Wrapping up the Pavese watercolor sketch

IMG_3432.JPG
There comes a time when we take into account the fact that everything we do will become a memory in due course. That is maturity. To reach it, you must have memories.

Cesare Pavese, Diaries, 10.1.1944

Narrating incredible things as though they were real–the old system. Narrating realities as though they were incredible–the new.

Cesare Pavese, Diaries, 11.11.1943

I’m closing out this Pavese watercolor sketch with two quotes from his diary that sum up his writing pretty well. The latter point especially is one that resonates with me, as it informed my writing style (if you’re curious, you can see it here).

To finish this sketch, I researched some Wyeth watercolors to help figure out the table color (Cerulean blue, cobalt teal blue, ivory black, cobalt blue over a mix of a light, bland reddish brown). This seems to bring out some extra interest in the arrangement and feels suitable for Pavese’s melancholy brilliance. After laying in the base of cerulean and cobalt teal I sanded it down to make it look more aged, then painted the shadow. I also scraped out the edges of the book where the cover was wearing out.

I’m wondering if I should exagerate some white highlights for more interest, but I will leave it as it for now. This is a very small work–5×7–and I’ve probably overworked it enough already.

And by an odd coincidence, Pantone’s color if the year is Marsala, which is strikingly similar to the dominant color in this sketch. How trendy.

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts on Andrew Wyeth “Looking Out, Looking In” at the National Gallery

IMG_3281.JPG
On Monday my dad and I took lunch at the National Gallery to see the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit, “Looking Out, Looking In.” The National Gallery had recently acquired “Wind From the Sea,” so they built an exhibit around his paintings of windows. The reviews appeared mixed, but that wasn’t the point at all for me. This exhibit was mostly watercolors, with very little attention paid to his tempera works. Fine with me. His watercolors, especially when viewed up close, are truly incredible. It’s hard from prints to get a full understanding of just how rough and aggressive his watercolor painting style was, how much he paint he laid on in the dark areas, how thick his abstract applications were, even though they were always well structured. This gave me a greater appreciation of his work.

Looking back to my commentary a few posts ago on the Jamie Wyeth exhibit at the MFA in Boston, I used Andrew Wyeth as a bit of a counterpoint for Jamie, saying I prefered the range in Jamie’s work. The National Gallery show, by nature of its subject, stuck within a narrow range, but that hardly mattered when looking at the works up close. There was so much to admire, so much to learn from. I’ve been fortune to be able to see Sargent last summer and both Wyeth’s this year. They’ve all really helped with my painting.

Coming out of the museum, we could see the Washington Monument enshrouded in clouds and steam on a cold rainy day. Really perfect to see Wyeth’s work on a day that used his color palette, and perfect inspiration for a quick vertical painting.

Thanks for reading.

IMG_3280.JPG

Thoughts on Jamie Wyeth, Expectations of the Artist, and the finished Stormy Sailing painting

Recently I read a couple reviews of the Jamie Wyeth retrospective at the MFA in Boston that were critical of the show, the main point being that his work as a whole lacked a unifying purpose, that he was technically exceptional, but without the capital A in Artist.

I suppose thinking of his work in these terms makes sense given the show was about his career, but I also wonder if that’s what we should expect of an artist. If you took Winslow Homer’s work over his life, would there be that unifying purpose? Maybe the struggle and wildness with man and nature, but does an artist have to have such a theme? I can understand the critique of Jamie Wyeth, but some of the comments across multiple reviews (one in the Boston Globe) about his gull paintings seeming like a nightmarish version of something you might find in a seaside New England town’s local arts gallery seemed a bit off. His gull paintings were remarkably potent, and the Inferno painting showcased also in video was incredible to me. They had a twist to them that clearly separated them from what could be called “tourist art.”

Wyeth had a range of styles, including expertise in the Wyeth family way, but I see this range as potentially representative of an exceptionally talented artist trying to find his own voice among the many he can channel, and sometimes that challenge can be more meaningful than the challenges of one who clearly has his own voice. I see it as representative of this larger human struggle to understand ourselves and our own potential.

I wonder about my own art. I have neither the skill not potential of any Wyeth, but that isn’t the point. I, like anybody else, am just trying over time to figure things out. Painting happens to be a pretty fun and phenomenal way to do that, being useful and influential beyond just the problem of conveying and conversing visually.

IMG_3188.JPG
Here, in this sailing painting, I am working through a style that I have been pursuing over this year–one of somewhat rough brushwork, of materiality in watercolor. Watching the Wyeth Inferno video at the exhibit and also available on YouTube got me comfortable being more aggressive on the brushes–Princeton Neptune faux squirrel brushes happen to be great for this because they are high quality but very affordable, so you can really mess around without worrying about wrecking them. You don’t need them to keep the point, that’s what the sables of stuff synthetics are for. You can see my work on the sail especially comes from scrubbing the brush into the paper, letting it dry out. I like showing that I used a brush, letting some of the effort come through because that also makes the work more interactive, more conversational–or at least I can pretend it does.

Part of the narrative about Jamie Wyeth is a son trying emerge from the shadow of his father. Another part, as Andrew Wyeth put it, was a competition. Andrew Wyeth said in his biography, “When you get fame–you see, I’m in competition with my son whether I want to be or not. Just the fact that I exist as a painter.” I don’t like either of these characterizations. I prefer not in the shadow of, or in competition with, but in conversation with.

Thanks for reading.