Posts Tagged ‘JMW Turner’

One Really Big Fire; A Lifetime Passion!

December 19, 2017

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, from the River 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851.jpg

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, from the River                                                                       Joseph Mallord William Turner, watercolor on paper, 1834

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy looking at the watercolors and watercolor sketches of Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Ely Cathedral, The Western Tower Seen from the South East, Joseph Mallord William Turner,1794.jpg

And what I love about his work is the process and progress of his painting over the span of his decades as an artist; the nearly radical simplification and experimentation that he undertook that seems to have been a passion.  I’m especially drawn to his sketches using watercolor and other media on paper; it is those that I want to share with you here.

William Turner Drawings.jpg

 

At the beginning of his career, Turner made meticulous drawings, usually with graphite, and laid in multiple layers of transparent or translucent color to create images portraying not only light and dark values but evocations of depth, mass, and texture. As you can see to the right, his early color choices were typical of the English School of the time. Turner used a cool transparent blue and an earthy orange that would produce a natural grey tone when overlaid on each other. Only at the end would he add just a few touches of more vibrant color.

Below, in this next apparently unfinished piece that he painted in Oxford, you can see just how these opposing tones create a grey.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Oxf, St Mary's and the Radcliffe Camera from Oriel Lane.jpg

It was a tone Turner used as the basis for much of the image’s structure. This is not far off the method used by earlier artists … from Jan van Eyck to Holbein … a grisaille underpainting with layers of ever stronger clear color glazing and a touch or two of possible semi-opaque or opaque color at the very end.

As Turner matured, we can see that he became surer and surer of using more direct modulation of color. He still often began the sketches with graphite line work, but even those marks, as well as much of the subsequent brushwork, became less and less purely definitive of physical detail; ever freer and more expressive of visual and emotional experience.

Artwork page for ‘Heidelberg Castle from the Hirschgasse’, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1844.jpg

Above we have again have an unfinished piece. Notice how both lines and color marks, while very much related to the things, the physical phenomenons, that they record, these marks a not as physically precise. Instead they are more spare and simple, leaving more room for the artist and eventually the viewer to complete the intent of the image.
‘Shields Lighthouse’, Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1823-6.jpg

We can see in this late (1823) sketch of a coastline with a lighthouse, the now bolder, even rougher use of brushwork.  And as his career continued he even achieves an a nearly incorporeal quality, images were composed only of the shaped wavelengths of light we call color.

 

I was recently reminded of all this when a recent article came across my desktop. That e-article highlighted five of my all time favorite artists (I admit to having at least a top 25, maybe more). Each of these is a painter who

turner, "Norham Castle, sunrise”.jpgworked on easel paintings as well as aqueous media on paper. The problem was that, while the it was well written and talked about the specific paintings of these five near heroes of mine, it only showed the works of four of them. The author wrote about Turner’s watercolor sketches of the burning Houses of Parliament, but omitted any example of those pieces. Ouch!

 

The-Burning-of-the-Houses-of-Parliament-1834-JMW-Turner.jpg

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament                                                                                                            J.M.W. Turner, watercolor, 1834

So, I guess this is my visual form of a rant of sorts; sharing the images they might have included in the e-article (the first and last images in this blog) … and a few more to boot.

Here’s hoping you enjoy them.

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Exhibition of Sketches open, Reception today!

May 2, 2014

Sometimes little things are really quite important. Certainly the smallest thing can be extremely satisfying.

I have a new show opening today in Charlottesville, Virginia at Angelo (on the downtown pedestrian mall). It is a wonderful small venue. The show itself is also small, just 14 pieces. All the work is quite small too!

After my big shows of really BIG drawings earlier this winter, it is really a nice treat to put up these smaller, more intimately scaled pieces.

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And these works are interesting and exciting to me precisely because they are more personal, intimate, and quick in terms of the art making. All of them are landscape sketches, most started and finished in one session … with the simplest of materials. There are a few that are almost panoramic in vision despite their very small scale.  A few are really close-ups of landscape details. Most of them though are fairly typical landscape images … at least they are typical to my eye.

The best ones are done very quickly and quite simply.  A few have a hint of Demuth or Marin (not so much Homer or Girtin this time) … and just maybe the quickness (if not the sublime quality) of a Turner watercolor.  The less successful ones may help me create better larger works but, of course, I don’t share those. They are now “working” sketches. You would have to come to my studio or one of my classes to see those.

The ones at Angelo for the next two months are, I think … pretty good.

If you are near Charlottesville sometime between May 1st and June 30th, please take a look and tell me if you agree.

(PS It would be wonderful to see you at the opening too … sometime between 5:00 and 7:30.)

 

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Respite on a West Coast Beach …

July 1, 2013

This past March, while it was still snowing and freezing here in the mountains of the Mid-Atlantic, we visited our son out in S. California.  When we arrived it was in the 80’s … but dropped back into the lower 70s and even the 60s. It was a welcome interlude, and on one of the warmer days we explored the area around Point Dume. We trekked over the rocks and, after getting to a less visited side of the outcrop, we settled down for a respite on the beach. Everyone else soaked up some sun, sat around relaxing and chatting … or played a bit at the edge of the water.

Me, I needed some quite time. So I walked over to and climbed up into the next set of rocks and relaxed. Looking back across the sandy beach, the rocky point, and up the coastline, I was quite happy that I had brought a small set of sketching materials and my camera. Quietly drawing and laying in a few quick patches of color was a really enjoyable way to spend my time. I could have spent several hour making a few more sketches … but it was almost time for lunch. So, after shooting a few dozen photos of the surroundings, I packed up my gear and went in search of seafood and some more delicious family time too.

Point Dume, Zuma Beach
(a watercolor and pencil sketch, 5 x 11)

When we returned home I decided that I wanted to do a three to four foot multi-panel piece based on this experience. I even promised my son that he could have the piece if I felt really good about it when it is completed.

Well, this week I made the one of the first steps in that process, a larger study using the sketch and the photographs I created three months ago as resources. So far I feel pretty good about it … though it looks a bit more like a “tinted drawing” than the “painting” that I had envisioned. It may also be a bit to timid in comparison to the sketch. The first sketch had at least a few subtle hints of Demuth’s delicate control and something of Marin’s energetic brushwork. But that is why we do studies, to work out the kinks in our ideas ahead of time … to get back to some of the fearless joy of our first encounter.

Here is the study I finished this Saturday. I will keep posting the progress over the next few weeks.

(watercolor on panel, 12 x 12)

Point Dume, Santa Monica
(watercolor on panel, 11×14)

Tate, Watercolor … Oh MY

August 18, 2011

What a wonderful show. I was completely entranced, blown away really. The range of work was wonderful, the history of the watercolour medium in England was masterfully presented too. A fantastically curated exhiition! Completely worth the price of a ticket to England.

I expected many items such as the early maps and the small scientific illustration pieces. And, of course, I expected the delicate work of the landscape painters so I was ready for the works by Turner, Cozens, and Cotman. Expecting them didn’t make them any less wonderful though.  But there were several pieces that just stopped me in my tracks.  The first was a small study of an oak leaf by John Ruskin.  I must have spent 20 minutes in front of that small work. I even got into a discussion about it with a fellow painter.  It turned out he was also an art professor; a nice chap from Vancouver.

 Ruskin’s piece didn’t have all that atmospheric quality that I so love  and  admire when I think about English watercolour from the 18th  and  19th century.  But it was SO honest.  The marks created a surface  that  not only looked rough but, on closer inspection were rough.  Not  any  accidentally rough and jarring marks mar the image, these are  so  completely intentional.  It is almost as if Franz Kline or Lucien  Freud  had taken up painting studies of leaves. In fact its directness  made it  seem, at least to my eye, almost American in its approach  and spirit.  Yes, I  know Constable had that intensity of mark making at times as  well …  but never, to my eye at least, to this extent and on such a  small  scale  format.

The next piece that astounded me was one I had never seen before,  not even in reproduction.  It is titled Blue Night, Venice.  Painted by  Herman Melville who I must admit is an artist with which I am less  than familiar.   But this piece is astounding. While it is not very  large, the deep night sky color in the upper two thirds of the painting  is completely seamless … and completely integrated into the  landscape below.  It almost seems to be poured into the composition.  While it is naturalistic at every turn,  it is as magically hypnotic and enigmatic as any surrealistic work by Magritte. The simple elegant quality of  that large area of wash would make most any water media artist go green with envy.  It would astound, and might scare away, many watercolor  students too.  Melville’s work was one of those pieces that stops the public, the amateur, and the professional alike.

Probably the biggest take away I had though was my renewed excitement about the painter named Girtin.  I had almost forgotten about his work. His delicate use of tone, his complexity of design so mark him as a painter of his age.  But the exquisiteness of his work is enough to make me wish I had painted those scenes.  Since leaving the exhibit I have been spending time re-exploring his work.  As I have done so, I have noticed that his coloration and tonal ranges remind me of the still life painting af the American 20th century painter Charles Demuth.  They shared an ability to capture both subtle texture and detail with such seemingly simple means and precise, deft brushwork.

I am so glad I got to this exhibit.  I am even more glad I went alone.  I wallowed decadently in the joy of spending the afternoon lost in this show.

At this point I will stop.  Frankly I need to spend some time digesting the newer works a bit more before I talk about them.  But they were just as astounding as the ones I’ve mentioned so far.

More later on those beautiful pieces!


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