Saturday, July 06, 2013

Study of the classical renewed...

Since seeing the Rembrandt painting at the Seattle Art Museum (the Kenwood House Collection) this past Spring, I've become more and more curious about classical work regarding the methods of the old masters.

Rembrandt - Self Portrait
Oil on Canvas
ca. 1665

The self-portrait of Rembrandt is engaging. The composition, the quality of paint, everything about this painting screams at me, but the language sounds foreign. His small etchings had/have a quality that is compelling in a similar way. The other paintings in the show had/have something intriguing about them too - none of which I could quite put my finger on as a modern viewer... and in spite of years of art training, I felt inadequate - like something was missing in my understanding. Let me explain...

Selecting objects for a still life is always an exercise that challenges me. I see beauty in so many things and want to express it in a pleasing way that you might see it too. After selecting items, working with how do I arrange them - what size do I paint - and after  coming up with a passable solution, it changes several times during the process. And this I've discovered is one of the interesting things about classical work.

In a classical painting there is an underlying framework for composing the painting. You've heard of the 'golden section' or 'divine proportion', but there is a tremendous amount more to it, and many of us more modern painters have no idea about how to utilize it like the masters did for our compositions. Could it really make for better paintings and perhaps achieve a true masterpiece?

This process was used in painting and sculpture and all manner of the arts. Just like learning an instrument and or movements in dance, there are scales and fundamentals that one needs to learn before they can perform beautifully. The same goes for painting.

I know we always hear suggestions about selecting random elements and being spontaneous for my paintings, but for me this results in sooooo many failures and disappointments. So now, I fear I will become a snob of sorts rejecting efforts that are not 'designed' in a more classical way. ;o)

I have a good sense of layout as a graphic designer, but even this seems basic and not very artistic or satisfying with our modern way of doing things. I enjoy painting very much, but when I begin to paint I often ask myself if the world really needs another oil painting. Maybe not...?

However, for my next several painting efforts, my plan is to revisit some past images of my own doing to start from, and begin to learn how to actually 'design' a painting like the Masters might have done - using the same objects, and see if it makes a difference. Sounds like work, but what the heck - I like a good challenge.

BTW, the study resources I plan to use are based on the Barnstone Studio program. He has some free videos to preview on his site that immediately rang true for me.

During the next several posts I will share my experiences with this study.

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