Maurice Denis, Peasant Woman With Cow, 1893. My painting is a closely cropped focus on the woman. You wouldn't know that was even a cow behind her unless you saw the original! The palette intrigued me, and are not colors I would usually use. I learned: keep looking and exploring color combinations. Don't let self keep doing the same ole thing! Don't fall into the rut of repeating myself.
Denis is known for this quote,"Remember that a picture- before being a war-horse, a nude, or an anecdotal of some kind- is essentially a plane surface covered with colours disposed in a certain order."
Edward Hopper, Girl at a Sewing Machine, 1921-2. I felt again a bit confined with my format, too many verticals, but thankfully somewhat relieved by the diagonal pattern of sunlight on the wall and the repeating shapes in the girl and the cloth. I wanted to play with the sewing machine shapes for the abstract and I learned: keep looking for the shapes when I paint, it is these shapes that make up the entire painting.
Milton Avery, Feeding, 1944. I cropped this to exclude another figure, wanting to concentrate on the mother and child. Avery, who was influenced by Matisse, was always annoyed by comparisons to Matisse. But let's face it : who is not influenced by others, whether its another painter or an important teacher? I learned: over and over with these abstracts, the content, the composition, came out of the blue. Somewhere from inside of me, and, that I could trust that without judging myself.
Milton Avery, Sally and Sarah, 1947. As the title implies, there is another figure, but everything I wanted was right here. All those colors nestled up against each other got me excited and the abstract came together very quickly. I learned: whether painting from an inspiration painting, a still life, plein air or an interior, MY JOB is to edit, to find the painting in whatever I am looking at. Another word for edit is simplify.
Wayne Thiebaud, Yellow Dress, 1974. The original shows the entire dress and the gorgeous shadow to the left which I was sorry to lose in my rendition. The abstract is a bit strange, but that's ok too. I learned: sometimes what I paint doesn't work, for any of the ways you might define "This works!" It's ok to have paintings that are wipers.
I remember talking with an artist hanging a show in a Newbury Street gallery, when I was just beginning to paint. He said, "You have to paint a lot of shit before anything good happens." I think he speaks to all of us, as it's really about the act of painting and what we learn from the process, not necessarily the finished product.
Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893-4. I've always loved this painting but had never noticed the proximity of the hands of the three people. I learned: keep looking, as you look you can see more things. Things you might not notice at all at first. Is this what makes us an artist, this seeing? On another note, make sure your painting has something that brings the viewer a little closer, to take that second look. That split second first impression is so important!
Henri Matisse, Girl With Green Eyes, 1908. Ah, the interlocking shapes, the dark outlines, the luminous colours of Matisse, a favorite since childhood. I had fun with the abstract, inspired by the funky vases behind the model. I learned: remember the things I loved when I was 10- simple and true, without wanting to "be cool" or "be smart", I was happy to just be me.
Or to put it in another way, "To thine own self be true!" Keep on painting/ making art and you will find your voice, a voice that is uniquely yours and yours alone.
Richard Diebenkorn, July, 1957. If you look at the original painting, all of which are posted on my blog with my interpretation of that painting, you will see the landscape behind the figure on the bench. I knew my abstract would be a landscape of sorts, to further the feeling I got from the original painting. I learned: it really is about the feeling we get when we look at art, make art, talk about art, write about art.... It gets me somewhere deep inside and appeals to a larger energy that connects and unites me to the past and to the present in a way unlike any other. Thank you for staying with this long winded recap of the 30 day challenge, may our paths cross again soon! Be well and be happy.