Friday, May 23, 2014

Oh,Hello!



Waiting for spring 24 by 30
Oh, Hello! This blog was to have been a one year effort that stretched to about three years. I wrote a post every day for nearly a thousand days, setting out to write down everything that I had learned over the years that I thought a painter should know. It was a specific project, and I did it as well as I could. I wrote it all out and gave the information away. Even though I seldom add to it now, I occasionally check my stats and see that there are a whole lot of people still reading it, so the blog is out there being useful. I am painting away  as always, and have volunteered to sit on the board of the Guild of  Boston Artists, which will be a new project for me. The picture above was done on one of many snow painting trips to Vermont this winter with my friend T. M. Nicholas. I fooled with it for a few days in the studio too.

Recently T.M. and I were talking about finishing pictures in the studio. That method is typical of the past New England painters we both admire. We both photograph every location, and agreed that it was a useful practice in case we lost the light or didn't get down far enough into the painting to remember if there were returns on that gable or not. But neither of us really look at the photos much, we invent a whole lot of what is on the canvas, or at least simplify it. Then he said something that made me think, he said....when I am working in the studio


 I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
 WHAT THIS PAINTING NEEDS!


What I think he meant was that when you have a photo, you have lots of information to draw on, but when you work without looking at it, you get a different result. Rather than transcribing from your photo when you look at the painting,you are asking yourself not what goes here, but what does this painting need? The idea is that in the studio you add art, not necessarily information. The answer might come from the rest of the picture. Perhaps the painting needs more weight here, or this line needs to lead this way. Sometimes it is about the pattern of shapes or the harmony of colours. Often it is the "treatment" that you are applying to the subject. When my paintings fail (I have quit painting on panels because they are too hard to throw away) it is seldom because they lack for information, but because they are matter of fact

What your painting should look like might come from your emotional intent, such as "I want this painting to be joyous" or" I want this picture to be lugubrious and sodden". You can put feeling into a painting, but it will come from within you, not from your reference photos.

But most importantly, when you are working out of your head and not from a reference the decisions you make are more individual. It will give your paintings a personal look. What you make up, eliminate or invent will be unique to you in a way that photo references are not. This will give your paintings more style. They will look more like they were done by you, rather than anyone else.

.Information is not art! The artist selects from the myriad bristling details and uses those which advance his intent and discards those which do not. That selection is called simplification, or sometimes breadth. We forget the little details and remember more about how the place made us feel. My best paintings often look remembered, rather than observed. Using photos often leads the artist to an accounting of the particulars of a scene and away from invention. Invention is personal. That which you invent in your paintings will give you your own unique style, that which you transcribe will be comparatively neutral. So most of the time I am in the studio, I don't use references at all. Now and then I will check some element in my photos but the general look, effect and handling come from me and not my references.

I should probably qualify all of this a bit by saying that this is grad-level stuff. I have taught a whole lot of workshops and spent most of my time in them drawing attention to the appearance of nature before the flailing student.The first skill that must be acquired is the ability to represent the scene before you with accurate drawing and color.You absolutely must get that DOWN, gotta have that! It is also important to make lots of outdoor studies in order to build a mental library of  what nature looks like and how different conditions and lighting effect that.

 I suggest you work on paintings in the studio out of your head as much as possible. Your paintings will be more individual and expressive. This is the key to making paintings that are uniquely your own. You want the viewer to look at your work and recognize in it your "style". That will come from putting yourself into your paintings, when they look at them, there you are!



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WORKSHOP

There is only a single workshop on the docket at this time. It will be in Kent, Connecticut on August 23 through the 25th. and is sponsored by the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury. Kent was one of those old impressionist art colonies from the late 19th to early 20th century. This is the southern end of the Berkshires, I guess, and is in what is called the Connecticut hill country I have researched the paintings that were made there and it looks to be a promising place to paint. One of my favorite Metcalfs was painted on a visit to Kent. 

Here is the link to sign up











26 comments:

Robert P. Britton, Jr. said...

Good to see you posting. Miss your wit, but I miss the knowledge shared most of all.

Enjoyed the painting as well. It is very enjoyable. Pleasing and yet old world at the same time a la Hibbard.

God bless, Stape. I'm sure you're burned out of the blogging, but the information you share is still quite valuable to the wannabees out here like me.

Poppy Balser said...

Hi Stape,
Well worth the wait!
Thanks for this and the thousand odd other posts.
Poppy

Mark Szymanski said...

I have gone through all your posts... twice, working on three times. There is so much good information, and it really inspired me to research even more, I have started amassing quite a library. I check every day just in case you write something new. Thanks for still keeping this up!

Stapleton Kearns said...

thank you all it is nice to know I have people out there reading
this.....Stape

Stapeliad said...

Stape- awesome as always. Thank you.

Bill Guffey said...

Ahhh, if only I had a quarter for every time I've said, "I want this picture to look lugubrious."

Susan Renee Lammers said...

Hi Stape. Thank you very much for writing today. This is exactly what I needed to read! You are so generous with your information. I hope to paint with you again someday.

Will Kirkpatrick said...

Powerfully posting, Stape. Classic Kearns that all of us old timers love to read. You have taken a vague and complex principle of creating a picture and expressed it in an easy to understand way. I still go back to your earlier postings for clarification of a concept. I am just afraid that some day these ephemeral bits might just get lost or evaporate from the cybersphere. Many many thanks. Will

Karla said...

Always so good to read one of your posts. I think you nailed the emotion in the beautiful painting you posted. The title fits it so well.

Sarah Faragher said...

I've missed your writing. Thank you for this great post, which goes straight the heart of the matter, as usual. Best wishes from Stockton...

Fi - WhereFishSing.com said...

Good to see you posting again. Are there still plans to turn your blog into a book?

barbara b. land of boz said...

Stape, thanks for the new post. I will raise my hand and say, I was one of those students that you told to adhere to the scene before me. You were so right, and for that I thank you. Really enjoyed looking at your snow painting. Love the syrup buckets on the maples.
You take care and keep your Art Guild board on their toes........

Robert J. Simone said...

Good advice. If it were not for the blog I would probably be unaware of a whole slew of Cape Ann painters from Hibbard and Vickery on down to TM, his father Tom and you, of course. Love that whole vein of painting the most of all.

robwood said...

I enjoy reading and re-reading all your old posts, but I still get a big smile when I see you've posted something new! Thanks for everything you've done for all the aspiring painters that follow your blog!

DGehman said...

Not sure I ever told you thanks for the blog. It is a continuously rich mine. And a workshop without snow? What will people do with all the spare time, since they don't have to scrape the ice crystals off their palette?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Oh, hi there!

Neil Whiting said...

Great to see another post. This is a wonderful resource.
Some of the older ones no longer show the painting under discussion but it can usually be found by Google search.

Thanks for the instruction and wit.
Neil

George Hall II said...

I always seem to be in the wrong place, at the right time. Sigh. At one point, not too long ago, I lived in Boston. Shortly after moving to the western end of Massachusetts I suddenly gained an interest in drawing and painting. A year after moving back to my home state of Kentucky I hear about this wonderful artist, Stapleton Kearns, who also happens to be one who writes in a way I undestand and can appreciate. Thank you for sharing your words with us Stapleton!

Gerard Natale said...

Great post, Stape! You always seem to hit the nail on the head just when I need it. Thanks for the inspiration!

Erich said...

Hoping you might do a workshop this fall in Minnesota! I'll bring extra cigars!!

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's really a very good idea I would like to do a workshop in Minnesota I want to Do it somewhere with high plains and oak trees

Philip Koch said...

Hi Stape- good to see a new post from you! I miss your old daily posts, but certainly understand that was way too much to keep up.

Couldn't agree more with the thrust of what you are saying. Especially your idea that we all invent a little differently and that takes us to the places where our paintings become unique. At least eventually it does.

It's funny about using photography as a reference. I know many painters who have pulled off beautiful pieces that way.

Me I just can't do it. I grew up in a family of photographers. My grandfather John Capstaff was the inventor of the original Kodachrome film. Unfortunately he wasn't a particularly happy person and frankly scared me when I was little. Whenever I've tried to work from photos I get creeped out and abandon the attempt. Hey, who isn't a littel neurotic anyway?

But as you were pointing out, being forced to rely on observation, studies, memory and invention back in the studio can take you to some of the best places.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey Philip!

Deb said...

Thank you for this blog!

Susan Sorger said...

I'm thinking I want to download the entire blog, just in case it ever disappears. I need it in my library. I can't imagine doing it blog post by post. How?

Susan Sorger said...

oh how rude of me to make my first post thus. I really mean: "thank you so much. I can't tell you how I appreciate all of the wonderful information and I want to take it and keep it all for myself."