Sunday, April 17, 2011

A shorthand of vision

The painting above, Trouville, le Chemin la Corderie from
is by Eugene Boudin. Boudin was a 19th century French painter and also the teacher of Monet. Boudin was also a major influence on one of my favorite landscape painters, Edward Seago.
I am showing you this because I want to point out something. Boudin hints at things rather than carefully delineating them. Below is an example,

Look at the nervous little strokes that he uses for the branches and the few dots for leaves. He gives just enough information to convey what we are looking at and no more. The tree behind the branch is just random marks and colored rice.

I was talking last night about not needing more information in an unfinished painting but more art. Here are examples of that. There is really very little information given, but plenty of artifice. Artifice means deception, trickery. You are tricked into believing that you are seeing a branch, but when you look more closely, it's just paint. Boudin was perfectly capable of pushing the painting to a salon finish, but he knew he could convey more by saying less.

Boudin was an early exponent of outside painting and he probably made this at least partly outside. But it is not a literal transcription. Boudin has translated it from vision into his own visual language. Like a skilled translator who thinks"I know how to say that in my own language" Boudin saw nature and then could say it in his own language. He was not literally copying the thing in front of him. The illusion is not gained by velocity of execution, it was probably done very deliberately. The illusion comes from an installed simplicity. Boudin has at his command a vocabulary of forms, abbreviations and generalizations from which he chooses.



Mary Byrom said...

Oooh. I love this post Stapleton.

Jim Gibbons said...

great example......thanks for sharing!

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

Thanks for this one . . . very timely. I need a "less is more" tatoo somewhere I can't miss seeing it.

billspaintingmn said...

I try to keep it simple. It's not easy ya know.

Philip Koch said...

I love the analogy of the artist as a translator! said...

Installed simplicity! That says it all.

Karla said...

It is amazing how simplifying a painting gives it more depth of interest. Great post!

Unknown said...

Great post, and we appreciate you keeping our Stape addiction going during your busy painting trip. (I mistyped that as "panting", which might be as accurate out there in the heat)
I discovered once by accident, when I was unhappy with a passage and scraped it down, that the "ghost" image left behind was actually more pleasing - it was simple values and shapes. That started me on a journey of simplification, most particularly in landscape painting.

OUr visual language starts to develop over time - I think we slowly begin to invent symbols for all the landscape elements, and this translates into our visual language or "style", or, it might be said, our own "voice" (our accent?). But I think it does take time to go from trying to copy the literal we see in front of us, to designing the elements, to then symbolizing them in a melodic and artistic way.
You've said this beautifully.

willek said...

Terrific post, Stape. I come to know more artists and what their work is like, I a find I have a lot if interest in who they studied with and who they painted with and who they copied and what they liked. There are a lot of connections that make so much sense when you know this stuff. There was a ton of that in the new Cleveland book on Tonalism. Great read.

Painting Tips and Tricks said...

Great paintings! I like what you did with the trees!...Daniel

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you also!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have always recommended the neck area.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Wicked simple.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Installation is good.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The way to start out is to learn to imitate exactly what you see before you. That is the root skill. After that, improvisation.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I suppose I need that book.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Painting etc.
What trees?