Of three “Impressionists”

Self portraits by Manet, Monet and Cézanne

Every time I read something about impressionism, I get a different view of the associations, intents and legacies. Little could have been guessed back then: they were just painters, painting in their time, perhaps occasionally rebels, although oftentimes not. Impressionism was the first major “movement” following the advent of photography. Photography changed everything, removing the imperative to describe “reality”, setting printing on a continuing path of reinvention. People are still saying “painting is dead” aren’t they? But do fewer of us paint?

In our workshops this Fall, we’ve chosen three masters in order to profile the breadth and consequences of Impressionism. Some would say two of these were not real Impressionists – Manet and Cézanne –  true if you take the view that Impressionism was just about plein-air and capturing fleeting effects of nature. However consequences of photography were freeing painters to explore new ways of communicating. Manet, Cézanne and Monet all knew each other but had very different things to say.

Édouard Manet

“There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another” 

Gare Saint-Lazare, Édouard Manet,1873, Oil on canvas

Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, and he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterworks particularly “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and “Olympia”  caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. The explicitly painted style and photographic lighting in Manet’s paintings look specifically modern – a direct, alla prima method. His images have an element of mystery and draw us to place as well as his subtle narrative. The “Gare Saint-Lazare” above is a great example: Who’s the young woman: mother, sister, nanny? She doesn’t exactly look very happy does she. How does industrialization impact the child, what’s with the puppy and the fan?

Paul Cézanne

“We live in a rainbow of chaos”

Bibemus Quarry, Paul Cézanne, c.1900, oil on canvas

Cézanne was a major force paralleling mainstream Impressionism. Always somewhat apart, he innovated and brought fresh ways of seeing to us all: both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.”. Cézanne sought to sense something fundamental about all subjects and through his investigations of still life, figures and landscapes, gave life to modernism and changed the world of art forever. I still scratch my head somewhat when I look at a Cézanne. Normally there are some other significant painters with somewhat the same style. But not Cézanne, he just saw things differently and now so do we.

Claude Monet

“Everything changes, even stone”

Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Monet was the quintessential impressionist. His 1884 painting “Impression, Sunrise” gave name to the movement and the impact of his radical departure in use of colour, types of subject and method of painting, often “en plein air” are all with us today. Monet rejected the traditional approach to landscape painting and looked at the effects of light on nature itself. Monet worked hard and long. He was prolific, consistent and brilliant. He was not rich and he needed to sell. Apart from epitomizing a new use of colour and brushwork he  pioneered the idea of a series of paintings: be they haystacks, the Cathedral at Rouen or the Cliffs at Etretat. In his later years his massive Waterlilies paintings presage the abstract expressionism of Pollack, Rothco et al.

Join us for our Fall season of Saturday workshops:

14 Oct 2017: Édouard Manet and modern life
28 Oct 2017: Through Thick and Thin – Washes, Glazes and Impasto!
04 Nov 2017: Paul Cézanne: A new way of seeing.
25 Nov 2017: Expressive portraits and the Clothed Figure.
02 Dec 2017: Claude Monet and the colour of light.

Details can be found on the website: http://www.davidkearn.com/courses_e.htm

 

Update on the Break-a-Brush Mentoring Program

it’s a virtual studio…

This Spring, I began distance coaching for a couple of students, and over the summer the program expanded as a number of artists came on board: Some looking for structured support with specific aims outside of the classroom, others finding it just not practical to take an art course or workshop right now. Our busy lives often drive us in various directions and time is so often at a premium!

The artist and I typically start with a three-month outlook and I then work with the participants on individual weekly assignments, advice and reviews. Email has been working well as our prime communication mode, supplemented by Skype, phone and where practical, an occasional meeting for coffee. There is a pretty diverse set of interests, with watercolour, acrylic and oil all being represented. A couple of artists are looking to develop their portfolios prior to pursuing their art education, a couple have specific painting projects in process and some are developing their skills, following something more akin to an on-line course.

I’ve been getting some great feedback and this has really energized me to continue and develop the program:

“Hello David. Thank you very much for your wonderful criticism (positive, as always) of my first painting in this series! By the way, how did you touch up my painting? Did you use “Paint” on microsoft! Impressive! I agree with your comments/suggestions. I will work on my next sketch a bit later this week. I think this mentoring method via internet is working well. Cheers,” Claire LG

“I thought your video was great! Had to turn up my sound, but the message got across well. Good questions from the crowd! To sum it up – this was an awesome exercise! I’m excited to use these principles in the next assignment” Nicole Wootten

“OK, this is an interesting exercise! Especially with the left hand but I can definitely see how much more thinking is required from using that hand… it is fun, I am having a hard time limiting myself to 5 mins….Thank you!” Chantal Dupuis

“Terrific! Thanks so very much, David. Your mentoring emails, complete with links, are like presents xmas morn. So much to unwrap! Love it! I know I will have great fun exploring. And yes, I enjoy our chats, too. Connect again soon.”  Barbara Dundass

The program runs at a monthly subscription rate of $100.00 . There are still a couple of places available for October: should this sound like a good fit for you, just contact me by email at david@davidkearn.com, by phone on 613 620 6737 or confirm participation via PayPal: Click here.

Additional information and details of our Fall Saturday Workshop Program are on the courses section of the website.

Studies of Howard

Painting at the Ottawa Art Association earlier this year.

Howard is a stalwart of the local life modeling scene. Always willing to model, he invariably turns up with a selection of hats and recently he’s also brought his own folding chair – making sure he’s not at the mercy of the vagaries of the Ottawa School of Art’s admittedly funky studio “furniture”. Over the years, I’ve captured Howard in a variety of media and styles.

For this year’s annual Selections Exhibition at the Skenkman Centre, I’m showing a study of Howard that started as a demo for the Ottawa Art Association. I started this acrylic study with a low tone foundation that remains the underpinning for the image and was how I ended the demo. For a subsequent class, blocks of colour were applied thick from the tube, partially mixed, without water and a minimum of medium. I worked quickly to achieve an immediate “sur le vif” effect, as shown. A little work on the eyes afterwards and it was ready.

The Selections Exhibition runs from September 21 to October 17, 2017. at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 35 Centrum Blvd, Orléans, ON. K1E 0A1. The gallery is open to the public Monday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. There’s a Vernissage on
Thursday, 21 Sept., 7 p.m. (Unfortunately I may not be able to be there.)

Howard, Acrylic on canvas, 20″x16″, 2017

I thought this was a fine opportunity to put together some of my many studies of Howard and so created a gallery of work from the past few years.

Howard, everybody, I hope that you enjoy!

Summer Shows…

This summer, I’m participating once again in the instructors exhibitions with the Ottawa School of Art, both downtown and in Orléans. For 2017, I’ve selected two recent commissions. Whilst somewhat different in technique, I think they showcase the main themes running through my portrait work quite nicely: expressive brushwork and colour, capturing personality and a universal connection – perhaps a somewhat timeless quality too with influences, classic and modern.

At the downtown exhibition, I’m showing a portrait of George W. Leir (1918-2017). George was 97 years old when I met him. I painted him in oil on canvas, I added in blocks of colour, applying the medium thick from the tube, partially mixed, without added oil. I felt my way until passages emerged – blending experimentally and wiping/scraping down in places. It was a great honour to paint this great personality and I will remember George, proud and human, having an influence on my life.

Portrait of George W. Leir, Oil on canvas, 20″x16″

The exhibition runs from the 3rd of August to the 4th of September, 35 George St., Ottawa,  K1N 8W5
The reception is Thursday 3rd August, from 5 to 8 pm.

For the Orléans exhibition I’m contributing a portrait of Astrid De Haan. For Astrid’s portrait, I initially worked up a number of studies from both life and my photo references. Most have a quieter feel – invariably though, that smile surfaced, resulting in this portrait. I started this painting in acrylic and achieved the effect I was looking for with the hair, blouse and background. The face itself was then rendered in oil with some layering and glazing. I hope to have captured Astrid’s engagement with life, perhaps despite it’s challenges.

Portrait of Astrid De Haan, Oil over Acrylic on canvas, 20″x16″

The exhibition runs from the 4th of August to the 16th of September at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd, Orléans, K1E 0A1
The reception is Thursday 24 August, from 7 to 9 pm.

France and I hope to see you!

After giants….some demos

Pastel after Fred Varley’s “Vera”

I quite often use a classic painting as the basis for a classroom demonstration and invariably get more out of the process than expected. Students also enjoy the practice which leads me to wonder why it gets such a bad rap in some circles. I mused on this a month ago in After giants…part 1.

I don’t intend to copy – I’m often just interested in a sketch which may be quite different in scale and medium from the original. The more I look, the more I see and  the work takes on a life of it’s own. Working quickly results in more of an impression than a copy.

Here are a few of my favorite forays into drawing and painting after the masters:

Charcoal and watercolour sketch after Francisco Goya

My charcoal and watercolour wash version of Francisco Goya’s drawing simplifies the original somewhat. I was pleased with the effect of some quick brushwork. The overall impression is a little more squat than the original and I think I’ve stayed true to the wonderful dynamics of Goya’s sketch – dynamics that perhaps got diluted in Goya’s full-size painting, “The Forge”.

Some of the dynamics of Goya’s initial sketch were perhaps muted in his final masterpiece “The Forge”


Watercolour after an A.Y. Jackson pencil sketch

This watercolour is based on one of many pencil sketches of Quebec villages by A.Y. Jackson. I’ve retained the main elements of the barn but the colours and treatment generally are all imagined. A.Y. almost certainly did his sketch plein-air and hopefully, my quick watercolour retains a little of the urgency.

Small watercolour after Prudence Heward’s “Girl on a Hill”

Here’s another watercolour: a miniature version of Prudence Heward’s “Girl on a Hill”. It’s 5″x5″ . I’ve changed the composition a little and like the intimate feel that is quite different from the original.

Acrylic on board after David Milne’s ” Side Door, Clark’s House”

This demo was part of the kick-off to one of my Acrylic and Oil painting classes. During the first week, I normally ask students to paint with just one colour. On a piece of gessoed backing board, I like the way the image spills out whilst showing the fundamentals of Milne’s original composition. “Side Door, Clark’s House”.

Acrylic after Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s “The Silver Goblet”

Here’s another  demo where the surrounding space helps the image in some way. In this case, it’s on canvas paper. The original image by Chardin is a great subject for value studies in charcoal as well.

After a Rembrandt monochrome sketch

A monochrome study by Rembrandt was the inspiration for this little study in pastel on pink card –  this is all that was left after I’d handed students all but one of the (more tonal) sheets from my pack! Perhaps the better for the slightly brash pop-art treatment.

My interpretation of Fred Varley’s famous “Vera”  is in pastel. I’m invariably intrigued by the effect of using different media with the classics and this is no exception.

Pastel on cartridge paper after Fred Varley’s “Vera”