"Just the right color, the right value, in the right place: Easy to understand, Hard to do."

Just the right color, the right value, in the right place: Easy to understand, Hard to do.

            Attributed to Joseph Decamp.

            The science of impressionism as we know it begins with Leonardo Da Vinci. More than any other Renaissance painter, it is from several of his observations that we begin to make progress toward an objectively truthful depiction of the visual world per se - finding its culmination in the color of Monet. At minimum, today's representational painter must be master of the visual impression with all that implies - if they wish to claim mastery of their craft. Not anatomy, not perspective, not sight-size or the golden mean or glazing, but the rendering of the colors and values of the scene before them in true relation to one other in each and every aspect ... is all aspects. It is the essential grammar, the spelling, the phonics necessary to our art. The demo image on this blog entry is made from a Vermeer. It demonstrates - and I name for the student - virtually all you need to know to successfully articulate everything in that painting. Just as the forty four sounds of the alphabet in phonics enables you to read anything in the English language so this training of the eye assures that you can successfully render anything nature can throw your way. So simple - and yet so difficult that most students of realism today look for a different road.

"I suggest that this, my reader, is one of the things you are striving to master as part of your basic foundation ... if you 'want it all.' "

Among the few books worthy of an aspiring artist's attention is Boston School painter, Philip Hale's "Vermeer of Delft," a volume he continued to upgrade for many years after its first publication in 1913. The final version was published posthumously by his Boston School trained wife, Lillian Wescott Hale, a remarkable artist in her own right whose charcoals are really breathtaking. William Paxton, Gammell's teacher of note, consulted with Hale on the book. Notable in the essay for gaining an understanding of the Boston School, is the differentiation Hale makes in the management of color between Vermeer and his contemporary, Rubens. Rubens, he says, "noticed that indoor lights were apt to be cooler than the shadows [which] were apt to be rather warm. Rubens reduced this to a formula...." Continuing he writes that "Vermeer, on the other hand, had the pretension to make each tone just as it appeared" and that "[i]t is this preoccupation with color values which makes modern painting wholly different from antique painting." I suggest that this, my reader, is one of the things you are striving to master as part of your basic foundation ... if you "want it all." Being the modern that you are.

Woman with a Pearl Necklace, Johannes Vermeer, 1664

Peter Paul Rubens, The Consignment of the Regency c.1622-24

Woman Sewing, William MacGregor Paxton, 1919

Beware "superfluous diligence"

Word to the wise to the many abject and slavish renderers of the "ateliers" of today.  Funny that words such as "noodling" are found as terms of derogation in good conversation about painting. Come to terms with the fact that some things are more significant, more important, than others in the visual rendering. 

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