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: Allusion

What is it?

Today’s “Technique Tuesday” post is another good example of the way we’d like to use this series to delve into aspects of fine art that go beyond very literal, physical techniques of applying paint to canvas. While fascinating and important, those only describe a few of the many facets that go into the way that artists visually communicate with the viewer. Just as the use of paint in certain ways (impasto, glazing, multi-loaded brush) adds to the way a painting communicates, so do less physical and more conceptual techniques, like bokeh, atmospheric perspectiveand positive and negative spaceStill further, and perhaps most obviously, the subject matter of the painting often does a great deal of communicating as well. Today’s “technique” is an incredibly prevalent one throughout the history of art: allusion!

Allusion is a term that is typically applied to a literary device which involves a passing reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance, without describing it in detail. Literary allusion draws on a stock of knowledge that the author expects the reader will already have, in order to give a context through which the reader will instantly understand the work more fully. (Some more succinct examples: if an author references someone’s “Achilles heel,” and the reader is familiar with the mythology of Achilles, the reader instantly understands that this is a reference to someone’s one weakness. If someone references a nose growing like Pinocchio’s, the reader instantly understands that this references the telling of lies, as in The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio’s nose grew whenever he told a lie.)

Let’s take a look at the way that allusion has been used as a technique in visual art, as well!

Examples in art history:

Paintings with Biblical Allusions: (left) Rembrandt van Rijn, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”; (right) Caravaggio, “The Conversion of St. Paul”

Narrative storytelling is one of the oldest purposes of the visual arts. During the Renaissance, this became an especially important function of art, as the Christian Church began to use paintings to educate a largely illiterate public about the stories of the Bible, and commissioned countless religious paintings and frescoes portraying a vast variety of moments from the Bible. As European art continued to develop, allusion began to be used more and more frequently. Whether Biblical allusion, allusion to Greek and Roman mythology, or literary allusions, these references help to deepen the viewer’s understanding of what the painting seeks to communicate.

Paintings with Mythological Allusions: (left) Sandro Botticelli, “Primavera”; (right) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Persephone”

Paintings with Literary Allusions: John William Waterhouse, (left) “Miranda” referencing Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and (right) “Morgan Le Fay” referencing the legends of King Arthur.

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

(left to right) Geoffrey Johnson, “Tower of Babel”; Cindy Procious, “Plastic Paradigm III”; Terry Strickland, “The Seamstress”

Now and then, paintings containing allusion will come through the gallery. Sometimes the allusions are Biblical scenes, such as in Geoffrey Johnson’s “Tower of Babel,” and sometimes they’re a reference to something from pop culture, like the Barbie doll in Cindy Procious’s “Plastic Paradigm” series or the Superman logo in Terry Strickland’s “The Seamstress.”

Never before this month, however, has an exhibition here at the gallery been so full of artworks containing allusion! Robert Liberace’s solo exhibition, currently on display, is an amazing collection of paintings and drawings showcasing the artist’s astounding skill at depicting the human form. And, in learning the inspirations and the names of these pieces of artwork, the viewer learns that many of them are mythological and literary allusions! Take, for example, these pieces from Robert’s “Don Quixote” inspired series:

“Visions of Adventure”

“Knight of La Mancha”

“Hidalgo”

How do you think the references to the classic novel change the way the artwork communicates, and the viewer’s understanding of it? Consider the same with these images of mythological figures Atlas and Orpheus:

“Atlas”

“Orpheus”

To view the entirety of Robert Liberace‘s current exhibition and explore all of the allusions contained, stop by the gallery soon or check out our website here!

 

Technique Tuesday: Gouache

What is it?

Happy Tuesday! This week we are talking about a type of paint that doesn’t often get a lot of attention– gouache! Pronounced “gwosh,” this type of paint is an opaque, water-soluble medium that has some of the qualities of both watercolor and oil, and in the case of acrylic gouache, even acrylic! The name is a French word derived from “gouazz,” which is an old Italian term meaning “mud.” Although it was not referred to as “gouache” until the 18th century, gouache paints originated long ago, as a derivative of watercolors. In order to make watercolors more opaque and therefore easier to layer and use as a highlight, they were mixed with an opaque white pigment.

Examples from art history:

Opaque watermedia is a very old medium, and can be seen in examples as early as 9th century Persian miniatures. (Later, Italian artists would attempt to achieve the same look by layering oil paints over tempera paints, giving it a matte (or “muddy”) finish.) In the 18th century, as it became more popular, French artists mainly used gouache to add highlights over their pastel work, but the use has expanded over time and many artists today paint entire artworks in gouache. It is a unique medium in that, though water-soluble like watercolors, it gives the artist an option to layer light colors over dark because of the matte opacity. An artist must use gouache very carefully to avoid a very flat and muddy effect, but those who have mastered the medium have created some incredible works with it! Modern gouache options now include acrylic gouache, which, because it is made with an acrylic-based binder, dries to a more water-resistant surface despite the water solubility of the wet medium. Let’s take a look at some examples of paintings either partially or fully created with gouache throughout history!

(left to right) Behzad, “Advice of the Ascetic”; Albrecht Durer, “Young Hare”; Thomas Moran, “Above Tower Falls, Yellowstone”; Fidelia Bridges, “Leaves”; Henri Matisse, “Black Leaf on Green Background”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Gouache is not something we often get here at Principle Gallery, but just recently we’ve gotten a few pieces created with watermedia, including gouache! Here are a couple of examples from Mark Kelvin Horton, who recently sent us a great series of small landscapes on paper, in a variety of media. Here are two that use gouache!

Mark Kelvin Horton, “Winter Trees”

 

Mark Kelvin Horton, “Rural”

Ben Barker is another artist that we work with who enjoys the challenge of using gouache from time to time! Though all of the other artworks from Ben that we’ve shown so far have been in oil, here’s a very cool landscape of Rock Creek Park, painted in gouache!

Ben Barker, “Boulder Bridge”

We are always getting in new works from our widely varied roster of artists, so be sure you’re on our e-mailing list if you’d like to get a first-peek at new art when it arrives! To be added to the mailing list, just shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

 

by Pamela Sommer

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 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!