I have just completed the second week in my abstract painting class. Last week I posted a painting done in many hues of green. One of the suggestions that the teacher makes is to challenge yourself and use colors, tools, marks, shapes and images that we have not used before.
For the last several months I have been painting Ireland which means that I used mostly greens and blues. They are cool paintings like the country—lot of grass and water everywhere.
So this week I did a painting with as many oranges as I could mix. I didn’t give a lot of thought of how to vary oranges, I just mixed tints: tones, and shades of orange with a touch of magenta thrown into different places on the painting. There is no way that I could have done an orange painting without somehow reducing the intensity of color.
Speaking of magenta, when it is mixed with cadmium yellow, an interesting warm orange develops. It is one of many interesting variations of orange.
Another objective on this painting was not to include a horizon line. Since I used a 30×30-inch canvas, I had a lot of canvas to cover with this interesting and challenging color.
Here is a link to an orange color chart that demonstrates the variations of orange that can be created. I am not sure where their names came from, but it is interesting to view.
I particularly liked Coquelicot, which is the French name for the red-orange flower that grows all over France. The color Cinereous is interesting also. So much to learn.
Of course, I then had to investigate the symbolic meaning of orange. “Orange aids in the assimilation of new ideas and frees the spirit of its limitations, giving us the freedom to be ourselves. At the same time it encourages self-respect and respect of others.
Orange is probably the most rejected and under-used color of our time. However, young people do respond well to it as it has a degree of youthful impulsiveness to it.”
Who knew! I thought
This week I think I will go with gray to try to calm down my impulsiveness.
This week has been a frustrating one for me because of trivial obligations like an annual doctor’s appointment and buying food. Activties like this cut into my painting time. So I have not finished the Irish painting that I am working on.
Since I frequently think of my journey from never having painted to now, I thought I would write about a painting that I did three years after my first painting class in France. This time the painting class was again in France, but not where I had originally painted. It was in Collioure on the Mediterranean where it meets the Pyrenees.
Collioure is a very picturesque small town that has drawn many painters including Matisse, Derain and Dufy. It is referred to as the birth place of the Fauvism movement in painting. This class was taught by the same teacher I first had in Soréze, France. She considered herself an Fauvist painter. She was responsible for my first exposure to Fauvism.
As you can see from the above painting, my drawing skills were still lacking as were my use of brush strokes and layering color. I had not yet mastered the idea of perspective. Fortunately, it is a very colorful town so some of the colors were representative of what I saw and some were colors that were already a favorite part of my palette.
This painting was done in plein air, while I was sitting on the steps of a lovely house that looked down into the town and surrounding hills. It was an ideal place to paint.
Although today is the first time that this piece has been photographed, I see it every time I walk into my studio because it is hanging on the side of a cabinet. It reminds me of how I started and how far I have come. I have kept all of my drawings and paintings over the years. The only ones that I don’t have are sold.
It is important to me to be able to look back on all of the work I have done. They always make me smile.
I am a romantic painter. I have found definitions of “romantic” such as a sensibility; primitivism; love of nature; sympathetic interest in the past, especially the medieval; mysticism; individualism.
I am also sentimental. Webster defines someone who is sentimental as a person excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
That brings me to nostalgia. I am nostalgic and find myself attracted to the Irish notion of a gentle melancholy that permeates life. While I reflect on Ireland and my Irish paintings, I am also thinking about why I am drawn to certain subjects, places, or ideas.
Such thoughts drew me to one of the first paintings that I ever did. I was on a painting retreat in France with no experience at all. Each day we would be driven to some exquisite location to paint. We would arrive and scatter, painting whatever we were drawn to. One could have chosen a lovely view, goats, a forest and other people.
I wandered around and found a three story 19th century home that was in ruins. What happened to this house, I wondered. Why didn’t this seemingly once lovely place undergo repairs? What was its story? Of course, that was what I decided to paint.
I have learned that I am drawn to emotions and events that I perceive may exist or have existed. That is one reason that I am drawn to Ireland and spent so many years in France. I was and am enchanted by the history, the way people lived, the myths, the beauty of both structures and raw nature.
I think that the classical definition of all of the above can be summarized to this description:
The Romantic embodied “a new and restless spirit, seeking to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate individual effort at self-assertion, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.
I especially like the part about unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals. If I ever get a clear idea of what those goals are, I will let you know.
For the last four weeks I have been painting with gray as a major component in my paintings. As one could imagine, I have grown tired of grayed down colors for now. So this week I decided to create a painting that has little or no gray.
It felt wonderful to get back to bright pure color. After I finished this painting I was reminded of my first painting teacher Carol Watanabe who considered herself a Fauve artist. Her class took place in Soréze, France and then later in Collioure, France. Here is an example of her work.
The Fauvists were French painters whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as a means of communicating the artist’s emotional state.
Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, high-keyed, vibrant colors sometimes directly from the tube.
“Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) and André Derain (French, 1880–1954) first introduced unnaturalistic color and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings in the summer of 1905, working together in the small fishing port of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast. When their paintings were exhibited later that year at the Salon d’ Automne in Paris they inspired an art critic to call them fauves (“wild beasts”).”
Although I never considered myself a fauvist, that use of bold color has stayed with me and frequently I have to force myself not to use colors that are really too intense. Graying down a color took me while to appreciate.
Last summer in France I painted a series of abstract landscapes that were influenced by the panorama around me. Since the paintings were abstract, I took liberties with the landscape and terrain that I was observing.
When I am in the south of France, I have the good fortune to have one of my mentors Suzanne L’Hoste Snadecki available for critiques. When she saw my finished series she commented that she like them all except one.
Here is the one in which she found a problem.
Suzanne found the horizontal V lines in the middle of the painting too sharp. I said that I appreciated her opinion, but I like the painting the way it was.
A few weeks ago, after looking at that painting for some time, I found that it was making me uncomfortable and that Suzanne was right.
I took out the harsh red lines in the middle of the painting, added more violet and added to the texture of the grass in the middle ground. I am now happy with it and I hope that Suzanne is too.
Tomorrow will be my last day in Soréze. This past week has taken a burst of energy to finish one more painting, walk around Lake St. Ferreol as many times as possible, find everything that I have scattered around this big house and pack.
I have painted as much as I can, gone all of the places that I wanted to visit, and eaten all the yummy food that I wanted. I have walked almost every day and now I need a new pair of shoes. It is time to come home, which I always do with mixed feelings when I leave France. I come to this area and stay so long because I love everything, including having the opportunity to paint at all hours of the day and night.
Traveling gives me new perspective and inspiration. While I have been here, I have experienced a desire to change the way I paint to a more abstract manner, and I have. Here is painting #8.
I feel that my work is moving quickly in a new direction and I am not sure where that will take me. I have found a painter in Ireland who does abstract landscape workshops, so maybe I will go there next year. If I do, I will probably need to visit briefly in France.
This past week I took a few days off from painting and drove down to the coastal town of Collioure, France for a change of scenery and for new inspiration. Collioure is on the western side of the Mediterranean, where the Pyrenees meet the sea. It was lovely to be around such blue clear water and sea breezes.
Collioure has always been a source of inspiration for artists. Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse and Marquet all painted Collioure to capture its special light and colors of this once small, historical fishing village.
These works displayed such vibrant colors and brushstrokes that the artists were referred to as “la cage aux Fauves” (wild beasts) and it is from these artists that the Fauvism movement began.
On a completely different topic, before I left for the Mediterranean, I completed an image of part of a home here in Soréze. I wanted to see if I could continue being loose with something more structured and architectural. It was a little more challenging, but I continued with my palette knife. It was difficult to get the result that I wanted doing the casings around the window and door with my knife, so I did use a brush for some of those details. For now, I am happy with the results.
I have gone to France almost every year since 2000. Before that I went to France two times, the first time in about 1985, the second in 1992. Some of my friends and family tell me that I need to get out of my rut and go somewhere else. I usually agree and this year I am going to Italy and France, but I do love being in the rolling hills of the French countryside or exploring in a prehistoric cave, not to mention the freshness of French food. And of course who can’t love Paris, even though Parisians are the ones who have given the French the reputation of being rude. It is really only the waiters.
Part of my love of France is being able to finally arrive at my final destination, usually now Soréze, after about 20 hours of travel. Once I am in the place I frequently rent, I am there. There is no period of adjustment. I know the roads and the places to go for great food or wonderful scenery. I am comfortable driving and the roads are great and very picturesque. I speak French well enough to get by, and the people are very encouraging and friendly.
Another reason I love to go to the south of France is that I have always been able to rent a house with a studio. I go there to paint. I first started painting in the small village of Soréze where I attended a painting workshop that emphasized creativity not technique. That was helpful to me because I had no technique at the time. I knew nothing of perspective, color combinations or drawing. I did, however, have a simply glorious time. And I fell in love with painting.
Here is my very first painting.
Once I learned to draw, I went back to it and made the table larger so it didn’t look like the vase was going to fall off. It is interesting to me that I already had the palette colors that I use frequently today.
Here is my second painting done at the same workshop.
We were at a goat farm and were able to wander around the extensive property. I decided to paint part of his decaying three-story home built in the 1800’s. I love this painting because when I Iook at it, I am able to feel for it as I did then. Later that day I asked a French friend why someone would let this once lovely house go to ruin. The answer was a sad history lesson for me. I was told that so many men did not return from World War I and many homes were left to crumble because no one was there to repair them. There were more than 1,357,800 French men killed and most of the fight took place in France.
France has touched my heart in many ways. I cherish it and can’t wait to get there.
How about you? Is there a special place in your heart that you yearn for?
Kim Bruce was the topic of my last three posts. During the process of having someone ask her questions about her art and business, she was reminded of her father’s influence on her life and her art. Her post touched me and I now want to write about my father’s influence on my love of nature and how it relates to my love of painting the natural world.
My father was 100% Portuguese. His mother Mary, along with his grandmother Reza, came to the United States in 1901 from the Azore Islands. They did not stop on the east coast but went directly to family in San Francisco. A husband was imported from Lisbon for Mary when the time was appropriate and the couple moved to Sonoma County, California.
My father was the first of 10 children. He had little money but he had a strong work ethic and a love of a certain piece of land in Bennett Valley, about 20 miles from where he grew up. There he built our house and there I grew up. Here is what the valley looks like even now.
I was surrounded by the splendor of the natural environment and I loved gazing at Bennett Peak, which looked so majestic to me as a child. I could always see it when I wandered from home.
In other words, I grew up in one of the loveliest areas of the country because my father loved visiting San Francisco, but he wanted to live in Bennett Valley.
Sonoma County looks a like rural France, which may be one reason that I love to paint the countryside of southern France. Here is a painting that I did in Sorèze, France that reminds me of home.
It is interesting to think about how an individual’s personal history affects their identity, behaviors, and actions. My history in Bennett Valley contributed to help make me an artist.
How about you?