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

Technique Tuesday: Linear Perspective

Welcome back to a new Technique Tuesday post! This week we’re going to be discussing something called linear perspective, also known as the Unsung Hero of Realism. Truly, this is one of the most important techniques ever to be developed in art history. It changed the game completely, but we’re really so used to seeing it these days that we don’t think about it much! So let’s take a look:

What is it?

The term “perspective” in art generally refers to the manipulation of the image so that it appears to have the depth that we can perceive with our eyes. We talked once about atmospheric perspective on this blog series, and the way that blues and cool tones in the background help to give the illusion of far distances and vast spaces. Linear perspective refers to the use of what are called “vanishing points” and the way that everything in view relates to those vanishing points, which will depend on how far those things are supposed to be from the viewer’s vantage point. Don’t worry, I’m going to use pictures soon to help explain.

Examples from art history:

Before the Renaissance–which I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned before, but it was a pretty important time for art history– (<–kidding, I bring it up in nearly every post) artists used something known as oblique perspective, which is a fancy way of saying lack of perspective, really. Think about the drawings that little kids make, especially if there are a lot of people in them or houses or trees in the far background. Instead of figuring out precisely how all these objects relate to one another geometrically (because they are children and they’re just having awesome fun drawing), the kids just kind of spread everything in the picture around on the piece of paper, usually putting something that in reality is further “back” simply closer to the “top” of the page. For a very long time, this was the way even seasoned artists rendered their works. Let’s take a look at some pre-Renaissance works of art which, while gorgeous, are definitely before the discovery of linear perspective:

from left to right, examples of ancient Egyptian, Byzantine, ancient Chinese, and medieval German artworks

Even if you don’t know about geometry or linear perspective, these images would likely still look “off” in some way to you. It wasn’t really until the Renaissance, when super genius Filippo Brunelleschi made a nifty hole-in-a-mirror device, and then some subsequent paintings and drawings to prove his point, that artists began to understand linear perspective, and the very important notion it brings with it: foreshortening.

Foreshortening involves the visual effect that objects in our line of sight will appear differently depending on the viewer’s perspective. For an example, think about preparing dinner on your perfectly circular dinner plate, and then sitting down to eat and placing that plate in front of you. As you sit there looking at the plate, you no longer see a perfect circle (even though the plate is perfectly circular!), because of your perspective. Depending on how something is angled toward you the viewer, parts of that building or person or object will appear shorter or smaller than they really are. In the example above and on the left, even a road which is the same width down its entire length will appear to get smaller as its distance from the viewer increases.

As I mentioned, this was a game changer for artists in the Renaissance. Many of the early examples from the Renaissance showing successful use of linear perspective focus on one-point perspective, viewed straight on, but artists later expanded this knowledge to work with multiple vanishing points, and higher and lower viewer angles, as we can see here:

(above, left to right) Renaissance examples of perspective, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and Pietro Perugino’s “Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter” (below, left to right) examples of perspective use from later in history, including Andrew Wyeth’s “Wind from the Sea,” Camille Pissarro’s “Avenue de L’Opera, Paris,” and Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Again, linear perspective, while crucially important, might not be the first thing you think of when admiring a work of art. We tend to take it for granted now that centuries of art teachers have passed the concept along, but it’s still so important to creating an effectively realistic scene. Because it is critically important in any work of art that involves things with straight lines like building and architecture, Geoffrey Johnson‘s solo exhibition (open now!) gives us a perfect segue to taking a look at the beautiful effect made when an artist accurately uses linear perspective. Let’s take a look at a few examples from the current show:

“Untitled”

“Skaters at the Museum”

“Station Interior”

“Study in Washington”

“Flatiron Evening”

To view the entirety of this absolutely spectacular and unique exhibition, stop by the gallery through the end of May, or check out Geoffrey’s page on our website by clicking here!

Technique Tuesday: Pointillism (Take Two!)

Welcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today we’re going to be talking about a technique we’ve already touched on in the blog, about two years ago. I actually think this is one of the most fun things about discussing these techniques– every artist’s work is so unique, so we can see the very same technique employed in refreshingly different ways! In 2015, we discussed pointillism and took a look at the work of GC Myers and his charmingly dappled skies. And, since I think my 2015 self introduced the topic pretty nicely, I’m going to go ahead and steal the beginning of this post from that older one!

What 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”

And now, for some brand new examples from Principle Gallery this year!

We are always thrilled to introduce you all to a new artist, and this Technique Tuesday post seemed like a great opportunity to introduce you to Gilbert Gorski, who brought us some incredible, brand new paintings this week! Gilbert utilizes pointillism extensively, particularly in his very wide, very realistic landscapes of trees. (Don’t forget- you can click on the images below to get a better look!)

Gilbert Gorski, “Teneramenta”

The dots are by no means easy to see on a photo like that! Our eye visually blends them and the colors and light almost take on a shimmering quality! Here’s a detail, though, to show you what you might not see in that image:

detail, “Teneramenta”

And here’s another painting, with another close-up detail below!

Gilbert Gorski, “Rinforzando”

detail, “Rinforzando”

 

To see the rest of Gilbert’s work currently at Principle Gallery, visit his page on our website by clicking here! And if you’re in the area, definitely come by to see these beauties in person– trust  me, nothing compares to the real thing!

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 on a Thursday: Sgraffito

Apologies! Due to a technical error, this post is up a couple days late, but please enjoy!

technique-tuesday-sgraffito

What is it?

The term “sgraffito” comes from the Italian word meaning “scratched.” It’s a technique that is usually applied to either wall decor, both interior and exterior, or to pottery. Essentially, the basic idea is that multiple layers of plaster or glaze are applied, and the top layer is methodically scratched through to reveal the contrasting layer beneath. This scratching is usually done in such a way as to form a pattern or an image using the two contrasting layers.

Examples from art history:

Sgraffito has been around quite a while, in all parts of the world. Check out some examples of it on pottery below– including Navajo pottery, ancient Greek ceramics, and African pottery.

sgraffito-collage-1

The technique also experienced popularity as wall decor or part of a building facade in Europe, since classical times. As with many artistic techniques, it saw an increase in popularity in the 15th and 16th century in Italy, particularly in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Transylvania, and later experienced a revival during the Art Nouveau movement of the early 20th century. Below are some examples, including an Italian Renaissance-era sgraffito building, a hammer-and-sickle sgraffito design on a Czech building, and an Art Nouveau facade on a building in Barcelona.

sgraffito-collage2

Examples from Principle Gallery:

The sgraffito examples we’re going to showcase today from Principle Gallery are in fact neither pottery nor wall decor, but rather paintings! Jeff Erickson‘s unique, highly abstracted paintings are eye-catching and full of texture, depth, and visual interest, and part of this is due to his creative use of sgraffito!

erickson-collage2

Jeff Erickson, (left) Approaching Storm; (middle) Thin Ice; (right) Wine Country

Oil paint straight from the tube is extremely thick and not terribly “workable,” so most artists use some kind of solvent to help thin the paint and make it more spreadable on the painting surface, in addition to helping it dry a bit faster. This substance added to the paint is called the “medium” (this can be confusing, because “medium” has multiple meanings when talking about art, but think of it as synonymous with “additive”) and while most artists use linseed oil, turpentine, poppy oil, or similar mediums, some artists, like Jeff Erickson, use something called a cold wax medium.

The cold wax medium is pretty much what it sounds like– it is an additive containing beeswax that can be used cold (as opposed to encaustic, a different technique in which the wax is heated– but we’ll save that for another Tuesday!) and in addition to aiding in workability and drying time, cold wax medium gives the artist a few different options for building unique textures and layers as well! In Jeff’s case, it allows for some really cool sgraffito. You can see some examples of Jeff’s unique paintings below, but trust us– they are best viewed in person, so come on by the gallery and see them, and many more in this month’s Local Art, Local Eats exhibition, on display now!

erickson-collage1

Jeff Erickson, (left) Glimmering Light; (right) Whitecap

Every Picture Tells a Story: Joseph Lorusso

Recently, we asked a number of our artists to write and share their takes on what their art means to them. We hope to give you the chance to connect with the artists in the same way they hope to connect with you through their paintings. With this post, the talented artist, Joseph Lorusso, explains his inspirations and what he desires to accomplish with his work.


Every Picture Tells a Story

Whenever I visit a museum or gallery, as most of us do, I find myself gravitating towards certain types of paintings. For me there are obvious reasons causing this gravitational draw – to try and unlock some technical secrets a great artist might be hiding, to discern how the artist was able to achieve certain effects, to admire their mastery of drawing, etc.

“But in the larger scope , I’ve always found myself drawn to works that tell a story.”

From my first days of artistic training, I was always drawn to the great illustrators who painted narrative scenes to support a story, such as N.C. Wyeth , Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle, and Maxfield Parrish to name a few. Upon further self- education, I realized that great story telling was really at the core of all art. In essence, one of the first ways “modern” humans where able to communicate was to tell their stories through art – as evidenced by the now famous Lascaux cave paintings in France and elsewhere around the world.  These first images illustrated daily life, including hunting and religious rituals, all in attempt to hand down our human experience long before we were able to develop a workable language or alphabet.

As humans developed and time passed, the technical side of this storytelling may have advanced, but the meaning and reason, I contend, remains the same – we have the need to connect. Visual language and storytelling are ways in which we achieve that. It is no mystery that going to a museum or gallery leaves many people with a spiritual experience in many ways; it allows us communion with a deeper sense of ourselves.

The visual artist, in my opinion, has a unique opportunity to create the world he wishes, and often finds that his world is also shared by others in need of the same type of outlet or escape.  In my work, my goal is to give the viewer a starting point, a springboard from which they can then expand the narrative by adding or reflecting their own experiences. For me, this is the essence of image making in whatever form you choose as your vehicle.

Over the years as a visual artist, I have found myself drawn to various types of scenes, but mostly scenes that involve a strong emotional theme, usually romantic or passionate scenes that seem to resonate with viewers. Some examples of this are paintings that depict scenes of everyday life that most of us not only can relate to but may actually have experienced. Paintings,  such as  “The Long Fare,”  shows a couple either saying hello or goodbye, making the most of the moment, while their taxi awaits them.

 

the-long-fare-72

“The Long Fare,” 26×24, oil on panel, Gallery #16666

Not all scenes need to be romantic in nature to express a strong emotion or mood. A particular scene I enjoyed creating was the painting “After Hours;” a man and a woman stand in a dark doorway as she gazes invitingly toward the viewer, while the man stands behind her, mostly in shadow, his face only lit by the glow of a match intended to light his cigarette. The intent of the piece is meant to be mysterious and engaging, suggesting overtones of a darker side of life, nevertheless allowing the viewer room for interpretation.

after-hours-24x26_websize

“After Hours,” 30×30, oil on panel, Gallery #CS30805

Another great example of work that resonates with others is the painting  “After the Bath,” in which I depict a very personal scene from my own life. Here, my wife and oldest daughter are getting ready for bed for their night time ritual. While this is a common scene in many ways, it is universal and touches a chord with most people in its sensitivity and intimacy. We all in some ways can relate to scenes like these because of our shared human experience, thus allowing us to connect through the dignity and commonality of our daily lives.

joseph-lorusso-after-the-bath

“After the Bath,” 21×14, oil on panel, Private Collection

Ultimately, my goal as a painter is to bring all aspects of the composition together, from technical to aesthetic, in order to create the strongest and most effective statement. My work has been called nostalgic in many ways, though not by intention – perhaps we all are naturally drawn to images that evoke simpler, more “idealized” times.  In many ways, the era depicted in my paintings is almost arbitrary, as the emotion and story remains universal. A good example of this is the painting “Waiting at the Station.” Here, I challenge myself technically and compositionally by creating a larger composition all while trying to set several potential stories into one scene. The goal was to keep the viewer engaged by moving through the scene from story to story, yet remain in one setting.

waiting-at-the-station-72

“Waiting at the Station,” 48×48, oil on panel, Gallery #16627

Fortunately, we as people will always have stories to tell and emotions to express, giving me ample opportunity to create more work than I can hope for in several lifetimes. Hopefully, the work I am creating will continue to have resonance with its viewers.

“For me, it is this personalized connection that is the true test of the piece’s success, which in turn completes my painting.”

-Joseph Lorusso


To view all of the works we have by Joseph Lorusso, click this link! And stay tuned with our blog to see which artist takes it over next!

Save

The Sailing, Selling Stobart

Well-known for his art on maritime adventures, the realist painter John Stobart also had a knack for selling these watery works. As is typical with any other artist to sell his or her works, this new Principle Gallery artist was an especially savvy salesman.

Whaling Bark, Charles W. Morgan HR


“The Whaling Bark, Charles W. Morgan,” 24×38, Oil on linen, Principle Gallery in Charleston

Realizing his potential and profitability in the arts after his time at London’s Royal Academy Schools in the late 1940s, he showcased smaller paintings displaying the local landscape which sold fairly well. He had noticed from this venture that paintings portraying recognizable landmarks and familiar scenes appealed to his local customers. So, maybe this is where his knack started?

On his voyage to South Africa in the 1950s to meet his father, Stobart then departed from this genre to paint scenes of what he is now known for today – those of ports enriched with color and astonishing realism. He was inspired to both sketch and paint the ports and vessels wherever he docked, eventually getting the idea to sell these pieces as calendars and interior decorations to those working within the maritime industry. Here, Stobart’s artistic passion and salesman-like nature proved very promising in the long haul.

After making a name for himself in places like London and Toronto, Stobart went to the United States with only four paintings in his hand to see if he’d have as much luck as before. His different take of promoting patriotism through recognized scenic ports put him above and beyond other maritime painters to the point that he was offered his own show by the Wunderlich family almost immediately after his arrival – later he would have seven sell-out shows with the help of this established family.

Chinese Junk_HR

“Unloading in Hong Kong, The Dashing Wave,” 18×24, Oil on linen, Principle Gallery in Charleston

But how did he come up with this strategy to quickly and easily sell his works? Stobart recognized the lack of familiar, patriotic painted marinas and sea vessels in the American art market, and then made the conscious decision- and possibly unconscious business move – to paint what no one else painted and what everyone wanted. Today his works, like the ones pictured above, are still incomparable in realistic representation of maritime harbors, historic ports, and seaworthy vessels.

As if meant to be, the Principle Gallery in Charleston is now happy to house some of these amazing works in an area similar to the waters Stobart so loved and admired. Feel free to visit the Principle Gallery’s website to have a look at Stobart’s works and see his mesmerizing seascapes for yourself!