Thursday, April 27, 2017

Introduction to Landscape Painting

The Artist's Garden at V├ętheuil
Claude Monet
In this painting, Monet uses many techniques that help create a sense of depth. First of all, he uses the change in the size of the objects. If you were to line them up with each an equal distance from the viewer, the sunflowers would obviously all be around the same size. In this painting, as the sunflowers get farther away, they decrease in size. This basic technique is very effective in creating a sense of three-dimensionality. Monet also creates a sense of depth by the color he paints the house. The house's real color is different than what it is painted as, but since it is in the background we see the effects of atmospheric perspective. Atmospheric perspective is the phenomenon in which as an object moves farther back we perceive it as grayer and bluer. The grayness is caused by objects fading off as they move farther back due to dust, humidity, and air pollution and the blue is a result in all these particles reflecting the blue sky (therefore background objects only won't have any blue on them on a cloudy day).

Jalais Hill, Pontoise
Camille Pissarro

Despite the colors of this painting making it appear a little flat at first, the size and placement of the features by the artist are effective in creating a sense of depth. The road in the foreground resembles half of an s-curve. The technique of using an s-curve helps direct the observer's eye by leading into the painting. Another thing Pissarro did was depict a huge size difference from the tree/bush thing in the immediate foreground to the other objects in the middle ground. He then made the size get smaller as the objects moved further away. Unlike the painting above, this painting is of a larger landscape, one that goes much farther back.  That is reflected in the large change in size from the objects in the immediate foreground to the objects the farthest back. The artist probably could have painted this picture without the path and bush up front. Instead, he chose to be more effective in showing how far this landscape goes back. This technique of putting something in the immediate foreground is often used by artists.

What is an underpainting?
An underpainting is the base of paint applied to a painting before anything else is added. It gives the painting built in contrast and establishes a dominant tone for the rest of the painting. It can also be used to unite the range of colors in a composition and make areas that would otherwise seem boring interesting. If all the colors have a certain hue of color under them, they share a similar feel. This underlying color can also create a depth and allure to places like a plain blue sky. Underpaintings can also create a sort of feel for the entire painting. For instance, an underpainting of yellow can make a painting warm.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eyes, Nose, Mouth Blog Post


    • To demonstrate understanding of the structure for each feature: eyes, nose, & mouth;
    • To practice using black & white charcoal to render a drawing, using brown paper as the middle value

Overall, I think I am doing a good job with determining and replicating the basic shapes of my facial features. For instance, my nose actually looks like my actual nose and I have done a good job creating the shape of my eye. That being said, this could be better. There are parts of my eye that look a bit irregular, and my lips do not reflect the weird shape of my actual lips. One of the things I need to work on is creating a sense of three dimensionality, especially in my eyes. In my practice drawing, I have shaded in the sclera (white part of the eye) like one would color in a shape - there is no contrast in value. There is also no contrast in the type of marks I am making and the marks I did use did not correctly show the curvature of the eyeball. The lids also are not well shaded in - the change of value from the crease they originate from to the tip closest the viewer is not apparent. These two errors contribute to the fact that the eyeball itself doesn’t look round, and the eyelid doesn’t look like it is overlapping the eyeball. Another shading error in my drawings was the lighter parts of the nose. I had trouble seeing values in my actual nose, and that is apparent in the fact that the ti of the nose in the drawing doesn't look three-dimensional. Overall, things I need to pay attention to on the final portrait are correctly shading and mark making.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mood of Portraits

Linda Nochlin and Daisy by Alice Neel
In this portrait, the mood is tense. This is shown in the faces of the figures, who stare right at the viewer, unsmiling and unmoved. The daughter looks a little frightened, with her mouth slightly open and her hand grabbing the sofa arm. The mother looks protective, with one arm on her child and eyes that stare out calmly yet defensively, challenging anyone who comes near her daughter. The bright colors in this portrait would lead many to interpret this as having a happy or joyful mood. However, when you look at the expressions Alice Neel has given her subjects, they tell a different story. So does their body language. The way Neel has painted the figures so stiff and uptight adds to the tense feeling.

Madame X by John Singer Sargent 
In this portrait, the mood is sharp and relating to sophistication. Everything is very well detailed and precise- it far from abstract art. The woman who is the subject poses elegantly. Her right hand rests on a polished table and her left lies against her dress. Her hair is done up and if you zoom in, she is clearly wearing makeup. Instead of looking straight forward, her head is turned to the side as if to indicate high status. Sargent may or may not have been trying to achieve this mood, given that many of his portraits were of the wealthy and in this professional style. The mostly neutral palette he used contributes to this theme. So does the fact that "Madame X"'s dress is black, a color often associated with perfection and sophistication.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Intro to Portraiture

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Old Man with a Black Hat and Gorget
Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn was a dutch artist who worked in the mid-1600s, from about 1625-1669. He was born into a family of millers who were determined to give their son a good education. Rembrandt attended University for a while until he decided to drop out in pursuit of an artistic career. He studied art with two art masters, before returning to his hometown of Leiden, where he celebritized and gained many pupils. In 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam and continued to paint. He benefitted from his marriage to Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a successful art dealer who gave him many wealthy clients. As well as working on paintings commissioned by patrons, he also did many religious and mythical works. While Rembrandt's artistic career was excelling, his personal life was deteriorating. His wife and three of his children died in the period from 1635-1642. He struggled to pay the taxes for his large Amsterdam house and had to eventual sell it. Afterward, he would declare bankruptcy and have to auction off many of his household things. Despite this, it was in this period of his life that Rembrandt produced some of his best work. Some of these paintings were The Syndics of the Cloth Guild and The Jewish Bride and Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph. Rembrandt died on October 4th, 1669.

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Americans Who Tell the Truth
Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly is a current artist who has been creating artwork since 1970. He was born in Ohio in 1946. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature, but drawing classes he had taken at the school convinced him to become an artist. In 1970 he moved to Maine and began teaching himself how to draw, paint, and print-make. He did lots of illustrations, including the editorial page drawings for The Maine Times newspaper and pictures for a children’s Audubon newspaper. He also made many paintings and prints, including his famous Speaking Fire at Stones, a collection of drawings and etches. Generally, his paintings are known for being “narrative and surreal.”In addition to all of this, Shetterly also created Americans Who Tell the Truth, a portrait series featuring Americans famous for their persistence, defiance, and dedication to making the truth heard. This portrait series has been traveling around the country, exhibiting at many different venues. In addition to being an artist, Shetterly is also a very politically and globally active figure.

Linda Nochlin and Daisy
Alice Neel

Alice Neel was a famous American oil painter who worked from the late 1920s to around 1980. She was born on January 28, 1900, in Pennsylvania. There is a historical dispute whether her father’s family owned a steamship company or were opera singers. After graduating from high school, Neel took a business course. In 1918 she became a secretary working for the Army Air Corps. At the same time, she took evening art classes at the School of Industrial Art. Deciding it was something she wanted to focus on, Neel enrolled in a Fine Arts program at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Afterward, she started her artistic career. Neel is best known for her impressionistic portraits which featured her family, friends, and lovers. The loss of her one-year-old daughter in 1927 led her to explore the themes of motherhood, loss, and anxiety in her paintings.

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Madame X
John Signer Sargent

John Singer Sargent was an artist who worked from the late 1970s to around 1920. He was the son of an American doctor but spent most of his life in Europe. He was born in 1856 in Florence, Italy. At the beginning of his artistic career, he lived in Italy and France, studying painting. He settled in Paris, where he painted portraits and submitted some to the Salon. The ones he submitted received great feedback from critics, boosting his career. Everything seemed to be going well for Sargent until he submitted the portrait Madame X to the Salon. People complained of it being erotic and the scandal resulted in Sargent moving to England, something he had been considering. His name was already known there because of the works he had been submitting to the Royal Academy. Sargent worked out of England for the rest of his life. He took many commissions for portraits. He also traveled to America very frequently, exhibiting his work. In his later years, Sargent turned away from portraits and did many watercolors of landscapes and exotic people. He died on April 14, 1925.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Still Life Drawing


  • To create a still-life drawing that demonstrates understanding of drawing in perspective, along with using a variety of mark-making techniques to describe form;
  • To understand value by creating a good range of values to help make the objects appear 3D;
  • To demonstrate quality craftsmanship and good composition skills in a drawing.

A challenge that I faced on this drawing, and have faced in art in general, was drawing the objects in proportion to one another. Sometimes I would draw an object and it would look good, but be way too small or too large compared to the objects around it. Other times I struggled with accurately drawing the dimensions of an object. For instance, making the length of a milk carton not the right size relative to the height. One thing that helped me with this was the pencil trick. It was also helpful that we did a lot of similar practice contour drawings before. Another thing that challenged me was drawing ellipse. A few of the objects that composed the still life were tube-like shapes. When the tube openings were angled away in a direction, or sometimes multiple directions, I found them difficult to draw. Often, the result would be an awkward-looking shape that looked like half of it was angled one way, and half the other. Overall, I found the contour drawing for this study more difficult than shading. That being said I think I am improving at contour drawings.

I am most proud of my shading. I think I did a good job adding values to help make the drawing look 3D. I also think I used a wide range of values. I didn’t make the drawing too dark, which ended up working well because I didn’t have to outline any shapes. Another thing I am proud of is my mark making. In Art Fundamentals there was a similar project, and one of my biggest regrets was not using a specific type of mark. That is why this time I decided to do cross-hatching. I haven’t tried  cross-hatching on an entire drawing before, but I think I ended up being successful. For circle-like shapes I would also lightly go over with lines curved in that direction to make them look more convincing, and for the background I did hatching.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Art Movement, Realism

"The Stone Breakers"  Gustave Courbet   1849-1850
"Bad Boy Bill"   Hollis Dunlap   2015
Realism is an art movement that started in France in the 1840s. It was never a formal group, but a new idea of art that swept up artists and consumers in the middle and late 19th century. Surrounded by the excitement and chaos of the stirring French Revolution and other social changes, Realist painters turned away from the ideal depiction of life and became content on showing it how it really was. They portrayed their surroundings in a lifelike matter, leading to unappealing, and sometimes even ugly paintings. They showed the many changes that were going on at the time and the effect of those changes on society. Even though the wealthy patriarchs were often the people buying artwork, realist painters often challenged the upper-class lifestyle in their paintings. This new openness to the fact that everybody and everything can be art is the foundation for modern art. The realism movement lasted from about 1840-1880.
Looking at contemporary artists who paint in the realist style, I enjoyed the paintings of Hollis Dunlap. One painting of hers that I liked in particular was Bad Boy Bill. This painting is similar to The Stone Beakers, a painting by famous realist artist Gustave Courbet, in many ways. First of all, both paintings have subjects that are not idealistically portrayed. They look like they have been taken out of real life and are real people. Instead of focusing on a perfect person and/or landscape, the paintings attempt to show life as it really is, choosing the elderly and workers on a rocky, barren mountain over kings and queens or the rich. Both paintings use rustic, earthy palettes - no bright, vibrant, colors. A difference between the two paintings is the texture. The large brushstrokes of Hollis Dunlap's painting make it seem flowy and dynamic. The sharp, tiny brush strokes of Gustave Courbet's painting makes it clear and intricate. Although I think both paintings are great works of art, I prefer Hollis's painting because of its texture. It is generally more aesthetically pleasing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


One aspect of the Mandala that I found interesting is that it is used to symbolize the interconnectedness of all living things. This idea proposes that the world extends infinitely beyond our bodies and minds, but we are all unified. I have seen mandalas before but never looked at them in this philosophical way. Another aspect that I found interesting about mandalas is that they are used in many different cultures and religions. I knew that Buddhists created them, but I didn't know that Native Americans, the Aztecs, Taoists, and Hildegard von Bingen (a Christian nun) also used these circle based designs. Lastly, I was fascinated by how the Tibetan Buddhist monks used mandalas to show impermanence. These monks create beautiful, intricate, mandalas out of colored sand. This process takes days and is seen as meditative. When they have finished, they sweep their newly created mandala into a jar in a colorful ceremony and dump it into a river as a blessing. This process of creation and destruction helps the monks internalize that all things will come to an end eventually.