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
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Technique Tuesday: Using Leaf

Technique Tuesday using leaf

What is it?

Metal leaf is the term for metal that has been hammered into very thin sheets. Gold leaf has been created and used for thousands of years as a decorative element in painting, sculpture, furniture, architecture, tapestry, jewelry, and more. Other metal leafs often seen as decorative elements are silver leaf and copper leaf, which are comparatively much less expensive than pure gold leaf. With each type of leaf, the metal is pounded or processed with rollers until it is extremely thin (often 1/250,000th of an inch!), cut into sheets, and attached with an adhesive to the desired surface.

Examples from art history:

Gold leaf has been used since ancient times by many societies across the world, beginning with ancient Indian temples, Egyptian sarcophagi, and even some ancient cave paintings! It became very heavily used throughout Europe for religious iconography, painting and mosaics, often comprising the entire background of a work in a technique called “gold grounding.” The Japanese, however, were perhaps the most advanced in their use of gold leaf. They perfected their technique for using gold leaf through many generations of dynasties, and some of the most beautiful examples of using gold leaf on a large scale are found in Japanese screen paintings, though they also adapted their technique to create threads from gold leaf which they incorporated into clothing and tapestry.

AH Collage 1

left to right, a gold leaf painting from an ancient Thai temple door, a Japanese gold leaf and glue tempera painting on paper, and a Byzantine religious icon from Europe

Both the Byzantine mosaics and iconography as well as the Japanese tradition of using gold leaf in paintings had an influence on the “golden phase” of 20th century Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. In fact, of all Klimt’s work, the pieces containing gold leaf are among the most popular and well-received. Here are a few cool examples:

Gustav Klimt collage

left to right, Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, “Judith and the Head of Holofernes”, “The Kiss”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Several cool examples of using leaf in art have come through Principle Gallery over the years! A couple of years ago, we were treated to a few landscapes by GC Myers with brilliant copper skies:

Myers Collage

left to right, GC Myers, “The Elemental Moment,” “Iconic Moment,” and “Elemental I”

The use of metal leaf gives these vibrant, stylized landscapes an extra glamorous dose of visual interest and texture, and the coppery color paired with the scenes of trees seems to almost offer a nostalgic aspect. A few of the other works the gallery has shown that involve the use of leaf include some gorgeous portraits by Argentinean artist Alejandro Rosemberg, one of which uses silver and gold leaf and another with gold grounding, as well as a beautiful figurative piece by British artist Fletcher Sibthorp that uses silver leaf:

PG Leaf Collage1

left to right, Alejandro Rosemberg, “Luciana II”, “Gold Leaf Nude”; Fletcher Sibthorp, “The Idleness of Spring”

There’s something truly delicate, lovely, and eye-catching about seeing these painted figures with a background of leaf. It adds such an understated level of elegance to the already beautiful paintings. We also often see the use of leaf on the more ornate frames surrounding the paintings that come into the gallery, a nod to a very long historical tradition of using leaf on frames for decoration. Sometimes, there’s really nothing better than leaf to add that perfect glint to a work or its frame!