The invention of the camera was both a curse and a blessing to the art world. It was a curse at first because artists had to find other reasons to paint in order to make up for some of the market taken by photographers. That effort to find new direction was one of the springboards for the art for art’s sake and the self-expression movements in modern art.
Before long, however, artists began to find ways to actually exploit the medium of photography. For example, the Hyper-Realists of the twentieth century used cameras to create extremely realistic paintings that would have been impossible before due to constantly changing highlights, shadows and reflections.
When slide projectors and overheads were invented, artists were able to project their subjects directly onto the canvas and produce super accurate drawings. (Some traditionalists disapprove of this practice, but the use of a projection device by professional artists was not unprecedented. For example art historians believe that the great eighteenth century scene painter Giovanni Canalleto used a camera obscura to project his cityscapes onto his canvases. The accuracy of his paintings are considered to be extremely valuable to cities like Dresden Germany which suffered so much destruction in World War II).
Cameras also provide a convenient source of subject matter. Today’s artists don’t even have to wait for pictures to be developed before using them. We can work directly from the screens of phones, tablets and laptops. The pictures above and below are examples. They were drawn from the screen of a smart phone.
The duck painting in the previous ART BYTE, was based on the work of early twentieth century abstract artist Paul Klee. He was such a great experimenter that I decided to do at least one more duck in his honor. This one explores one of his later techniques in which he blended colors together in blocks or free form shapes and then drew black lines on top. These lines were often symbolic in nature reflecting his fascination with mysticism and the subconscious mind.
Klee also liked to experiment with different materials. In some of these particular paintings he used burlap as a ground. He glued a layer of paper over his burlap but I just coated mine with gesso and painted directly onto it. Unfortunately, this left a lot of tiny little pin pricks of white in the spaces between the woven fibers. I had to go back and paint these individually with a tiny little brush. To solve this problem I tried beginning Symbolic Duck 2 with a brown wash, but even this left some of the white board underneath the burlap showing through. Lesson learned: when painting on burlap be prepared to do some extra preparation.
Below are two of Paul Klee’s more colorful symbolic paintings. Some of his later works are very dark reflecting his personal suffering. He had lost his peers, August Mack and Franz Marc in WWI. By 1935 his health was failing due to a degenerative disease. The Nazis singled him out as a Jew, the Gestapo searched his house, got him fired from his teaching job at Düsseldorf Academy, and confiscated some of his later work.
Paul Klee, Heroic Roses, 1938
Paul Klee, Flora on Rocks Sun, 1940
At his death in 1940 he had completed 9000 works of art.You can see about 200 of them WikiArt.org. You can also find a number of boards dedicated to his work, including some lesson plans for kids, on Pinterest.
The second painting in my duck series was inspired by Paul Klee whose artistic experimentation had a great deal influence on early abstract art. He was also a gifted musician, and in the 1930’s he borrowed the musical term polyphonic to describe his compositions of layered forms and colors. Polyphonic Duck is modeled after this approach, which superimposed mosaic-like grids of squares or dots over a painting.
I was inspired to do this painting by a prompt in a book called Paint Lab by Deborah Forman. The picture space in the author’s example was broken up with curved lines similar to the ones in Polyphonic Duck. I did a similar thing but also included Walter the duck, which created a focal point and added an additional layer to the composition.
This was actually the painting that inspired me to do a series of duck paintings in the styles of some different artists.
Many of Paul Klee’s works can be seen on sites like WikiArt.org and Pinterest. Ad Parnassum, one of my personal favorites, is considered by some to be his masterpiece.
Artists get inspiration from different sources , including the work of other artists. The subject of my next series of paintings will be a Pekin duck painted in the styles of some famous artists. Walter (pictured below) was adopted from a university lab, lived a cushy life in my back yard and will now be immortalized in paint.
My first portrayal of Walter Duck is in the style of Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein. He became famous in the 1960’s for his DC Comics inspired paintings. His process was to crop the part of the comic he wanted, render it in Ben-Day Dots and add speech and thought bubbles containing tongue-in-cheek humor. His most iconic work is Drowning Girl which you can see at the Museum of Modern in New York (or you can just click on the title and take a look at it.)
It was fairly easy to put Walter into a comic book design but impossible to paint the little round dots perfectly. Lichtenstein used stencils. I traced my dots through the perforated surface of a rolling cart, and then painted them one by one. Good thing for me this was only 5″ x 7″.
Here are the last two mushroom paintings I did while on vacation with the kiddies. The big red cap in Mushrooms 1 was a challenge because of the little white dots on the top. These had to be left unpainted. Some masking fluid would have come in handy here but I didn’t have any with me. (Confession: I’ve actually never tried masking fluid.)
Mushrooms 2 is the final in this series and, in my opinion, the best.
Like the first 4 mushroom paintings, these were done from copyright free photos I found on Pixabay.
In the previous post I showed the first two in a series of paintings of mushrooms. Those were done with watercolor crayons. However, I felt that the texture of the paper was too rough for the crayons, and since I didn’t have any smoother paper with me I decided to do the next ones with some regular water color paints.
Since the texture of the paper doesn’t stand out so much on these, they look more natural than the first two in spite of their unusual colors. Mushroom 4′ s color is a bit exaggerated but Mushroom 3 is actually that color of blue.
The models for these mushrooms came from a copyright free image site called Pixabay.
Recently I decided to try out some watercolor crayons I’d bought for my grandchildren. I had in mind to use some bold colors and make a really bright and cheery mushroom. Mushroom 1 above is the result. It looks kind of like a child’s drawing which could be the result of making art with children – or – it could be the medium.
So for Mushroom 2 below, I tried using local color for a more natural look but I didn’t like the texture created by the watercolor crayons on the rough paper.
Both of these paintings were done from the same mushroom photo which I found on a copyright free site called Pixabay. I highly recommend it as a resource for images.
This portrait was an exercise in expressive color. It was done from an old black and white photo which is good to work from if you want to experiment with color.
Expressive color is also known as arbitrary color. It’s not meant to be realistic – which is local color – but colors are chosen for their emotional or aesthetic qualities.
The art movement in which expressive color first appeared in full force was Fauvism. Artists of the time – late 19th and early 20th centuries – were already moving away from the Renaissance notion of painting realistic spacial depth. The Fauves (French for “wild beasts”) took it a step further and eliminated realistic color in favor of expressionistic color. Click here to see a famous portrait by the movement’s leader, Henri Matisse.
These are the final zinnias in this series. Like the one in the previous post, the top one’s concentric rows of petals get darker in value as they progress outward. The rows in the bottom one do the opposite, getting darker toward the center.
Neither of these are painted from actual models. After painting the blooms over and over I’ve gotten familiar enough with them to take some liberties and experiment a bit.
Today’s zinnia is a burst of sunshine like its namesake, Madison. It’s painterly and textured like the ones in the previous post. Also like Zinnia 8 “Jo”, this one has multiple rows of petals that change in value as they go outward. The rest of the zinnia studies will be like this.