Art History 101-gilles

Vision, imagination and having something relevant to communicate visually can be in the wheel house of anyone who wants it, even without a lot of formal training—this I believe.  There are many approaches to fuel the fires of idea and experimentation and creativity. Add a practiced eye– easy enough–and one is on their way. There are many artists of the modern era whose work proves this theory to be accurate. Our perennial favorite, Van Gogh,  is one.

But I’ve noticed in our group that the few people who have had a healthy dose of exposure to art history tend to add a layer of sophistication to their work that is subtle but apparent. Just as avid readers tend to increase their vocabulary and exposure to new phraseology and a casual knowing of history,  looking at lots of art and noticing its evolution and historical context informs how we see and understand the simple, formal, visual, elements of:  line, shape, color, form, space, etc.

Unfortunately, since we are not enrolled in an art history class and because we can’t run off to spend day after day in the Louvre or the Met or the Tate or the Uffizi, we’ll work with what we have.

Many of you have identified favorite artists and have painted from their work.  It’s a practice as old as an art school—copy the masters.  But for the next few weeks I proposed a more difficult twist—“to paint in the manner of.”  In other words after you choose that artist whose work you admire, observe and study their techniques.  Then choose a PHOTOGRAPH or a still life, but NOT a PAINTING—a photograph, that preferably you have taken yourself, or one from the internet, or one from the resources we have in the studio, or a still life you put together yourself. Then paint your chosen photo or still life in the manner of your chosen painter. DO NOT COPY THEIR PAINTINGS.

Be prepared to describe your choices and why you chose them and what tips you might have picked up during the execution of the work.   This requires a LOT OF LOOKING, a little sketching and ONCE AGAIN, a lot of paying attention.  This is about engaging the brain.  Your choices come from emotion, but the looking requires brainpower—a rare left brain exercise for us.  (In order to mix the two sides together a little, turn your source material upside down if it’s a photo.)

I‘ll have some prepared samples in class.  This should take time, so be patient and be willing to do it over several class periods.

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