Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eye control

I want to talk a little about eye control tonight. I have talked about lead ins and this piece by Emile Gruppe is a great example of a lead in followed by eye control. By eye control I mean the ability to seize the viewers attention and direct their gaze the way YOU want it to go through the painting.
This painting has been set up to lead your eye from the foreground snow to the bridge and then along the road to the second bridge and then up to the snow covered hills beyond. It is simple, obvious and compelling. It is also very rhythmic.

Notice the relationship between the dark forest atop the distant hills and the swooping road across the middle ground. The road sweeps you in to the right, and the line of the hills sweeps you back the other way. All of this is invented by the way. Gruppe used what was at the location to assemble his picture but the swooping roller coaster of a design was installed. Incidentally I have stood on this location, the second bridge is gone and the first is now unused and much overgrown, but it is still picturesque.

Notice too the parade of dark shapes arranged along this serpentine pathway. The whole bottom third of the picture is white, and the middle is an arrangement of dark shapes that are almost all connected to each other. You have probably read my posts suggesting "linking" your darks, here is a picture that does that well.

I was asked to talk about how I painted the gray of the weathered boards in that barn I painted last week. Here is Gruppe handling a similar subject. On the side of that bridge Gruppe has painted a violet tone and then thrown yellow and some blue down into that for variation. Them he pulls the dark lines in it that make us see boards and the cracks between them. Not all of them, mind you, just a few. This is a passage that is a trap for the unwary painter as the tendency is to overstate those boards resulting in a stiff and busy design. Most of the sweet things in a painting are the result of restraint and not of hammering the viewer to make your point.

Do you know why they covered bridges? Usually people say it was so you could get out of the weather or to ease snow removal, but the real reason is that keeping the weather of the deck made it last. Just as the roof on your house keeps the floors from getting wet and rotting out, the roof on a covered bridge assures a long life for the deck.

I will write about it more in a day or two, but the Stapleton Kearns workshop in the land of the blues, the Mississippi delta is beginning to fill.


If you live in the south and want to take my workshop this is your chance. Rolling Fork is the birthplace of Muddy Waters, I intend to bring an iPod full! See you there on March 15th. This is a five day workshop so there will be lots of opportunities for individual attention.


Dot Courson said...

Stape- Load your iPod with other Mississippi delta musicians: BB King, Robert Johnson, and Mose Allison, and Sam Cooke. If you're flying in pick up a Faulkner book or Eudora Welty. (But, they are from the northeastern part of the state where I live.) We are the literary area of MS, (well except for ELVIS!) and the delta is the blues. Stay on Hwy 61 and yall go out to a juke joint before you head back to Boston. It's a different world, there in "the Delta", - even for me and I live IN this state!

Jim Polewchak said...

There are 17 covered bridges in the county to the east of my house here in Ohio. Some are picturesgue, others are long,wood boxes spanning a stream. They are used daily, and are kept in perfect repair, no beautiful weathered siding as in Gruppes. What are your thoughts on "retrofitting" them to make a more pleasing composition?

R Yvonne Colclasure said...

A workshop in the SW sounds great! Give me a headsup so I can save some moola. Otherwise, I may have to auction off the hubby. :)

willek said...

I can't believe you are doing a 5 day workshop!. It will take the attendees a year to digest it all that info.

Mary Byrom said...

Thanks, Stapleton. Great curving movement. This painting reminds me of Timkoff and I never consciously connected Gruppe and Timkoff before. All those many snow paintings of Timkoff are what helped me see the linked darks. As a result it became instinctive to make designs when I was observing nature. If I'm painting a subject I find it helpful to see how an accomplished artist paints that subject ...if I can look at a variety of artists depicting the subject its even better. I feel connected to the Russians as their climate and the light is similiar to what I deal with in New England. Gray day paintings ? They did some really good ones.

Delilah said...

Wonderful blog and I never thought about the why of cover bridges.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am in for a workshop here in the SW. Is there anything I can do to help that happen? Terry

Unknown said...

Great post. It made me think about some things in the painting I am designing right now.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes I will, particularly the Robert Johnson.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think they need to be retrofitted. I don't approve of the actions taken by Ms. Streep and Mssr. Eastwood in those bridges. Her old man seemed like a good guy, he deserved better.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Several people have expressed an interest in my doing a workshop out that way.I need a local confederate to make it happen.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yeah its going to be a marathon for me too. Binge and purge education. Total immersion!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I wonder how much Gruppe knew about Russian painting. I would guess not much. There were, as far as I know, no books. It is good that our world is a little smaller these days.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have spent some time staring at covered bridges.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will announce a workshop out there in the future but I so far only have a couple of people interested. I need to find an inn or resort to partner with. That seems to be the best way to do it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Do little sketches and then enlarge the best of them.