Friday, May 21, 2010

Powerspots 3

Above is an illustration of an easy, non mathematical way to find the power spots on a rectangle. This may not be perfect mathematically, but it is close enough for making paintings. However I can put my finger on the powerspot at a glance. But maybe I learned that once and forgot, possibly everybody can, I dunno. Either way, here is the pool hall geometry way to get there. Draw a line from corner to corner, both ways diagonally across the rectangle regardless of its proportions, then mark the point half way between the center and the corner of each quarter of the lines. And there they are, leering at you, powerspots.

I am announcing another workshop. Seems like I am doing a lot of those. People call me up. This one will be "Seascape Painting for the non amphibian". This will be held at the Rockport Art Association, in Rockport, Massachusetts on Sept 10-12. Weather permitting, I will teach both inside and outside.and show you how knowing the anatomy of a wave creates the means to craft its appearance. This is an RAA schedule event so talk to them if you want to be there. Their phone number is 612 546 6604.

In the comments some one asked me to show the powerspots operating in one of the paintings from last night, so here that is.There are the four power points in this Bouguereau. Each of them is in an important place in the design. The stern of our heroine is place right on the lower right point. Which is where Bougoureau placed it so we would be sure not to miss this attractive young woman. Over on the left power point the nymphs foot comes in and intersects the line right there. Because their is downward weight implied in the leg, she "stands" on the power point. That gives plenty of emphasis there.

The upper left point is the nymphs face, looking down into the action. Her gaze directs us or returns us down to the laddered stack of arms at the middle of the canvas where the pale flesh of the nymphs contrasts with the deeper more ruddy skin tone of the Satyr.

There is some kind of a passing reference to satyr in mythology that says they are afraid of water, that's why these naughty woodland sophomores I trying to throw him in the pond. It was a typical convention in classical painting to portray men as being russet colored and women as being pale. Society's taste for tanned woman came much later. That's why you see those paintings of Victorian ladies out with their umbrellas, they weren't avoiding the rain, they wanted to keep their complexions as pale as they could. Being tan was for people who had to work under the sun. Incidentally, when I see a contemporary painting with a woman in a long dress and a parasol, I think 'heightened cheese content'.
A number of readers have e-mailed me questions. I love that, but I can't answer them all immediately. I will work in the answers to your questions when I am in a transition from one series of posts on a subject, to another.


Philip Koch said...

I well remember that as part of my early art education I learned that Bouguereau was a really bad painter. Now I think he was, in his slightly bizarre way, really great.

I am SO glad everyone isn't trying to paint just like that anymore. But since that is clearly not the case, it's a blast to enjoy his elegant but slightly over-the-top paintings.

The one Stape showed today and yesterday is an amazing piece. Wonderful sense of composing with darks, lights, and midtones in it. One of my other big pleasures is the equally over-the-top British painter Waterhouse. His romance and sensuality are just delightful.

Bob Carter said...

This simpler method of locating the spots moves them out a bit to 0.25 of the diagonal length vs. 0.36 of the diagonal on a 3:4 canvas. Bouguereau does seem to be using this set of locations in this painting. It cracks me up to see where the lower right spot lands. Until you pointed it out, I hadn’t noticed the four-spot composition. I saw this as a triangle formed from major masses at three of the spots, with that strong diagonal forming the base. Either way, it’s a fun piece to analyze. It’s a great example of your mantra that design is installed rather than observed. What was to be observed in this nonexistent scene?

Jim Polewchak said...

I was hoping to make it to "Lupine World", but will definitely get to Rockport in the fall. It will be a great switch from painting the junk-laden waves that wash plastic debris up on the Lake Erie shores. On the other hand, orange "Tide" bottles are a nice compliment to green waves.

Scale said...

I'd have a question about this topic still. Power spots are a very useful tool for pictures of the most common proportions such as 4:3 or 5:7, but I have a really hard time trying to exploit them in more elongated pictures, say 2:1 or 3:1. In many pictures of that kind, such as those by Alphone Mucha, they don't seem to be taken much into account.

So I wonder, am I missing something or they are actually a tool specific for canvases which are themselves "golden rectangles" or close to it?

Darren said...

Another idea for finding powerspots is Rebattment.
I was going to define it myself but just found this online:
Rebattment is the 90° rotation of the short side of a rectangle onto the long side for the purpose of constructing a square within the plane of the rectangle.


Mary Bullock said...

Phillip - I never heard Bouguereau as being a "bad" painter. I don't understand why anyone would think that. He and Waterhouse are two of my favorite and really great masters. Do you remember why your teacher said that Bouguereau was a bad painter?

Philip Koch said...


The art world always has different currents of thought. I came out of a small liberal arts college art department (Oberlin) that had a real enthusiasm for the avant garde. My first year of painting I did many, many colorful abstract paintings (and actually learned a great deal in the process).

This was in the 1960's and there was much excitement in the air about Frank Stella and Jules Olitski. The winds of minimalism were blowing throught the art world too. Bouguereau was considered by some of my teachers as more sentimental than someone like Ingres who was grudgingly respected.

And generally the feeling was that among some teachers that if a later 19th century painter wasn't part of the Impressionist or post impressionist then they couldn't have been that sharp.

You can still find lots of people who don't like Bouguereau or the other more conservative 19th century painters. In the end it is a little like arguing about what is the best thing to eat. Personal preference is a hugely stubborn thing. Living in an art world with as many different competing ideas in it can be bewildering, but I don't know what the alternative is.

billspaintingmn said...

Philip, I might say the alteritive would be to trust your heart.
It works for me.
In the battle of the brain & heart, there is conflict, and you loose.
If the brain & heart have peace and work together, it can move forward.
Moving forward is what it's all about,(my opinion)
When I first read that you 'learned' Bougureeau was a really bad painter, I had to throw a red flag out...
And to follow through with "Now in
a slightly bizarre way, he was 'really great' makes me wonder?
What is leading your intuition?
I'm careful not to get angered by
another persons opinion, we all have one.
Today the art schools are sending
people into the world, with a piece of paper, a diploma,(that they pay dearly for),and some can't even stretch a canvas!
Apparently they are above that, and leave it to me, or some sweat shop so they can go straight to the desert.(ha)
I'm not saying you have to grow your own flax seed to make canvas &
But when you have to learn that Bouguereau was a really bad painter
is like saying butter is not good for cooking.
(I picture that dude selling I can't believe it's not butter stuff
what crock of crap!)
Trust me, I know there are very good artists coming into the art world from art schools. Most are those that trust there intuition and not some proffesors taste in art.
I think art is the flavor of the times, careful, don't let them slip you a poison apple!

willek said...

Everyone should make the pilgrimage to go and see that picture in Williamstown. It is SOOO slick. EVERY edge is well considered and weighed. Every value contrast was planned... and, of course, the composition with the eyes occupies so lovingly, and the lower left eye in vacant blackness to act as a counterbalance... that exit arm the directions of the gazes, that leg counteracting the backward resistance of the satyr. The total circular directional thrust ending up in the bower where the rest of the nymphs are waiting anxiously. A treasure... There are a lot of terrific pictures out there. Many Homers and Sargents, American Tonalists and Rockporters and 9 count 'em 9 Carots on the wall when I went. Well worth the trip.

Stapleton Kearns said...

They taught me the same thing. I rebelled.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I thin a lot of painters just guess the location and never measure., Hence the powerspots in this picture.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Excellent, I will see you there. Sign up early though, I think this class might fill fast.

Stapleton Kearns said...

They are not always useful. Mucha being an art nouveau guy probably found them too classical.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Were going there.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philips experience was very common in those days. It probably still happens.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Remember the purpose of an art school is to provide its instructors with employment!

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is a great museum. I don't guess you could even call it a small museum. It is a must see.