Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Getting distance by design

Above is last nights Gruppe again. A commenter mentioned how dark the transoms of the boats and several other shadowed portions of this painting were. They do seem real dark and I am not sure if that is the reproduction or the way the painting really looks. I have seen a number of different versions of this painting. Gruppe returned repeatedly to a place and made the same or a similar picture many times.

Here is the big zig-zagging design that leads you into the picture. It takes you out of the foreground shadow, past the illuminated boat that is the big punchline and out into the distance. Gruppe put this here on purpose. The ice in the foreground may have been suggested this treatment but you can be certain Gruppe installed that big zig-zag. Incidentally I know and have painted this location, in Gloucester, on Rocky Neck. Very little of the old Gloucester waterfront that Gruppe painted still remains. I am glad I saw the last of the wooden draggers there, which are now all gone.

This entire painting is also filled with inward pointing arrows. Here is an illustration of them. All of them give commands to the viewer, "right this way, please" That red building in the background is the only thing he has delineated for us to look at, so it is important. Look at this tactic he uses......


Everything on the left hand side of the picture (1) is in front of everything on the right hand side (2).
That is an effective way of establishing depth in the painting. The objects on the left are in close and those on the right are out in the middle ground. The contents of this picture march inwards starting from the lower left. This oblique procession is the opposite of a fault I often point out in student work, where the entire painting marches across the picture from one wall to the other, equidistant to the viewer like a frieze. This is using design to establish depth. Also everything on the left hand side of that diagonal division is in the shadow, and that to the right of the divider is in the light. The picture has about 2/3 of its visual weight on one side of that line and 1/3 on the other. An artistic balance of unequal elements.

The size of his marks decreases as they go into the background. He tells us very little about what is going on back there, allowing us to fill in the details.

Gruppe has also linked a lot of the darks, particularly in that foreground. Squint down and see how they are joined. He then has thrown one nice chunk of dark against the light of that boat on the right. That is a nice touch that gives the area drama.

18 comments:

Simone said...

I could look at these old harbor scenes all day...Wonder why the draggers disappeared. Did they outlaw drag netting? Or did they gradually get replaced with fiberglass versions? They outlawed drag nets and roller rigs in Florida. Those nets would wipe whole sections of reef and huge populations of "by catch".

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Beautiful analysis, Stape! And I like what you say on how Gruppe establishes depth in the painting. One of the problems with thinking of the landscape in purely abstract terms (as an abstract design) is that we forget that we are trying to represent real things that sit at different places in the third dimension.

Highlandman's breeks said...

I began painting for the first time last year and discovered your blog in the fall. In relation to Grupe I had an interesting experience yesterday. On visiting the Darvish gallery in Naples, Florida saw a Thieme on the wall. I met the owner, a distinguished gentleman in his 80's. On mentioning Grupe he became excited and from a locked cabinet pulled an album containing 53 photographs of his Grupe paintings; he had collected these over 60 years and recently sold 52 of the 53 to a private collector. He saved one which he sold within the past few months for $55,000. He claims to be the authority on Grupe. While admitting that Grupe painted over 600 works and many are of inferior quality he attributed this to a large number of demonstration pieces for students and workshops. He likened him to the impressionists whose works were not "discovered" until the 30's and believes the good Grupe's will over time sell in the millions. Of interest in this gallery, in addition to the Thieme. there is a large painting done by Emile's father, Charles

Judy P. said...

Very useful analysis, but I am catching up on blogs, so am still heartily chastened by your previous post. Only recently was it dawning on me that my attempts to loosen my tight ways were verging on sloppy. Then that cute kitten left me wide open for that concrete reproachment! Like medicine, it was hard but good for me to read.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Well Stapleton, I must say this is an excellent lesson on design. You know that "Book" is getting heavier all the time.

You have a wonderful gift you are sharing with all of us on this blog. I can only hope to retain, recall, and use all I have learned from you and the paintings you show.
Thank you and Keep On Keeping On!!

barbara b.

Jeremy Elder said...

The last concept you presented was great - something I haven't thought about before. I was disappointed you didn't give it one of your clever names, though.

DIANE TASSELMYER said...

Man oh Man...wasn't Gruppe something.

I really appreciate you using some of my favorite painters' pieces to illustrate your teaching points.

Believe me all this blog work is NOT going to waste. WE ARE learning much!!
thank you Stape!

billspaintingmn said...

This is the place to be. Stape, this is helping everyone!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Simone:
The catch diminished as the area was fished out and as the government restricted the fishing the boats all mysteriously sank or burned at sea, no lives were lost.The last was the Vincie N. 120 feet built in 1929 I painted it many times. I remember when there were dozens.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Michael. That is the game, its a picture and its an abstract!
......Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Highlandsmans trousers

I think there are so many bad Gruppes because he always painted one shot and sold everything.They may be worth millions some day, but I think a lot of more consistent Gloucester Rockport artists like Hibbard and Mulhaupt will get there first.
........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Judy:
I try to post a kittie or two before getting obnoxious and scary.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Barbara;
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I am glad you are out there reading my blog.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jeremy:
I will see if I can come up with something.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Diane;
Thank you,
......Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill:
Thank you. I am glad to think I am helpful.
......Stape

willek said...

Terrific post, Stape. I also just noticed the little touch of red along the left side. A little piece of building. He did it in the harbor scene, too, Could you comment on that?

painterchum said...

hello Stapleton, Just arrived at your blog after another blogger mentioned your post...what an interesting blog. Hope you dont mind me linking yours to my own blog, so i can conveniently come back and visit often.
Sally