Sunday, August 7, 2011

John Pike

Here I am again. Thank you for tolerating my reduced schedule on the blog, again I am not going away, just spacing things out so I can paint more. I wrote almost a thousand posts in a row without missing a day. I need to adopt a less driven system for a while., but I may return to that when winter comes. If you are new to reading this blog, I would point you towards the archives. I began this with the intention of writing down everything I thought an artist ought to know. That turned into a big project. The first 400 or so posts are like an art school, I started with the materials and worked outwards from there. If you want to get the most from the blog I suppose the best way is to go back to the beginning and read forward from there.

The blog has been described as a rabbit hole. There is no good way to know what is in it in order, but a reader is working to build an index to the site, an enormous task, and I am grateful to him for undertaking that effort. When it is ready I will post a link to it. I am afraid it will take him a very long time.

John Pike was an American watercolorist, who was born in Boston in 1911. Pike was a student of Richard Miller, and Charles Hawthorne. Pike did a lot of magazine illustration and ran a watercolor school in Woodstock, New York, the same town as John Carlson's summer extension of the Art Students League. He died in 1979.

I bring John Pike to your attention because he wrote a wonderful book on painting, "John Pike Paints Watercolors". There is an Amazon link below if you want a copy. I have read my copy many times. The book was originally published in 1978 right before the authors death.

Pikes paintings are far less direct than my own work, he is a broad watercolorist. There was a school of American watercolor that existed up until about his death that had a look to it and many practitioners. Someday there are about 10 blog posts to do on that, but that is a ways out there. Many of them were from California, although Pike was not. Watercolor now seems to be a drug on the market ( I always wondered why that means hard to sell, you would think the opposite) and few of my galleries show them anymore. The best watercolorists I know are now painting in oil. I am sure That is cyclical though and watercolor will come back.

As I am exclusively an oil painter it might seem odd that I am recommending a watercolor "how to" book. But this book is useful to anyone painting in any medium. The book is mostly demos.
Each of the demonstrations in the book begins with the charcoal drawing from which it was made and most of the plates are in color so you do get a good look at how the paintings were made.

Pike shows how he progresses from sketches to the paintings which are done in the studio from them. The second half of the book is a gallery of his paintings, and he was very good. The paintings are in a style that seems a little dated today, but they are very well done and if there were no art instruction in the book I would recommend it on the strength of his art. I have little interest in books about painting by people who don't do it well.

This was in the comments from the last post. I thought it was great and am posting it here.

said...Something that works for me. I make all my appointments on Wednesdays. Dentist, hair cut, car repairs. I used to do this for environmental reasons now that and so I don't have to cut into studio time.

THERE is a great idea. Thanks Maineland whoever you are. That seems so obvious. If I had to guess, I would guess that this is an idea from a mom managing small children a home and operating on a tight budget. They are a special class of experts with expertise in time management and accustomed to the challenge of pecking away at tasks that are open ended and larger than can actually be accomplished.


Lucy said...

Thank you for reminding us about John Pike. I have the book somewhere and am inspired to revisit it. I too wonder why we don't see more watercolors in galleries. I love American regional and modernist watercolors. It's a difficult medium to handle if you are used to oil paint.

willek said...

I discovered your blog, Stape after about 50 postings. That first day I read posting after posting for 6 or 7 hours. I often sit down for 1 or 2 hours and browse through the catagories. There are always new, "knowing what I know now", take aways.

armandcabrera said...

Another great post.
I have the Pike book and love it; also Ted Kautzky who has that look you are talking about. Both had great ability.

JonInFrance said...

Well, I bought the Foster Cadell book on your recommendation - and found it very helpful.. sooo... .. I've ordered this!

McKinneyArtist said...

For people who think watercolor is not art I dare you to google Mary Whyte or Luke Buck and look at their work!!! At a Luke Buck workshop he advised us to buy a John Pike pallet. Watercolor is great when painting things that need to get down to the smallest items - like bugs on a mountain.

Love the Cadell books, the Nightingale cds, and reading old posts from this blog. Just ordered the John Pike book.

Tomorrow drawing quick sketch with a group of friends in Winston Salem. Life is good.

David Teter said...

Yeah... love pikes watercolors and as you (and above Armand Cabrera) have mentioned too, Ted Kautzky, whose book I have had for years.
Some things never go out of style... good 'picture makin'.
I have had the pleasure of seeing many of the 'California' watercolorists works first hand since many are out here in smaller museums and shows (The Irvine Museum).
Some having done watercolors of Los Angeles and my hometown port of San Pedro where I recognize the locations and see how they have changed since.
I have been doing my watercolors lately so lets you're wrong about recent sales trends.

I remember reading about Homer and/or Hoppers battles with watercolor not being taken as serious painting, only worthy of a medium for studies.
I suppose it true...cyclical.
@McKinney... I agree there are lots of artists who are fabulous and work in watercolor almost exclusively.
Also see Dean Mitchell and Mario Andres Robinson.

Philip Koch said...

My wife has forbidden me to work in watercolor. It seems the medium has been known to make me testy.

Deborah Paris said...

My mother was a watercolorist and I have her Pike book and palette (and a whole library of great old books on figure drawing, illustration, all the original Walter Foster books, etc).

jeff said...

I use watercolor and gouache sometimes when I'm drawing and they are both great for traveling.

Watercolor has a long history in landscape painting going back to Turner and Constable. Turner took this medium to amazing heights.

Zorn's early successes were in watercolor and they are amazing paintings.

Whistler is another painter who used the medium.

Sargent also comes to mind and of course Homer which leads one to Andrew Wyeth.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Thanks Stape....I will check out this John Pike. As always you give us something great to chew on.
A big "Happy Birthday" to ya also.
Hope all is well with you and yours. Don and I have spent the last few days fighting fires. We lost both the north and south forty, but saved the house. The "land of boz" will come back greener then ever after this. Our fire fighters are doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

John Pike is awesome artist--never mind oil, acrylic or gauche--great composition, color, and creativity is to be recognized. Thanks Stape, but must staunchly disagree with you on your art and do nothing else philosophy. I have been a health practitioner for 30 years--get balanced man!!, exercise, eat well, relax, etc. I was a workaholic, going into an early grave. Terrible cholesterol, prediabetic, etc. and I quit, began eating well and exercising and taking time off. Hope this view gets across that you don't have to kill yourself to be a successful artist. Paint 5 hours a day, do yoga, meditate, take a vacation, have a balanced life and be successful artist too. Sorry, just my point of view.

armandcabrera said...


Not to highjack Stapleton’s blog but you do if you make your sole income from the sale of your paintings. If you don't have to sell paintings to pay your mortgage or eat, I'm happy for you.
I know some people have a nice divorce settlement, generous spousal support, pension, trust fund, 401k or retirement plan. Artists usually don't especially when someone has worked as a self-employed artist all or most of their life.

jeff said...

I'm going take issue as well Silvio's post.
Painting is not the same as most other jobs. Being involved with creative work is not the same as being a health practitioner.

The very nature of painting is so removed from the norm of an everyday job there really is no comparison.

Most painters do not make a good living but they keep doing it because they have to. It defines their very being. The business side of this is the same as any other business but the reward is you're making work, and that's the rub.

I know musicians who never stop.
Why, because they are not like normal people. Sorry if this sounds elitist but that's why they are good and most other people who play an instrument are just OK. It's called obsessive drive and might seem unnatural to you it's what makes you better as a painter or musician. Is it a healthy way to live? Who knows.

Charlie Parker died at age 35 but in his short life he gave the world more music than most musicians do in three lifetimes or more. It's about passion,desire and obsession. When I say obsession I mean the desire to learn and improve through diligent study. I do not mean painting 200 hundred bad paintings.

I'm not saying everyone should have this, but it helps if you want to make your living at painting.

David Teter said...

Rarely do I double comment on one post...

But have to add to Armand & Jeff's comments.
Yes on all they said plus... it's what we do, create, other than the business end of it it's not really 'a job'. We do it because we love it. No body chooses art to make $ or gets a job making art because it is like some office job and you need it to pay your bills.

No non artist looking thru the want ads says "I'll do that, just sit around and make pretty pictures and get paid"

In fact it never really is a job at all.
I shudder at the thought of having to get 'a job'.

All I want to do is draw and paint... it's not work.

McKinneyArtist said...

The John Pike book came yesterday from Amazon. First 20 pages worth the price of book. Got mine for $35

Can't learn to ride a bike from reading a book or watching others ride. Gotta fall down and get up until you get it. Words from Pike = Amen from Me.

Thanks for the great blog.

Amelia said...

Hi Stape,

In your post on John Pike, you said "As I am exclusively an oil painter it might seem odd that I am recommending a watercolor "how to" book."

Well, I work almost exclusively in watercolor, but I'm also an avid reader of your blog and get tons of useful info from it, even though the context is often oil painting. Although the two disciplines may approach a given subject in different ways, the fundamentals of color, composition, movement, symmetry, anti-beaking, etc., are essential to both (and to all realistic image-making). Personally, I don't think watercolor and oil painters need to be divided into exclusive and opposite camps; we're all painters (though some folks may quibble that watercolor is really painting at all . . . but, oops, I think my shoulder chip is showing again). But then, I like both dogs and cats, too!

Thanks for the blog. You have a great perspective and a lot of wisdom and are generous with both.

David Lobenberg said...

That was my very first watercolor how to book. I purchased it shortly after it hit the market. He was a wonderful painter. I work in both watercolor and acrylic.

Edo Hannema said...

The book of John Pike was the first watercolourbook I bought, a fabulous technique and his washes are just great! I have his palette for a long time, and it os still the best for me! I also have the dvd, were he smokes, drinks and listen to classical music, the quality is terrible, but iam so happy to have it! Thanks for sharing your blog!

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased from an estate sale a beautiful collection of lithographs reproduced from John Pike originals exclusively for the General Tire International Company. It is signed by John Pike. There are a total of 12 prints. The prints are as follows:
U.S.A. Life In The Northern Woodland, Spain: Alcazar and Cathedral in Segovia, Portugal: Torre De Belem On The Tagus, Morocca, Old Tangier At Night, Ecuador, Chimborazo Volcano Towering Over Central Ecuador, Pakatagonia At The Foot Of The Sierra Bagnales, Netherlands: Canal Scene In Utrecht Holland, Mexico: Santa Prisca And San Sebastian In Taxco, South Africa: Table Mountain Overlooking Capetown, Venezuela: Angel Falls The Tallest In The World, Italy: Canal Scene In Venice, U.S.A.: New England's Quiet Beauty At Supper Time. Any idea what it may be worth?