Technique Tuesday: Surrealism

What is it?

Today we’re covering a fun topic that we’ve touched on somewhat before: Surrealism! Surrealism is an artistic and cultural movement that originated in Paris in the 1920’s, and established a genre that artists are still exploring today. The art historical movements of the early twentieth century are truly fascinating, but as this is just a blog post, I’ll do my best to give a brief explanation of Surrealism’s nascence. Following the first World War, an especially brutal experience for many countries around the world, a generation of both civilians and former soldiers were left disillusioned and emotionally scarred. Reality, which art had for so long sought after so desperately, was suddenly quite painful, and the opportunity to step back from that and explore a different, more internal world appealed to many creatives during this time. The field of psychology was also rapidly growing, and the theories of famous psychologists like Sigmund Freud, such as notions of the subconscious mind and dream analysis, were becoming widely known. Several French artists and writers were inspired by the idea that the subconscious contained answers to fix the broken world around them, and that representation of these ideas, so different from reality, could jar society out of some of the long-held beliefs and structures that had led to such damage. Therefore, these writers and artists began to create bizarre, illogical scenes that evoked aspects of dreams and un-reality and elements such as odd juxtaposition, strange changes of scale, and elements of pure fantasy.

Examples from art history:

One of the names that comes to everyone’s mind when Surrealism is mentioned is Salvador Dalí. Dalí was an eccentric Spanish painter whose combination of excellent, classically-based draftsmanship and bizarre, unsettling imagery has had a lasting impact on artists even today. Below are a few of Dalí’s best-known Surrealist works:

(left to right) Salvador Dalí, “Swans Reflecting Elephants,” “Caravan,” “The Persistence of Memory”

Many other artists, including writers, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians took part in the Surrealist movement, but the work of the Surrealist painters is what has arguably made the most lasting cultural impact. Here are a few more examples from artists Max Ernst and Rene Magritte:

(left to right) Max Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness,” “The Elephant Celebes”; Rene Magritte, “The Lovers,” “Golconda”

While some Surrealist painters, like Ernst and Dalí, created images that were more fantastical, some, like Rene Magritte, painted oddly familiar, ordinary looking scenes that had a major twist to them, and often an unsettling one. This is one of the aims of Surrealism–to get you to think differently! For instance, we know that a mirror reflects what is in front of it, but what if that reality was twisted a bit? Well, this is a concept that has inspired some Principle Gallery artists, too!

(left) Rene Magritte, “Not to Be Reproduced”, (right) Louise Fenne, “Mirror Portrait No. 2”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

(left to right) Michele Kortbawi Wilk, “Who’s Afraid,” Laura E. Pritchett, “Projection,” Francis Livingston, “Mating Season”

Elements of Surrealism pop up in the work that we carry here at Principle Gallery, and it’s always a thrill to see the creativity these artists are expressing, as well as the reaction from the viewers. There are two artists who show primarily at our Charleston, South Carolina location who use elements of Surrealism quite often in their work– Karen Hollingsworth and Anna Wypych! Click any collage to see it larger!

(left to right) Karen Hollingsworth, “Depth,” “Voyagers,” “No Boundaries”

 

(left to right) Anna Wypych, “Sea Color,” “Steely Eyes,” “Giant Girl”

Check out these artists, and many more, on the website for Principle Gallery Charleston!

 

by Pamela Sommer

Advertisements

Technique Tuesday: Stylized Art

What is it?

Welcome back to Technique Tuesday! With the GC Myers “Truth and Belief” exhibition opening just a few days away, it’s the perfect time to take a look at stylization! Stylization is a technique that’s been around for a very, very long time. In 1979, The Great Soviet Dictionary provided an excellent definition of stylization, explaining it as “the decorative generalization of figures and objects by means of various conventional techniques, including the simplification of line, form, and relationships of space and color.” To look at it from a different perspective, stylization is a deliberate step away from mimesis, which is defined as the close mimicry of reality (in art, this is very generally referred to as “realism,” though that particular term has evolved and is rather nuanced). Rather than trying to represent the subject in a way that is close to reality, an artist can use stylization to create images that, while they contain recognizable subjects and forms, do so in a manner that places emphasis on the color, lines, and oftentimes the emotive qualities of the work.

Examples from art history:

Stylization is something that can be seen as far back as ancient cave paintings, as recognizable subjects were visually portrayed in a simplified manner. Part of this no doubt had to do with the fact that humanity was discovering the visual arts and experienced a learning curve over time when it came to more accurate mimicry of reality in drawing, painting, and sculpture. As time progressed, the goal for many artists became increased mimesis, and stylization began to slowly give way to more realism in art. We can see from the height of the Renaissance through the 19th century that artists took a great joy in creating highly realistic images and exploring the very accurate representation of architecture, human anatomy, natural plant life, etc. As Impressionism broke from academic tradition in the 19th century and brought a focus back to experimentation with colors and light, and stepped back from strict mimesis, it spurred a renewed interest in deliberate stylization and in using the portrayal of recognizable subjects as a platform in which to also revel in color, line, and shapes. Because of its accessibility (one need not necessarily go to school for art or train for years to create stylized art) and its celebration of line and color, stylization is frequently seen in street art and graffiti-style art, as in the case of the late 20th century artist Keith Haring.

(left to right) an example of ancient Peruvian pottery; Henri Matisse, “Chat aux Poissons Rouges”; Pablo Picasso, “Pitcher and Bowl of Fruit”; Gustav Klimt, “Tree of Life III”; Keith Haring, “Statue of Liberty”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

While we carry almost solely representational art here at Principle Gallery, it does certainly vary across the spectrum of mimesis. Some artists here are more stylized than others, but perhaps the most excellent example of stylization and its focus on line, form, and color here at the gallery is the work of GC Myers. GC’s work goes beyond representation of landscapes and adds an emotive quality to the subject and forms, as they portray imagined vistas and use symbolism to create feelings and messages in the artworks. If you keep up with the artist’s blog, over at redtreetimes.com,  you can often get a detailed insight right from the artist into the emotions and symbolism that infuse any given work of his, but the wonderful thing about his artwork is that it’s also something that can communicate on its own. Feelings of confusion, triumph, peace, frustration, joy, melancholy, and joy all make themselves known to the viewer purely through the interplay of lines, colors, and shapes in these landscapes. While these works come from a deeply personal place in the artist’s soul, one of the magical things about this art is that it also leaves so much space for interaction and interpretation from the viewer, independent of any verbal explanation from the artist.

We are thrilled to be opening an exhibition titled “Truth and Belief” this Friday, June 2nd, which will feature 55 incredible brand new paintings from GC Myers. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the beauties from this show, and if you’d like to see all of them, head over to our website, shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com, or better yet, join us to welcome the artist and celebrate the exhibition this Friday evening from 6:30-9 PM at Principle Gallery!

“Truth and Belief”

“Race the Light”

“With Sanction of the Moon”

“Seeking Truth”

“So Well Remembered”

 

by Pamela Sommer

Technique Tuesdays: Pointillism

Technique Tuesday PointillismWhat is it?

Pointillism is a painting technique that popped up in the late 1800’s as an off-shoot of Impressionism. Essentially, pointillism uses small, distinct dots or strokes of different colors in a pattern to form an image. This technique relies on the ability of the eye to blend the dots of color–it’s actually quite similar to the way that computer screens and printers use tiny pixels of just a few colors (most printers have just four inks, CMYK) and posititions them all just right so that our eye blends them and sees a smooth image with normal-looking colors. So instead of mixing colors on a palette, the artist presents dots on the canvas that we mix with our eyes. To give you a very basic idea, here’s a visual example:

Seurat detail

detail of a crop from Georges Seurat’s “La Parade de Cirque”

In the close-up detail on the left, you can see a wide variety of colors–yellow, orange, red, different shades of blue, and shades of green–but take a look at the upper left corner of the crop on the right. That’s where this close-up comes from. But, when we’re a bit further away, we see the dots begin to blend into a warm shade of green. And check out how blended everything becomes when we take another proverbial step back to look at the painting as a whole:

3716

Georges Seurat, “La Parade de Cirque”

Examples from art history:

Fun fact: when I (Pam) was in the eighth grade, my art teacher taught us our first art history mnemonic device with the rhyme “Seurat knew a lot about dots.” Yes, indeed he did! Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is probably one of the most well-known pointillist images ever:

A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884

Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the original pioneers of the use of pointillism, referring to it as Neo-Impressionism. “Pointillism” was actually a derisive word coined by art critics, but the connotation of the word is no longer mocking. Many artists began to experiment with this technique, including Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Maximilien Luce, among many others. Later, a group known as the Divisionists would tweak the idea by using larger, more square brushstrokes to create similar blended colors and patterns.

AH Collage

(left) Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait; (middle) Paul Signac, “Le Clipper, Asnieres”; (right) Camille Pissarro, “Apple Picking at Eragny-sur-Epte”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Several artists that we represent here at Principle Gallery occasionally dabble in pointillism in their works (check out the work of Mia Bergeron and Colin Fraser!), but one artist springs to mind in particular, with his classical and frequent use of the technique. GC Myers, whose annual solo exhibition opens THIS FRIDAY, has a knack for using pointillism to create a lovely and magical effect in the skies of many of his colorful landscapes. The dappled effect can give a sense of starlight, the glow of a sunset, the sparkle of bright sunshine, or sometimes just pure, magical texture.

The whole exhibition will be on display at the gallery by the end of this week, so please join us for the official opening on Friday, June 5th, from 6:30-9 PM! If you’d like to see a complete digital preview for the show earlier in the week, just send us an email! For now, please enjoy this sneak peek!

The Singular Heart 72

GC Myers, “The Singular Heart”

Freed to the Wind 72

GC Myers, “Freed to the Wind”

Solitude and Reverence 72

GC Myers, “Solitude and Reverence”

Clair de Lune 72

GC Myers, “Clair de Lune”

Technique Tuesday: Painting from Photos

technique tuesday painting from photos

Happy Tuesday! Today’s post is part one of a mini-series of posts looking at the different methods artists use for reference when they’re working on a painting. Essentially, there are 5 ways an artist might paint:

1. From life (this applies to both plein air painting and indoor painting from a still-life set or a live model)
2. From photographs
3. From images on a computer screen
4. From imagination
5. Any combination of the above!

Today’s going to be a bit of a 2-in-1 post, since we’ll be taking a look at both methods 2 and 3 today, and examine the way artists use photographs to help create a painting.

What is it?

Painting from photographs may sound like an incredibly simple concept, but there’s actually a lot to it. As we’ll see, the history of using ocular devices to aid in the creation of artwork goes back quite a ways! These days, with the proliferation of cameras and printers, photographs are becoming a more and more popular tool for artists to use for reference. Painting from photos gives an artist a lot of freedom. They can work from the comfort of their home or studio (where they can control elements such as lighting), and they can paint without a strict time constraint (fresh cut flowers will eventually wilt, and models can’t sit still forever), and it allows the artist to manipulate the image they’d like to paint before they actually put paint to canvas. With today’s technology, artists can manipulate photographs on editing software to give it any effect they’d like before they render it in physical paints.  (For instance, Valerio D’Ospina, one of the artists featured in our current exhibition, often desaturates the images he uses before he begins painting, as this allow him to better visualize and refer to his limited palette.) Some artists feel there are big disadvantages to painting from photographs, such as the loss of the full range of colors and values we can see with the naked eye, but other artists work around these issues with incredible results.

Examples from art history:

For several centuries, even before the advent of modern photographs, artists made use of ocular devices to help plan and execute paintings. The most well known of these devices is something called the “camera obscura.” Here are a couple of neat images to give you a visual of the way a camera obscura works:

CamOb Collage

The camera obscura is a device that led to the invention of the modern photographic camera. Essentially, it involves a space–either a room or a box–that has a very small hole in the side. When light passes through this small hole, the image of what is outside the hole will appear in the room or box, just flipped 180 degrees. This super cool phenomenon was discovered as far back as Ancient Greece (and possibly, even further back than that!), and ever since,  artists have made use of it to create more realistic paintings. As the nineteenth century began and the first of the modern cameras were invented, artists began to make use of printed photographs for reference when painting. Check out some of these awesome examples from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (click to view the image larger)!

AH collage

Reference photographs for paintings by Edgar Degas (left), Alphonse Mucha (middle), and Frida Kahlo (right)

Examples from Principle Gallery:

The artists we show at Principle Gallery have a wide variety of reference methods for their work, and many make use of a combination of photographs and references from life. There are a few artists, however, who truly love the method of working from a photograph and the effect it achieves. One excellent example is Delaware-based painter and photographer Laura E. Pritchett. Laura is both an avid painter as well as a photographer, and has gained a lot of notoriety and a sizable following on Instagram, where she goes by the handle @bythebrush. (Check out her Instagram here!) One of Laura’s specialties is her self-timer photography, which features Laura herself as the model, usually captured in motion outdoors. She takes her art one step further though, by using her photographs to create her beautiful, contemplative paintings as well. We just recently got some new work from Laura, which you can check out on our website here!

Pritchett Collage

Laura Pritchett, “Horizon” (left), “Faith” (right)

Sometimes, a painter will go one step further and paint from a photograph while it is displayed on a computer screen. Not only is it convenient with today’s large, bright digital screens, but painting from images on a screen also often gives the image a kind of back-lit glow. You can often observe the way this glow’s effect appears subtly in the finished painting. Two Principle Gallery artists who sometimes enjoy painting from a computer screen are Anna Wypych and Jeremy Mann–check it out!

Wypych Mann collage

from left to right: Anna Wypych, “Loading”, “Safe Place”; Jeremy Mann, “Requiem”, “Stature”

Check back to see the upcoming Technique Tuesday posts about painting from life and from the imagination! To get our new blog posts sent right to your email inbox, subscribe by entering your address in the bar at the top right of the page!

Technique Tuesdays: Tonalism

Before we start to look at this week’s Technique Tuesday topic of Tonalism, we’re going to start with a mini discussion of two basics that are important to understand when talking about this style. So, in case you are not yet familiar with these concepts in art, let’s take a quick look at these 2 terms:

Value
In art, “value” refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a given color. Lighter colors are said to have higher value, and darker colors lower value.

Tone
“Tone” is a very similar concept to value, and refers specifically to the intensity of a color. Adding white or black to a color will change its value (lightness or darkness) by also changing its intensity. The more pure the color, the more intense. Therefore, the mid-value and mid-tone colors used by Tonalists end up reading as very soft and quiet.

a chart depicting the scale of values and tones of various colors

a chart depicting the scale of values and tones of various colors

So, on to Tonalism!

Technique Tuesday TonalismWhat is it?

“Tonalism” is the name that was eventually given to the art movement popularized in the late 1800’s by American  landscape painters. Essentially, Tonalism is a way of painting landscapes that is characterized by soft, blurred lines, gentle use of colors in the mid-range of tones and values, and an elegantly simple composition. For many Tonalist painters, the use of this style was inspired by the philosophers and Transcendentalist ideas popular in America at the time Tonalism began. By painting a landscape in this certain way, artists sought to transform the portrayal of a landscape into something that might elicit a spirit of contemplation and introspection from the viewer, turning it into a tranquil and meditative device. An early member of the Tonalist movement, Birge Harrison, once described the objective to his students as that of striving for the “big vision-the power to see and to render the whole of a given scene, rather than to paint a still-life picture of its component parts; the power to aint the atmosphere that surrounds the objects rather than the objects themselves; the power, in one word, to give the mood of a motive rather than the scientific statement of the trees and rocks and fields and mountains that make up the elements.” Tonalism took many varied forms in the work of different artists, but here’s a word cloud to help give you an idea of the common qualities of Tonalist paintings.

word cloud

Examples in art history:

Inspired by the Transcendentalist philosophies of writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, American landscape painters in the late 19th century developed the progressive and spiritual style of painting known as Tonalism. Two well-known artists from this movement were George Inness and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Both Inness and Whistler experimented with the use of Tonalist qualities such as soft, mid-tone colors, simplified compositions, gentle light, and blurred focus to create contemplative, peaceful scenes like these below. Tonalism continued to inspire painters in later movements as well, as one can see in the work of more modern masters like Andrew Wyeth (and, as we’ll soon see, Principle Gallery artist Kevin Fitzgerald).

tonalism collage

(left) George Inness, “Sunset on the Passaic”; (right) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

To give a quick visual example of how effective Tonalist techniques are in creating a peaceful, moody atmosphere in a painting, let’s take a look at two lovely landscapes by Principle Gallery artists. On the left, Lisa Noonis has used higher-contrasting values and colors and energetic brushstrokes to give this water scene a lively and dynamic feel. You can easily observe, though, how on the right, Kevin Fitzgerald’s Tonalist-inspired landscape (while it shares some of the basic characteristics of Lisa’s painting) makes use of the principles of Tonalism to achieve a poetic and tranquil effect. Both of these artworks depict sky, clouds, and water using a range of blues, greens, and grays, but it’s easy to observe how different the resulting “feel” is between the two.

(left) Lisa Noonis, "Rain Likely"; (right) Kevin Fitzgerald, "River Clouds"

(left) Lisa Noonis, “Rain Likely”; (right) Kevin Fitzgerald, “River Clouds”

Inspired by a wide range of artists, from Renaissance Masters, to Tonalists, to the French Impressionists, to color field painters like Mark Rothko, Kevin Fitzgerald has developed his own style of painting landscapes in a way that, like Tonalism, transforms the scenes into something that the viewer experiences emotionally as well as visually. Kevin uses the vistas that he paints, often near his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as a poetic means of communicating the spiritual significance of each moment in nature.

In his personal statement, Kevin writes, “The landscape, both cultivated and wild, can serve as a reminder of the beauty and power that exists beyond our grasp. There is always something happening in the landscape before us, and something is always about to happen. We are traveling along, almost unmindful of everything around us, when suddenly we are startled to see in a distant field a strange arrangement of color and light. We know that in a moment it will pass. Perhaps all we can manage to say is that it is beautiful. For an instant we feel the presence of the miracle once again, allowing itself to be revealed.”

We are thrilled to be anticipating the opening of Kevin’s annual solo exhibition this coming Friday, March 20th. Join us from 6:30 to 9 PM at the gallery to view these amazing works of art, meet the artist himself, and maybe even find your own moment of comtemplation and peace. Enjoy this sneak peek of some of the beautiful, Tonalist-inspired landscapes in the show! For a full digital preview of the exhibition, just send an email request to info@principlegallery.com, or keep an eye on Kevin’s artist page on our website for other available works.

Potomac Dawn 24x36 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Potomac Dawn”

 

Black Hills Grove 24x36 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Black Hills Grove”

Gulf Stream Wave 40x30 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Gulf Stream Wave”

Ironshire Dawn 18x24 72

Kevin Fitzgerald, “Ironshire Dawn”

 

Technique Tuesdays: Chiaroscuro

Technique Tuesday chiaroscuro

Welcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today we’re taking a look at one of the most basic and essential techniques in art: chiaroscuro.

What is it?

Chiaroscuro (pronounced “keyARo-scuro”) is another art term with its roots in the Italian language. As the two parts of the word translate to “light” and “dark,” chiaroscuro is used to describe the technique that artists employ to add light and shadow to an object to make it appear more three-dimensional. For instance, it’s what makes the difference between a drawing of a circle and a drawing of a sphere. Sometimes this is simply referred to as “shading,” but the technique goes a bit further than that, as the detailed depiction of light’s effect on a surface is what gives that depiction a real sense of depth and volume.

chiaro collage 2

Examples from art history:

Painting and drawing from ancient civilizations usually focused on the basics: capturing shapes, lines, and colors, as well as the placement of people and objects to tell a story. As art progressed through the ages, artists explored and learned more about how to depict the 3D world on a flat surface in a way that appeared more realistic. One of the biggest breakthroughs in this development was the perfection of chiaroscuro, although it’s something we sort of take for granted these days. To give you a visual idea of how chiaroscuro works its magic, check out the difference between this ancient Egyptian wall art on the left, and the figure painted by Michelangelo during the Italian Renaissance here on the right:

chiaro collage 1

Now, there’s no reason at all to criticize or disparage ancient Egyptian wall art; indeed, the colors, compositions, and use of lines and form (not to mention the storytelling!) in Egyptian art was certainly an achievement. The shapes, lines, and colors used to portray the figures on the left here are absolutely effective. But the development of chiaroscuro was a huge leap forward for artists in using a flat surface to recreate what we see in the three dimensional world. You can see in Michelangelo’s painting of Cybil here that the meticulous depiction of every little place of light and shadow brings both the figure and the textiles vividly to life.

All-star of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was the first of the Old Masters to really bring chiaroscuro to its full potential. He was particularly skilled at using chiaroscuro to give dimensionality to textiles as well as a sense of roundness to the human form, as one can see in his painting “The Virgin of the Rocks,” shown below.

Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin of the Rocks"

Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Truth be told, you can see chiaroscuro working its magic on nearly all of the artworks in our gallery. A great many of our talented artists utilize chiaroscuro to give life and depth to their work. There are, however, some excellent examples of how chiaroscuro can provide a profound sense of realism found in the work of still life artist Larry Preston. Check out these paintings below to see how Larry’s careful observation of the effects of light on objects gives the impression that you could almost reach out and touch them!

Works by Larry Preston Left to right: "The Apple," "Egg Plant," "Old Bottles," and "Green Vase Amaryllis"

Works by Larry Preston
Left to right: “The Apple,” “Egg Plant,” “Old Bottles,” and “Green Vase Amaryllis”

You can see more of Larry’s incredible and realistic still life paintings on our website by clicking here. In fact, keep an eye out for chiaroscuro in all the art you see! You’ll find countless excellent examples at the gallery of chiaroscuro in action. If you’ve got a particular favorite example, be sure to share it in the comments!

We’ll take a look in a few weeks at the way that some artists take chiaroscuro to a whole new level when we explore “Tenebrism” on another Technique Tuesday. Be sure to subscribe to our blog (see the box at the top right of the page) to see all our new Technique Tuesday posts as well as other exciting news from Principle Gallery!