Technique Tuesday: Movement

Let’s get back to some Technique Tuesday posts! This week, we’ve decided to tackle movement. Though this isn’t really a “technique,” it’s an aspect of art that many artists incorporate into their works and we thought we should talk a little about it!

What is it?

Movement is the way in which a piece can express a fluid motion or the possibility of it. It can be achieved in many ways, from the portrayal of a subject performing an activity to the distortion of the atmosphere within a scene. I would say that it’s easier to demonstrate action within figurative works in comparison to still lifes and landscapes, though these genres certainly can contain movement.

Depth, perspective, and painted strokes all have influence on whether a piece has movement, too. For example, the amalgamation of stroke marks aimed in a similar direction can express movement. The other two spatial factors, depth and perspective, are the means through which movement is possible. Space allows for dynamism and maneuverability of the subject, hence its affect upon a piece’s movement. What’s interesting is that it could also be stated in the reverse – that movement alludes to spatial depth.

Examples in art history:

Though movement can be traced throughout all of art history, I would just like to point out notable works that have this technique. As stated earlier, painted strokes, like those presented in Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” can create the allusion of motion. Here, the grouping of multiple painted strokes in a similar direction illustrates the movement of the wind, clouds, and night sky.

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Vincent van Gogh, “Starry Night,” 1889

Another aspect that can allude to movement, specifically in figurative works, is the positioning of the human body. In ancient Greek, the concept of readjusting the body from a flat, stagnant position to a more dynamic posture became known as contrapposto. It is particularly defined as a relaxed stance where the body’s weight is shifted to one side, causing the shoulders and hips to drop on alternating sides. Not only did this make the work more realistic, but it added liveliness and dimension – key aspects of movement. Displayed below is the artistic development of contrapposto as demonstrated through sculpture, beginning with the ancient Egyptian “King Menkaure and his Queen,” then the archaic Greek “Kritios Boy,” and ending with a classical Greek athlete.

contrapposto

Each sculpture is significant in art history for they represent a culture’s perspective of ideals through contemporary craftsmanship. The progression seen above also presents a culture’s understanding of anatomical mobility and how to express it through rigid materials, like stone and marble. From the illustration above, it is evident that figurative movement was not only an artistic technique that improved through time, but that figurative movement was specifically achieved through the forward placement of the subject’s foot to a more realistic posture of contrapposto.

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Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2,” 1912

Jumping thousands of years ahead, movement later became a technique that was constantly manipulated from realism into abstraction. Modern artists, especially within the early 20th century, had analyzed ways in which to distort forms and generate them into familiar, abstract compositions – think along the lines of Picasso and cubism! One such example of this technique’s tranformation into abstraction is seen in Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.” Here, Duchamp used overlapping shapes and swift, downward strokes to notion the idea of a nude descending a staircase. The overlapping shapes also help define the figure’s movement and the pictorial depth – the space is not flat and two-dimensional, though the figure may seem to lay flat. If you look closely, the nude also seems to sashay down due to the different shapes’ placements, alluding to the classic contrapposto position and thus movement. I would also like to note that this piece visually relates to a series in that it uses the concept of time as well as multiple frames or individualized steps to express a subject’s progression. All of these factors, the overlapping shapes to the figure’s posture, demonstrate movement.

 

Another great modern art example is Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.” Compared to the classical sculptures above, the artist integrated abstract concepts of movement similar to that seen in Duchamp’s work. The continuous, smooth planes of the figure’s arms and legs give the allusion that the subject is swiftly running through space. Like Duchamp’s piece, you can visualize the separate, individual motions though they are combined in one gesture. Moreover, the bronze material provides this fluidity of motion where the classical sculptures’ materials could not.

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Umberto Boccioni, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” 1913

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Again, many works displayed within the gallery employ this technique, but there are a few that I would like to specifically point out due to their relevance to the topics discussed earlier. Greatly inspired by classicism, it is only fitting to mention Robert Liberace in this post. He consistently creates figurative works that display a subject in motion or who appear to be in motion. Some notable paintings are “Study in Motion,” his “Metamorphosis” series, as well as “Ferryman.” Liberace is successful in portraying movement by using techniques reminiscent of classical works, such as contrapposto as well as pentimenti (traces of the original stroke marks). More specifically, pentimenti is the means through which the artist displays the figure’s previous motions.

Come see Robert Liberace’s mastery of the classics and this technique at his upcoming solo exhibition and painting demonstration on August 18th! Make sure to also check out our website for new arrivals, other events, and all of our available inventory. Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Principle Gallery’s 23rd Anniversary

We are happy to celebrate another year here in Old Town Alexandria! So far, Principle Gallery has been a part of the Alexandrian community for 23 years now. April 4th marked another year of business for us, and to celebrate, we wanted to have a walk down memory lane of good times passed!

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In 1994, Michele Ward, current Principle Gallery owner, had decided to open up the gallery on Cameron Street a few blocks away from where we are now. Years later, the gallery moved to its current location on King Street, otherwise known as the historic Gilpin House. To read a little about the history behind the building and its transformation over time, follow this link here!

With over 2,000 square feet of space under a beautiful skylight, the King Street location is an ideal spot to display gorgeous art in a naturally lit, large space. The domestic interior with its mantles and chandeliers also provides a unique, familiar decor, unlike the typical white cube commonly seen in other galleries. We love sharing this space with artists around the world and welcoming our guests into our “home-like” gallery.

We would like to take the time to specifically thank all of you who have continuously supported us throughout all these years! It is such a pleasure and great honor to open our doors everyday to share our love for art with you.

Thank you!

Technique Tuesday: Unblended Brushstrokes & Planes of Color

What is it?

Happy Tuesday! This week we’re looking at a style of painting in which depth, roundness, changing values, and changing colors are depicted using separate, unblended brushstrokes. If that still doesn’t sound very clear, no worries, let’s look at a visual example! Here are details from two paintings from our current (FANTASTIC!) exhibition, “Graceful Subtleties,” side by side:

(left) detail from Louise Fenne’s “Sisters”; (right) detail from Jussi Pöyhönen’s “Coconuts”

Take a moment and observe the two different ways in which these artists used the paint to describe rounded forms. Louise’s brushstrokes are blended beautifully and give a soft and even slightly blurred appearance to the roundness of the young woman’s face and shoulder, and to the body of the little bird. The colors, values, and brushstrokes are blended seamlessly, one into another, and present a more true-to-life three dimensional effect. Now look at the contrast between that and the roundness of Jussi’s coconuts. Jussi’s brushstrokes are decidedly more defined, and rather than blending seamlessly, the different colors and values present as separate brushstrokes, and visually as separate planes. It creates a fascinating three dimensional effect, that is less strictly realistic and more painterly, and serves to create a glittering effect of light on these forms. It is this unblended, planar approach to describing form with brushstrokes that we’re going to take a look at today.

Examples from art history:

For a long time, during the leap forward in realistic painting seen during the Renaissance and through many centuries after, the academic standard in painting was a detailed, fully blended, fully rendered depiction of form. This is why, during the emergence of Impressionism in the 19th century, the effect of separated, unblended brushstrokes and the focus on separated planes of color was so jarring, and at first, frowned upon. Perhaps anything less than  the academic standard to which critics were accustomed at first appeared primitive and lacking in artistic merit– but the innovation and brilliance of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist style did not take long to win many over, and today is still a popular favorite among art lovers. There is an energy in this type of painting, a glittering play of light and exaggeration of form that is visually very appealing. Furthermore, the paint itself becomes a theme of the work, rather than solely the subject which the paint depicts. One begins to see the beauty beyond the image portrayed, and finds it also in the simple application and texture of the paint strokes themselves. Some of the most notable innovators of this technique include Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh, and some excellent examples can be seen here:

top row: (left) Henri Matisse, “Derain”; (middle) Paul Cezanne, “Mount St. Victoire”; (right) Vincent Van Gogh, “The Large Plane Trees” bottom row: (left) Paul Cezanne, “Still Life with Seven Apples”; Paul Cezanne, “Portrait of Victor Choquet”

As a fun side note, the separation of rounded forms into more geometric planes, particularly in Cezanne’s work, also gives us an exciting glimpse at an art historical movement still to come in the early 20th century, Cubism! Playing with paint in this new way truly opened up the minds of so many artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, and of this century as well!

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Many artists that we show  here at Principle Gallery make use of this technique of unblended brushstrokes and planes of color, some in more subtle ways, and some in more obvious ways. Jussi Pöyhönen and Paula Rubino, however, are two of the most striking examples, and their works featured in the current Graceful Subtleties exhibition are excellent samples of how lovely the effect of this technique can be. Take a look below, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the entire exhibition on our website here!

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Coconuts”

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Jasmine”

Jussi Pöyhönen, “Tomatillos”

Paula Rubino, “Laji”

Paula Rubino, “Summer Clouds”

Paula Rubino, “Universal Pleasures I”

Technique Tuesday: Etching

Technique Tuesday: Etching

Another Tuesday, another technique! With our upcoming Friday exhibition Graceful Subtleties displaying works inspired by the Old Masters, we thought it only fitting to touch on a technique prevalent during the Renaissance era – etching.

What is it?

Commonly considered as a method of printmaking, etching is the process in which an acid or mortant is used to carve into a metallic material, such as copper, zinc, or steel. More specifically, etching is a form of intaglio, an ancient Italian method where a design is incised into a surface and the resulting depressions then hold a wet medium. To put it in perspective, intalgio is the opposite of relief printmaking. Remember covering a coin with paper and coloring over it to see its impression? That’s relief printmaking in the simplest of forms!

Now back to etching! Usually the metal is primed with a wax material, or “ground,” that acid cannot disintegrate. From there, the artist creates a design with an etching needle or a concaved, scooping utensil called an echoppe. After the image is made satisfactory, the metal is dipped into an acidic solution and dissolves, deepening the incised lines and cuts. The remaining ground material is wiped away, revealing the ultimate design. Ink or another wet medium is then poured into the depressions of the metal; thereafter, paper is placed on top of the metal plate and pressed together typically by a high-pressure printing press. The result is an ink design on paper that can be replicated a number of times without any variation in design.

Examples in art history:

There is much debate on where and when etching exactly originated. This technique is said to have been brought about when the Italians, and later Germans, began to create intricate designs on their armor during the Middle Ages. However, the majority believe Daniel Hopfer to be the original discoverer of etching placed on paper in the 1500s, having been inspired earlier by Johannes Gutenburg’s printing press in the 1450s. Later, it became a form of craftsmanship for blacksmiths and other artists whose work revolved around collectible, refined houseware, like fine silverware.

Typically when you think of engraving and art history, Albrecht Durer is the first artist to pop in your head. Though he is deeply associated with engraving and other printmaking methods, there are many other Old Masters who specifically practiced etching as opposed to engraving. For example, Rembrandt produced etchings, often times  for self-portraits. Other examples include Leonardo da Vinci and Antonio Pollaiuolo, whose work titled “Battle of the Nude Men,” you may recognize.

 

Another prominent figure to have produced etchings is the Spanish Romantic artist, Francisco Goya, who is considered to be the last Old Master. The most notable work of his is “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” where he has visually translated a dream symbolizing his frustration and torment of Spanish society. Below is his prepatory drawing alongside his ultimate etching.

 

Examples at Principle Gallery:

On the rare occassion, Principle Gallery has the pleasure of displaying works on paper, and lately, they so happen to be etchings! Paula Rubino and Charles Weed both have dipped into this technique in such a masterful way that we highly encourage you to view their works in person. For our upcoming show Graceful Subtleties, Charles Weed has prepared an etching titled “Man in Profile,” which features a style similar to those of the Old Masters’.

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Charles Weed, “Man in Profile,” 3×3, etching on paper

Now that you have an understanding of etching, come apply your newly acquired knowledge to the pieces at the show this Friday at 6:30PM! All are welcome and free to enjoy the art, fine refreshments, and hors d’oeuvres. Feel free to contact the gallery if you would like any more information regarding the show, our artists, or their works!

Technique Tuesdays: Series

Technique Tuesdays: Series

You may have noticed that many artists produce multiple works of the same composition and subject. Of course, this redundancy is not by accident! Artists create works of similar nature to practice and improve upon a subject as well as to illustrate how individual pieces can be combined to make a whole. Each of these examples contribute to the various definitions of a series or serial works.

What is it?

As mentioned above, a series can mean different things in the art world. One definition refers to a theme that an artist consistently integrates into his/her work over a period of time. For example, an artist paints a certain number of pieces with the notable inclusion of a blue bird, ultimately becoming said artist’s “Blue Bird Series.” This is beneficial for the artist, for it offers an opportunity for him to perfect his practice and establishes a distinguishable artistic feature associated to only himself.

Another form of serial works is the assembly of multiple, individual pieces to create a whole masterpiece. Though they are individual pieces, in order for the work to be considered serial, there must be a similar aspect between each piece, such as shape or theme. Often times, the similarities between these different units contribute to achieving gestalt. Gestalt is a German philosophy where the conglomeration of individual parts accomplish a sense of totality, completeness, or one-ness. There is also a supplemental notion that implies that an individual piece is a work within itself; however, without that specific work, the greater/larger piece could not be achieved or be as successful. Essentially, there can be works within a work.

Examples in art history:

The first artist to come to mind when discussing series is Claude Monet. Though famous for his Impressionist style, Monet was arguably recognized by his serial paintings of the Rouen Cathedral and haystacks, documenting light’s intensity and varying color shifts upon these objects. By aligning these separate pieces together, it is evident that Monet was trying to demonstrate the effect of light upon color throughout the day and capture the transition of time through light. But, as soon as one piece is presented by itself, this effect is lost and merely represents an Impressionistic image of a cathedral.

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Claude Monet, “Rouen Cathedral Portal,” oil series

Since Monet, countless artists have been inspired to incorporate serial aspects into their works in modern, contemporary ways. Jan Dibbets’ work, for example, exemplifies a series directly inspired by Monet. His photographic series, “Tides,” illustrates the approaching tide upon a tire’s track through time. Very similar to Monet, Dibbets attempts to display the transition of time through a number of individual parts. Again, without one piece, the concept of time could not be accomplished or translated well.

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“Tides,” Jan Dibbets, black and white photography

As time passed, artists began to refer back to the idea of the gestalt and heavily rely upon it. During the Minimalist movement in the late 1960’s, artists, like Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, produced serial light installations that incorporated gestalt. Typically, they would create separate, geometric light fixtures that laid in linear paths, ultimately alluding to a connected, completed work. They used the core concepts of minimalism to demonstrate the basic idea of gestalt.

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“Untitled,” Dan Flavin, light installation

Examples at Principle Gallery:

A Principle Gallery artist who utilizes the thematic, serial concept is G.C. Myers. Mostly known for his red trees and chairs situated in vibrant, desolate landscapes, Gary has also delved into painting a series concerned with archaeology. Though the “Archaeology Series” still depicts his distinct red trees, these works mainly reflect an archaeological theme and thus categorizes them into a series.

Other artists who produce series are Lynn Boggess and Jeff Erickson, though their intentions are more relatable to our second definition of series. To begin with, Lynn Boggess parallels Monet’s ideas of capturing a transition. In each plein air piece, Boggess paints a landscape during a certain season and titles the work based upon the date it was completed. Therefore, the artist’s whole oeuvre is a display of seasonal changes through the compilation of sequential nature scenes. As for Jeff Erickson‘s work, his art relates more so to the notion of gestalt. “Wetlands,” in particular, is a three panel piece that is intended to be displayed as one whole. Commonly known as a triptych, this composition style along with diptychs (two panels) demonstrates gestalt’s “parts to a whole” and “all or nothing” concepts.

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Jeff Erickson, “Wetlands,” oil and wax on panel triptych

 

For more information regarding Principle Gallery artists and their work, please feel free to contact the gallery! Also, remember to mark your calendars for April 7th for our upcoming group exhibition, “Graceful Subtleties,” featuring Louise Fenne, Jussi Poyhonen, Paula Rubino, and Charles Weed.

Technique Tuesday: Glazing

What is it?

The term “glazing” when applied to paint refers to the play of colors and luminosity built up through applying thin, transparent layers of paint over an opaque layer of a different color. This is done with the use of a suitable type of paint (not all paint colors can be easily manipulated to glaze with, but anything with “lake” in the paint name is a good bet!) and the addition of a glazing medium to thin the paint and help with transparency. It’s a simple concept, the idea of a transparent overlay of color over an opaque layer, but it takes a lot of practice and care to ensure that the right effect comes across in actual practice of the technique. If an artist can get it right, however, it adds a gorgeous depth and sense of the movement of light within the colors of a painting. We often see this effect of transparent color overlay in real life by observing light through a colored glass, like a stained glass window or the “rose colored glasses” of the old familiar idiom– it has a lovely resulting depth and brilliance!

Examples from art history:

Glazing used to be used sometimes out of necessity in addition to being used for its visually appealing effect. For instance, back when many artists did not have access to certain brilliant colors of paint pigment– often strong greens, purples, and oranges– they achieved the color by glazing one color over another so as to optically, rather than physically, blend them. Many artists throughout history (as well as many currently practicing artists) also apply these thin glazes of color over a base that is entirely painted in grays (called “grisaille”) or browns (called “bistre”) so as to add a depth unachievable from applying opaque layers of paint alone.

Johannes Vermeer’s exquisite paintings contain many classic examples of glazing. See here below, on the left the reconstruction of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Red Hat” shows some of the initial layers that would have been painted, upon which Vermeer would then apply transparent glazes to deepen and darken to his liking. You can observe the brilliance in hues and the effect of light pouring through that this creates on the finished work, also shown just to the right. Also shown here is a detail from another painting, “The Milkmaid,” in which Vermeer’s technique of glazing a transparent yellow layer over the blue layer underneath creates a unique green effect in the middle area of the fabric of the milkmaid’s sleeves:

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Two years ago, we discussed the 2015 Kevin Fitzgerald Solo Exhibition in a Technique Tuesday post when we addressed another type of layering effect in paint, known as “scumbling” or “dry brush.” Basically, this indicates that the top layer of paint is an opaque layer, and not a transparent, thinned layer as with glazing, which creates a different affect, more hazy and blurred and well-suited to Kevin’s frequent depictions of clouds, treelines, and ocean waves. To read more about it, check out the older post, here!

But the glazing technique is also highly prevalent in Kevin’s work, and is one of many ways that Kevin achieves the amazing effects of light, depth, and atmosphere in his peaceful, hazy landscapes. Take a look at each of the images below and try to pinpoint areas where Kevin applied transparent layers to add depth, color shifts, and luminosity (as well as those opaque, “scumbled” areas!)! And to take a look at the whole exhibition in person, stop by the gallery or visit Kevin’s page on our website here!

“Ocean Joy”

“Inlet Daybreak”

“October Light”

“Ocean Dawn”

Technique Tuesday: Color Theory Pt. II

Technique Tuesday: Color Theory Pt. II

As promised last Tuesday, we are going to continue our discussion on color theory. Apart from how they interact with one another, colors have the capability to attract a viewer due to their emotional and psychological effects. From how they are paired together to where they are placed in the picture space, this artistic attribute is more powerful than you would think. So without further ado, here’s color theory part two!

 

What is it?

To have a recap on color theory, follow this link to be brought to our explanation from last week! As mentioned in the previous post, colors can be categorized as either warm or cool by splitting the color wheel down the middle – warm colors on the right, with cool colors on the left.

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One of color’s functions within an artwork is to define spatial depth. Warmer colors tend to propel forward in space, whereas cooler colors rest in the background. The placement of these colors can intensify a composition and draw a viewer’s attention to certain aspects. For example, works that employ a monochromatic color scheme – one hue with the addition of black and white – have the opportunity to apply a focus point.

In cases like Geoffrey Johnson‘s paintings where Impressionistic black figures appear before golden cityscapes, there is an establishment of space as well as an increased focus on the figures due to the color juxtaposition. What makes Johnson’s work so interesting – and also successful – is that he redefines warmer and cooler colors. The warm golden colors, as seen in his studies below, remain in the background while black protrudes to the foreground. He accomplishes a familiar cityscape with anonymous individuals by using an atypical technique – the reversal of colors’ roles.

 

Colors not only contribute to how a work presents spatial depth, but they also affect your mood and the ambience of a piece.Without going into too much scientific detail, a color’s wavelength and how it is received into the eye can impact our emotions. Those with the shortest wavelengths, such as purple, blue, and green, tend to evoke tranquil feelings, while colors with longer wavelengths cause irritation. Studies have shown that the reason behind this behavior is due to how a color can strain our vision, i.e. the shorter the color’s wavelength, the lesser amount of stress caused upon us to perceive that color. For instance, yellow has one of the longest wavelengths, straining our visual reception of it and causing anxiety.

 

Examples in Art History:

One of the most renowned artists who incorporated color psychology in his works is Mark Rothko, a modern, abstract expressionist painter. Wanting his viewers to become immersed in color and feel their effects, Rothko painted large, wall-lengthed canvases of highly saturated, vibrant colors in rectangular forms. He would typically paint large blocks of similar hues upon one another to illustrate intense color pairings and their visual tension or contrast. The intention behind this composition was to have the viewer become engulfed in the purity of the painted hues, such that they have an emotional experience.

 

“I want to express basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom…The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”   –Mark Rothko

If you wander through a Mark Rothko exhibit at the Phillips Collection or another modern art gallery, you’ll notice the pieces hang lower to the ground and are typically in more confined spaces. This curatorial decision was chosen by Rothko, for this was how he both envisioned and painted his works. You’ll also notice that in comparison to other artworks you’re allowed to be closer to the paintings- 6 to 8 inches actually. Again, this is purposeful and necessary to manifest an artistic, emotional experience with the piece. It was Rothko’s trademark to create such an emotional effect on his viewers through visual perception.

 

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Arguably, Principle Gallery artist, Kevin Fitzgerald, employs color psychology in his abstract, landscape paintings. Though not an abstract expressoinist like Rothko, Kevin’s work still evokes emotional experiences in a different abstract technique called tonalism. This method of painting revolves around using a color’s middle value, as opposed to its heavily saturated hues, to create an atmospheric, soft haze (check out this link for a more in-depth explanation). Similar to Rothko’s paintings, the combination of colors in Kevin’s work can influence a viewer’s emotional state as well. Due to his application of tonalism, Kevin’s landscape paintings successfully impact the viewer in a tranquil, therapeutic sense.

 

To experience such a moving opportunity, we invite you to see Kevin Fitzgerald’s beautiful works at his annual solo exhibition this Friday! Principle Gallery is holding an opening reception starting at 6:30PM that is free and open to the public. We hope you are able to come and engage with his works with your newly acquired knowledge of color theory!