Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dissecting a Hibbard 2

Above you see an exaggerated version of all the darks in our Hibbard painting. Look at that! They are all connected together. If you put your finger down on any dark in the painting, you could without lifting it, travel around all of the darks. The darks are joined into one super shape.

The popular idea that modern non representational painting has freed artists to become better designers than the representational guys before them is refuted by examples like this. Traditional painting is chiefly concerned with how it is a picture of, and not what it is a picture of.

The essence of good design is simplicity. This painting is an exquisite tracery of one interlocked shape of dark, silhouetted against the light. This shows the fabulous shape designing ability that Hibbard had. It will seem basic to you all who have followed this blog, but I will reiterate for the benefit of the newly arrived, or the victims of a wholly visual draftsman's teaching,

This design was imposed on nature and not discovered there!

The perfect painting would be a dark shape against a larger light shape, or a large dark decorated with a smaller shape of light. In practice this may be an unobtainable ideal or even a ridiculous abstraction so synthetic as to destroy our ability to represent the particular scene before us. It does however, point out one possible path towards simplification.

Every time you connect two nearby darks into one, you cut the number of shapes, as you connect more and more you simplify your image. This applies to the lights also, you can join them up too, but in practice it is the darks in the landscape that lend themselves most to this tactic. A few large and interesting shapes are preferable to a lot of little fussy disconnected ones.


This is one of the reasons why I find snow painting so fascinating, essentially everything is silhouetted in front of the big light of the snow. So snow painting provides an enormous amount of design opportunities.

One can learn a whole lot about snow painting oddly enough, by studying 19th century etchings. Those men dealt with the
this same problem continually. That big dark design silhouetted against the white of the paper. The international fad for etching in the late 19th and early 2oth centurys produced scores of fabulous designers. Yes, yes, I know that will be another series of posts, design motifs of late 19th century Scottish etchers. Now that sounds obscure doesn't it?

Paging Muirhead Bone! Would Mr. Muirhead Bone please report to the painting area?

Tomorrow, lines drawn on paintings!


Unknown said...

Stape..Great Post..Very true about what you said about " how it is done " concerning painting familiar objects. I like what Delacroix said..its not so much new ideas that fascinate, its that there is still more to be said about familiar ideas ( something like that ).

Hey..painted my first plein air of snow yesterday. Started out painting those Sierra Buttes captured by Edgar Payne. I learned alot.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanx Frank:
I have always wanted to get up into that Payne country. Will you post about the trip and show the result? I would like to see what got made. I have painted Tahoe several times. Have you ever been to Bishop?

Someday I will get there.Till then I have Vermont and the White mountains, I can be on location in Sharon VT. which is Hibbard country in a little over an hour, and I can paint in Cornish, New Hampshire, where Metcalf worked in about an hour.So I do have good locations close enough, but the scale is not so grand as Payneland ......Stape

JAMES A. COOK said...

You have answered my questions I had yesterday. That Hibbards design is imposed on nature. He sets his easel up and takes what subjects are in front of him and puts them together to make his design for this painting. Great note you had on linking the darks together to simplify design. May I point out other things I have notice in his design and please let me know if I am seeing this right.
I see a lot of opposites or mirrored objects in this painting. The red barn on the left faces the barn on the right, the big tree on the right is mirrored with its shadow on the red barn roof on the left. The mountain slopping down on the left is mirrored as it starts to slope up on the right. The shape of the roof to the left of the yellow house is the opposite shape to the little roof next to the barn on the right. The road as it winds to the right is mirrored by winding to the left .
Also if the big tree to the right wasn't positioned there the viewer would tend to wander out of the picture. The tree helps keep the viewer into the painting. Finally the use of red on the roof tops for the chimneys and the red hat leads my eyes and attention around the center part of this painting. Am I seeing to much into this.

Stapleton Kearns said...


I think you are right in a number of those observations. I might use the word balance or offset rather than mirror. I hate mirrors.
Those little spots of red are important. They ARE little accents that lead yopur eye around that part of the painting and decorate it as 3ell...........Stape