Technique Tuesday: Rhythm

What is it?

Today’s Technique Tuesday post is taking a look at one of the Elements and Principles of Design, rhythm. This can be a tricky concept to wrap one’s mind around when talking about visual arts, but it is very applicable! In reference to audible sound and physical movement, rhythm involves a pattern of sounds and silences, movements and pauses, alternating and repeating, sometimes frenetic and sometimes very calm and slow.
The Elements and Principles of Design (line, form, color, pattern, rhythm, unity, etc.) are the building blocks of art, and when a piece of artwork is analyzed, these are the tools with which we can describe in words what makes an image successful, impactful, and visually pleasing. With every successful image, the eye is led. We’ll do a post soon explaining just what that means and how important it is in visual arts, but essentially it means that artists set up every element on their surface in such a way as to draw a viewer in and lead their gaze around on a certain path.
Rhythm, in reference to visual artwork, describes the way that the elements (line, color, value, composition) flow into one another. There is a movement to the way we experience the image. Thinking of this concept in musical terms is a fascinating and effective way to grasp the ideas more fully. Imagine that as you look at a painting, the movement of your eye results in audible sounds. Would the sequence of sounds be “legato”, a musical term referring to notes that slowly and easily flow into one another, or more “staccato”, which refers to abrupt changes and vivid contrast? “Hearing” the “music” of a painting helps the viewer appreciate more deeply the thoughtful way in which the artist arranged the elements of line, value, etc.

Examples from art history:

Take a look at these works painting by iconic artists throughout history, and try to imagine the sounds and rhythm created by the movement of your eye:

(top row, from left) Rene Magritte, “Golconda”; Henri Matisse, “The Dance”; Wifredo Lam, “The Jungle”; (bottom row, from left) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”; Vincent Van Gogh, “Church at Auvers”; Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”; Edward Hopper, “People in the Sun”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Two years ago, Principle Gallery held an exhibition featuring artists Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy, and titled the show “Tempo and Pause”– this was indeed a reference to the contrast and variety of rhythm found in the works of these two painters. We’ve just opened another exhibition this year featuring these two incredible artists, and the contrast in rhythm is just as striking and fascinating! Both artists make use of this Principle of Design, with incredibly different methods and incredibly different results. If you haven’t yet, we highly recommend coming to see it in person! If you’re unable to, however, definitely make sure to check out the whole show on our website here, and email us at info@principlegallery.com for a full digital PDF preview. Once again, take a look at some of the works in the show and keep rhythm in mind– the variety and intricacy is fascinating! (I’ll also throw in a comparison between Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and Valerio D’Ospina’s blurred homage to it– very different rhyhtms!)

Valerio D’Ospina, “Intersection”

Valerio D’Ospina, “Duomo di Milano”

Valerio D’Ospina, “Cab Ride in Manhattan”

(left) Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”; (right) Valerio D’Ospina, “Blurred Icons (Girl with a Pearl Earring)”

Greg Gandy, “Old Car Pileup”

Greg Gandy, “Mission Cool”

Greg Gandy, “Downtown at Sunset”

Greg Gandy, “1967 Plymouth Valiant”

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Technique Tuesday: A Painting Within a Painting

What is it?

Well, this week’s “technique” isn’t a difficult one to understand by any means, but it’s still plenty of fun to come across, and well worth a post! All kinds of art can be depicted in a painting– sculpture, architecture, jewelry, pottery, fashion, etc.– but today we’re going to take a look at paintings featuring paintings! (To my knowledge, there isn’t a concise term for this, but my personal vote is “paint-ception.”)

Examples from art history:

This is not a technique that’s going to go back as far as ancient times, but it does go back quite a ways and began to show up more regularly (you guessed it!) during the Italian Renaissance and in the centuries following. In fact, with the flourishing of artists and galleries in the Netherlands during the 17th century and the rise of “genre” paintings (scenes of everyday life), artists like Vermeer began to use the artwork he painted into his backgrounds to add to the message or story of the work. Let’s take a look at “The Love Letter” as an example:

Here’s a painting showing a young woman receiving a love letter, and there are two paintings visible on the wall behind her. The subjects of the paintings, it can be argued, relate to the receipt of this letter– the man walking a path in the top painting might speak of a lover who is on a journey of some kind, and the ship on a sea (often a metaphor for romantic relationships) depicting smooth sailing likely means the letter contains good news. It should be noted, however, that the artwork depicted in a painting doesn’t always have a deeper meaning; as art has become more and more a part of our lives over the years, it’s bound to show up in scenes depicting daily life! Here’s a look at a few more examples from art history (click for a better view):

(left to right) Diego Velazquez, “Las Meninas”; James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”; William Merritt Chase, “The Tenth Street Studio”; Rene Magritte, “The Human Condition”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

We’ve had many artists paint works featuring other paintings here over the years! Here’s a peek at a few:

(left to right) Lisa Noonis, “Red Couch”; Jeremy Mann, “Morning Light”; Hyseung Marriage-Song, “Studio Interior”; Philip Geiger, “Times Table”

If you happened to see Geoffrey Johnson’s fantastic solo exhibition last year, then you might remember “American Wing” and “American Wing II,” two paintings depicting figures observing paintings within a museum:

Geoffrey Johnson, “American Wing” (left) and “American Wing II” (right)

Well, we are THRILLED to be opening yet another spectacular exhibition from the unique and immensely talented Geoffrey Johnson. This exciting exhibition is set to open May 12th, but we already have a digital preview available, so feel free to email us at info@principlegallery.com if you’d like to see one! This year’s exhibition from Geoffrey includes several of his signature scenes of New York City, as well as several interior scenes, a Biblical scene, another museum scene, and to our delight, several scenes of Washington DC! Given the topic of this week’s post, let’s take a look at some of the paintings depicting paintings:

“The Impressionist”

“The Sitting Room”

“Alvin’s Porch”

In case you’re curious, the painting depicted in “The Impressionist” is “Boulevard des Italiens, Morning Sunlight” by Camille Pissarro. As for “The Sitting Room,” the work shown is loosely based on Rembrandt’s “Descent from the Cross.” And for the final one, the large landscape shown in “Alvin’s Porch?” Well, that’s a lovely piece out of Geoff’s own imagination; this painting is a two-fer! Two original works by Geoffrey Johnson in one!

Technique Tuesday: Nocturne

TT Nocturne

What is it?

Simply put, a nocturne is a painting of a night scene. James Abbott McNeill Whistler was the first to apply the term to paintings (it is originally a descriptor of a piece of music whose composition is evocative of nighttime) and in art circles, the word has come to refer to any scene that depicts the landscape or subjects as they appear during twilight or the darkness of nighttime.

Examples from art history:

Whistler may have been the first to apply the term “nocturne” to paintings, and he did go on to paint a beautiful series of nocturnes in the nineteenth century, but he’s certainly not the first to paint a night scene! Artists during the early Renaissance began to use night scenes to depict Biblical scenes, and by the 16th and 17th centuries, the practice had broadened to include painting a large variety of subject matter in a nighttime light. One notable example is Rembrandt van Rijn’s masterpiece, “The Night Watch.” Rembrandt was among the first artists to paint night scenes on a regular basis, and “The Night Watch” was particularly celebrated for its colossal size (nearly 12 x 15 feet!) and its unusual depiction of a military portrait. Many artists throughout the centuries have continued to paint night scenes, enjoying the challenge it brings as well as the evocative mood set by the lighting.

Nocturne AH Collage

(left to right) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne in Black and Gold” 1874; Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Night Watch” 1642; Vincent Van Gogh, “Cafe Terrace at Night” 1888; Edward Robert Hughes, “Midsummer Eve” 1908

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

We at Principle Gallery show many different artists who are incredibly talented at painting night scenes, and some who paint them quite often! Here’s a collage of crops of some of the fantastic nocturnes at the gallery:

PG Nocturne Collage

(top left to right) Gavin Glakas, “Firelight Sonata”; Bethanne Kinsella Cople, “By the Light of the Moon”; Nancy Bush, “Rising Moon”; (bottom left to right) Nobuhito Tanaka, “In the Rain”; Louise Fenne, “The Coming of Spring”; Gavin Glakas, “Night in Seravezza”

One of the undisputed masters of the night scene, Jeremy Mann, will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition that opens here on November 13th, followed by a live cityscape painting demonstration in the gallery on November 14th from 1-4PM! We can hardly contain our excitement over the exhibition and the demonstration, and that excitement is only growing as we receive more images of the 35 brand new paintings (both cityscapes and figurative works) that will be part of the show! Here are just a couple of fantastic examples of what Jeremy can do with a night scene:

Yellow Night Above San Francisco

Jeremy Mann, “Yellow Night Above San Francisco”

Black Scarlet

Jeremy Mann, “Black Scarlet”

NYC 17

Jeremy Mann, “NYC 17”

Stay tuned as the show approaches for more sneak peeks at the paintings from the exhibition! And if you’d like to be put on the list to receive a full digital preview of the show, just send us an email at info@principlegallery.com!