Sunday, June 21, 2009

But wait! Theres more!

I absolutely love this Carlson painting. The gray and slightly umber tonality is really beautiful. Its unusual in that so many are built around a Prussian blue chord and this one is not.The color in this painting reminds me of Mulhaupt. I guess I need to do a Mulhaupt post too, don't I. There is so much to write!

A lot of pictures I see today are just too happy. I go into galleries and there are all of these happy, happy paintings. Its like a five year olds birthday party! Are we painting for crows, who snap only at shiny bits of tinsel and bright scraps of discarded candy wrappers? There is a strength and dignity in a picture like this, that gives expression to an emotion much deeper than the painted bon-bons we throw as chum before the decorating housewives. I think when this was made, people were far more accepting of a broader range of possible moods in a painting. If I took a painting like this to a dealer today, they might ask me to put some children playing with balloons in it.

Take a second a look at this one. Its an example of a different sort of Carlson painting. If you give it a minute, I think it will grow on you. It has his characteristic unique shapes. I have painted subjects like this and they are hard to do. he has dealt with the gray day and the industrial subject by pushing his key up and presenting it in that yellow and silver color scheme. Maybe this is not as fine a Carlson as some we have seen, but he has successfully dealt with a very difficult painting problem.

Here is one from Jefforsonville, Vermont. It was painted in a place called, fittingly enough, Pleasant Valley. I know where this location is and I have painted very near it. That is Mount Mansfield in the background. On the other side of Mansfield is the ski area, Stowe. There are lots of paintings from this valley by Hibbard and Gruppe. It is still a great place to paint, however like so many other places, I don't think it will stay unspoiled for long. The dairy industry is dying and the farms will eventually be broken up and sold as lots . I have written before about the passing of historic New England here.

Notice how forcefully Carlson drives the viewer back into his painting. The log in the foreground points you to the snow dusted, and furrowed fields that take you up onto the side of the mountain. Then there is an S curve switchback that takes you the rest of the way up, until you hit that lighted area at the top as a reward for all of that following. It is perhaps a little heavy handed, but I think that forgivable because of how stylish this painting is. Running that mountain so far up towards the top of the canvas to make it look huge is reminiscent of Edgar Payne. You said you were reading his book didn't you?

This one is all full of funky shapes and bracketed by forms shoved up against the sides of the canvas. If you squint at it you will see that Carlson has connected all of his darks. remember I wrote about that here. This blog, like Topsey, just growed, and some of you are new to it. Unlike a book, where the author can assume the reader picks it up and begins at the beginning, you readers are parachuting in anywhere you damn well please. So I am going to make an effort to link back to posts that relate to what I am discussing.
I think this one is nice, it has a real rhythmic design that almost seems to wiggle as you watch it. That kind of rhythm imparts a cheerful air to a painting. The grays and the russets in the background also form a major key color chord. This painting reminds me of an excited puppy that runs up to you wagging its tail so frantically that its whole body is in motion. This is not a terribly naturalistic painting though. If you are looking for high realism, this ain't your dog.

This one is in the Carlson book, but of course in black and white. Notice how each of the apertures between the trees is of a totally different area and shape. No two are even slightly alike. That is an excellent and difficult piece of design. Might I add:


I still have enough Carlson images left to do one more post.


Bob Carter said...

It just keeps getting better! I, too, love that first one. I get your point about "happy pictures". Moodier things just don't seem to sell as well. But how can anyone resist this Carlson? It's a series of portraits of trees (his specialty), each one with its own character. Unlike the two stylized ones you showed yesterday, the design here is so subdued as to be almost inobvious. (I noted as I saved this that this one is from 1917.) The S curve of snow is very subtle, leading us back to a point where it fades out, which then leads us up into that exquisite filigree of bare branches against the sky. I'd love to see this one "in the paint" to analyze his technique. (I'm the guy in the museum who blocks your view because he has his nose pressed to the canvas.) I'm guessing he laid down a dark wash and then painted the sky into it. What do you think?

The second one reminds me a little of a Fern Coopedge, but of course the color is much more subdued.

I'm reading your blog as if I were taking an on-line course, so I dutifully reread Payne. Second reading impression is the same as before: great technical stuff, but so weakly organized and written. But still, it's must reading. But not for neophytes. You need to know the language first or you'd be totally overwhelmed. For example, he talks about the steelyard stem early in the book, long before he has defined it. Writing an instructional text takes careful planning to be sure that ideas are logically developed and that all necessary terms have been previously defined. It's hard work.

I'm now reading Kenyon Cox, and that is just the opposite. Cox was a very clear and effective writer, who lays out his subject with the same attention to design he promotes for art. He's also very witty. His evisceration of the famous "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is a hoot. Thanks for turning us on to this book.
It deserves to be more widely read.
-Bob said...

OK. I know perfectly well that you will not "approve" of my painting style nor any of my paintings (they break a lot of rules).So I have stayed out of the comment field. But I couldn't let the comment which trivialized "happy" paintings as "happy pictures, chum, bon-bons,tinsel,scraps,candy wrappers" just go with out introducing another perspective.
I do buy and appreciate moody paintings because they are rich and beautiful.
Then why do I paint happy paintings? I am not a moody person. I can't paint a moody painting and be who I am here and now. However, I also can't paint a moody painting because it is not what I see or feel, even on a grey day, even when there is death and disease at the doorstep or in the environment. The burden of "Happy Paintings" is that they are never fashionable with "serious artists" or
"academics". I gladly let that all go for the joy of painting from life. However, that doesn't mean we, the happy painters, are any less serious about our art and our craft.That's why I read your blog.

Stapleton Kearns said...

"One of the hardest things about writing, is to say what you mean, and exactly what you mean ,no more and no less." E.B. White ?
I suppose I should clarify what I meant by happy. By that, I mean lightweight, feelgood,disposable decorations that many galleries sell because that IS what the vast number of their clients want.
There are a lot of paintings out there whose first purpose is to be harmless and non intimidating. Remember that the for the majority of the buyers,their taste is absolutely unschooled by any contact with our historic art.Their taste has in the main been forged in the womens and the decorating magazines.
They prefer paintings that are deliberately couched at the level of visual nursery rhymes.They don't want art, they want wallpaper. They have every right, it's their money.

I am way out to one side on this thing as I am particularly traditional and "lose " a lot of those clients anyway.

I did not mean that any artist who is not tortured is without merit. I am not exactly a lugubrious painter myself.
I do prefer the more somber tones of our historic art, beside which, most of what is done today seems vulgar to me.
It reminds me of the difference between the hard rock I love and that of The Captain and Tenille. A lot of what is in the commercial galleries is the visual equivalent of Muskrat Love.
I hope you will forgive me maintaining my opinion, but I hope you will continue to read the blog.
I thought you art was fine.
See it at;

Stapleton Kearns said...

I agree with you criticism of Paynes book. The ideas he delivers in the little thumbnails are where the value is in the book. The Carlson book reads like it wea translated from Swedish. Of the two I prefer it by far. It does have a wider scope and that is its strength. The value of both books is that despite being a little stilted in their prose, they were written by men who were fine painters.
Cox operates on a far more rarified level and like Josh Reynolds is eloquent and deep, erudite and daunting for the intellectually timid. He will rework what you ask for in a painting.
I'm the guy who stands behind you in the museum and asks " so hows that painting smell?"

Unknown said...

wowee wow wow... that first one takes my breath away.

Talking about prussian blue... do you use it? I found thalo to be so invasive, it seemed to color everything in the painting(probably my inexperience). I switched to Ultramarine, and just occasionally use thalo if I need a more vibrant green or a really clear sky color.

PS. Moxie rocks.
"gioguest" an environmentally friendly, robotic automaton, in case of an odd number at the dinner table.

willek said...

Hi, Stape. I reexamined a picture I began two days ago and realized, thanks to you, it would flow much better as a mirror image. SO I am reworking it. I have so much more to learn and you have so much more to write. They sure missed the boar to publish that Carlson book without color pictures like these. I really like that he does different things and pushes the envelope. WillEK said...

I'll keep reading your blog. I've read Carlson, by the way as difficult as it is. I own the book. I take whatever I can get, learn from it and run in my own direction.

To pick up on Deb's thread... I've used Prussian Blue and Phthalo Blue (different Phthalo brands have a slightly different tints..very close to Prussian). I don't seem to find a big difference in the way that Phthalo/Prussian work on a canvas or on the pallet. Even the new Prussian Blues are not light stable-air stable. What are the differences that you have found between the two? And what is the advantage of the Prussian, iron base blue over a permanent copper, cyanine base blues such as Phthalo?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think the reason the Carlson book was published without pictures is that the original was without pictures. Actually,I have an old copy with one color picture of a watercolor inexplicably added in the muile. It is wicked cheap though and perhaps with color plates it would not be. I expect they couldn't find any to use.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I sometimes use Prussian and very occasionally I use Pthalo.I always have ultramarine, if I could only have one blue, and often I do that would be the one. It is a workhorse.

gloguest= beau geste with a couple of transplanted chromosomes from a jellyfish.

Stapleton Kearns said...

there are people, perhaps some reading this comment (no doubt) who know far more about paint chem. than I, so this is from my personal opinion based on my own anecdotal experience and not a scholarly answer.
I have used both thalo and Prussian. I prefer the Prussian as it is a blue green color and the Thalo is a clear blue.I also find it easier to control.My paintings look different if I use Prussian than they do when I use thalo. I sometimes use Prussian but not always.
Winsor Newton rates their Prussian as "A" which is permanent though not extremely permanent.But they rate their cadmiums at "A" also. Williamsburg rates their Prussian as extremely permanent. Both are iron based and not a hue made of thalo. I have seen sources that say Prussian is fugitive, and I have seen sources that say it is permanent if of good quality. I am willing to take Winsor and Newtons word for it because,... I want to use it.I have seen paintings of mine from 25 years ago done with Prussian and they are fine.
But any of you who are reading this,you will have to decide for yourself what you think, if you want to be absolutely safe I think you use Thalo. It is a different color though.

Susan said...

Hi Stapleton,
I'm one of your newer blog readers.
I started right at the beginning and I'm making my way through each post.
I'm having the best time, reading each night and learning so much from your posts.
You are a wonderfully gifted writer and, of course, artist and I wanted to let you know how much I look forward to reading these posts. Love the Carlson paintings, by the way, and took your advice and ordered his book.
I live in Bucks County, PA, an area, as you must well know, is known for the New Hope Impressionist painters. That Carlson snow scene with the wagon reminds me of scenes Redfield painted, and, of course, many other artists here.