portrait of Madame Matisse, 1905, Luxe, Calme et Volupte, 1904 Red Room, 1908, La Musique, 1939 and Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937.

I learn by looking at Paul Cezanne. Distinctive repetitive brushstrokes build images. I see an underlying geometric order and planes of colors that are used to establish his design. Colors are softer, more realistic, but his colors still enhance the settings and objects of his paintings. Many of his images are also softer, airier and fresher, more translucent. Favorites include Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1904-1906, Madame Cezanne in the Greenhouse, 1891-1892, Still life, Table, Napkin and Fruit, 1895-1900 and Still life, Drapery, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl, 1893-1894.

Paul Gauguin uses very vivid and contrasting colors and simple, direct designs in which the subjects are sometimes modeled but the settings are not. This creates an interesting composition with a powerful emphasis on the subject. The differing rendering styles within his paintings are brought together by the commonality of the bold colors that suit his choice of subjects. Inventive elements are combined with expected elements for a fresh approach that we relate to. Favorites include the Woman with a Flower, 1891, The Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch, 1892 and Joyousness, 1892.

I also love the brilliant colors, bold images and imaginative patterns of the very exciting paintings of the Les Fauves coined by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles and meaning “the beasts.” Details were not rendered. Images were a means of expressing color, pattern and texture. Great examples are Andre Derain's Collioure le Port de Peche,1905, Boats at the Collioure's Harbor,1905 and Maurice de Vlaminck’s Restaurant de la Machine a` Bougival,1905.

Marc Chagall takes a very colorful step away from reality. Many of his abstracted, whimsical images are composed into dream-like fantasies with objects and people floating in vivid color. Color is used to express excitement and energy in Circus, Horse and Rider. Warm colors are used to express the ambiance of romantic love in the painting Lovers and Flowers. Focus is created by the use of strong color in The Blue House and by the blue lovers in the just mentioned Lovers and Flowers. Amoureux au Bouquet and Mystere Matinal taught me to look for the imaginative opportunity in everyday subjects.

As a child, I always liked to draw. In the third grade one of my drawings was used on the program cover for May Day. I had what one typically called an eye and a bit of flair and inventiveness. One day I was wondering how to express these undernourished talents. I listened to an afternoon talk show that made the point that what ever you did as a child was an expression of your natural talent. Missing the point a little, I bought paints and brushes because I liked color. I stretched a very large canvas and proceeded with some false confidence in “my eye” to paint my first and very large painting. It was not too bad for a first effort. I discovered I really did not know how to paint. I decided to go back to drawing.

When I thought of pastels I thought of those wonderful portraits. At the local art supply store I discovered a very vivid and wonderful landscape-suited collection of pastels. I purchased it and just looked at the opened box of untouched beautiful colors for several weeks. This of course was not the reason I bought them so I decided to use them with some regret that they would not be as pretty once used.

I quickly discovered with joy that pastels can be used in many ways. The colors can be applied with as much saturation as oil or acrylics or as translucent as watercolors. Pastels are natural for textural strokes and can be used on a variety of papers for still more unique effects. I use the softer Rembrandt and bit firmer Nupastels. I use the rounded ends of pastels, I use the corner edges of pastels, I break them depending on the size I need and use the sides of pastels. They are now colorful bits and pieces. You can use a kneader eraser to lighten, soften, blur or at line edges to lift and sharpen. These erasers are as important to me as the pastels and the paper. My closely guarded secret is you can use a kneaded eraser to remove and fix something you are not happy with up to a point. Pastels are a wonderful media for an evolving process of discovery and creativity. I frequently take a painting off the wall and add something.

I suppose no pastel needs to be finished until it is out of sight. A dear friend had as an overnight guest an artist whose painting was in her guestroom. The next morning she could detect the smell of paint. The artist had seen something she wanted to change in the painting and done so. My friend good-naturedly laughed and said "I had thought of it as my painting". The change was nice and my friend was very happy with it.
As a young child, I listened to my very creative mother say “Always have a surprise.” I paint images I like that give me inspiration. I will probably never paint a brown paper sack unless of course it is a desired element. It is from the process that I get ideas. I think of images as I draw. That is fun. As you can see I like bright colors, texture and some element of surprise. Some of my images come as ideas from things I see in my world, others are just made up.

I grew up in the exciting vividly colorful southwestern world of modern art. I live in the wonderful world of southeastern watercolors. I love both. My images are recognizable and airy like the watercolors and very colorful with some created elements like southwestern art. I think you learn from looking at good art and I have always tried to do that.

If you haven't yet, I hope you find inspiration and encouragement to buy your first box of pastels.

All images shown here are copyrighted and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Inquiries welcomed,

Natalie Claxton