Friday, June 29, 2018

The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon and the Realist Revolution







 In 1952 a group of scientists were studying the behavior of monkeys in the Koshima Island. These monkeys, the species Macaca Fuscata to be specific are known to be quite intelligent. So the report goes on that the scientist provided this monkey colony with food by dropping sweet potatoes on the beach. The monkeys liked the sweet potatoes but just tolerated the sand that stuck to the outside. One day a bright young 18-month-old- monkey figured out that she could wash a potato in the ocean to remove the gritty sand.
She gradually taught this behavior to the other monkeys and by 1958; six years later, all of the young monkeys were washing their potatoes. But only a few of the older monkeys had learned this behavior or showed any intrest.. Then suddenly the older monkeys were also washing their potatoes, essentially the entire tribe was exhibiting this behavior.

But what truly startled the scientist was not that the older monkeys who for years hadn’t caught on to the behavior of the younger monkeys were washing the sweet potatoes, but that entire colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland of Taskasakiyama also started to wash their food in the ocean.
(Keyes1981, 11-16)

As a representational artist working in the 21st Century, most of us have felt we were on a collision course with the Post-Modernist art world. That some where, at some time a real battle would be waged and the artist with the most skills and training would win pulling back the curtain and revealing to the world the truth.

For too many realist artists the easy thing to do is to proclaim modernism of the past century rubbish and scream “Viva La Revolution". The truth is that there are many works of merit by modernists that have a place in our shared artistic history. Unfortunately just as many of these works deal more with fad and fashion than any high art, -fortunately most of these works are ephemeral/temporary,  that no one will have any interest in a Damien Hirts Balloon “thing” after the next hundred years except maybe the institution that paid millions for it.

The real issues facing the realist artist in the next century have little to do with the “izm’s” of art from the past one hundred years but more with the doctrine of the art educational systems. At the graduation ceremony when I received my BFA I recall sitting there looking at the program trying to figure out who all these people where? There were about 30 art studio majors who I recognized, and about another 300 art majors that I had no clue about. They were the art history, art education, art therapy majors, whose careers would be about discussing art.  This was repeated several thousand time across the US alone.

“This is a major issue within the art community that is constantly minimized by schools and faculty.  I went through the links and data, one item I think that is missed is that in University art programs most graduates are Art History and Ed. majors and when that university states they have 30% placement. They are not actually talking about “Visual Artists” they may be art majors but they do not create art.”

--Jerry Saltz




The Desperate Man by Gustave Courbet, 1844-1845, oil painting, 17 3/4 x 21 5/8.


My parents were horrified I wanted to study art, they talked me into Commercial Art School so that I would not waste my education. Which I am so glad they did because there I studied illustration and was taught the basics and fundamentals of drawing and painting. Very traditional methods of creating representational art. After finishing there, I went to a University Art program, where it was anything goes, there was literally no direction. You just experimented and tossed it out there for critique. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed that part of my education. I did not get much out of it as far as skills, but it was a great exploration of the different concepts of art. My biggest complaint, was that craftsmanship was considered a terrible thing to pursue and realism, boring and for the uneducated. That the teaching of skill somehow inhibits creativity? So, I conformed to the "everything is art" philosophy and learned all the post-modernist art speak.... for a while. By grad school I was determined to pursue representational art. 





There, I was told by facility that I wanted to be an illustrator, like it was some terrible thing. The thing I heard over and over again in university art school was that “craftsmanship was not art.” They constantly marginalized representational art and my interest in it. I was honestly frustrated. By my professor’s dogma there were only two ways to become an artist, one was to become famous, create something so shocking that the world noticed or teach at the university. I spent most of my academic time in the library reading old art books. I left grad school. 





Any of us who are old enough to have experienced art instruction during the 70’s, 80's or 90’s can tell you that most schools of art and institutions of higher learning purged their curricula of teaching basic fundamentals of drawing and painting and replaced it with a philosophy - lecture based - art theory - concept of art, where personal introspectiveness and self-awareness is more important than teaching fine draftsmanship and painting. That some how having knowledge of how past great art was made would interfere with ones “expressive” development. Art programs at universities and colleges has been about the teaching of “the discussion of art” not the making of art, for them art is not about visual communication but verbal communication of Art Speak.
And yet we rely on these institutions to supply us with the next great visual artist?


Lets be clear, I am not opposed to modern painting, I enjoy many of the works of the postmodernist and spent most of my undergraduate years as a artist pursuing abstract expressionism. Mainly because this was all that was offered to me. The paradox is that modernist with all of their claims of open, progressive thinking have been the most regressive force in modern culture in regards to contemporary art and realism. We have had a hundred years of modern art.



Walead Beshty - FedEx Large Kraft Box Laminated glass, FedEx shipping box, accrued FedEx shipping and tracking labels, silicone, metal, and shipping tape, 24 x 24 x 24 inches


There is a type of critical mass being reach among artists. What it comes down to is that artist are tired of the same old establishment art... based on some linear art theory of evolution, described to them by entrenched, fossilized art history instructors from the status-quo institutions of higher learning. Artists have had enough of “Modern art" being the official and only approved art of institutional America...Say that fast three times.

Realist art had been marginalized long enough.


“Modern will remain the official art of the establishment for the immediate future. But it is a dinosaur, and little proto rodents on the jungle floor, are beginning to eat its eggs.”
                                                                                                                   -- Stapleton Kearns




Like most artist today I get much of my art “fix” online. There are a multitude of artist blogs, online magazines, and art forums I read, browse and contribute to regularly. I truly enjoy seeing an artists process, and most artists do not have any issues with showing you how they make their work or come to their ideas and concepts. In fact through this medium, the web-blog, I think artists who share their process and join into the creative commons have helped secure a footing in the contemporary world of art for representational painting.

One must recognize that with the availability and ease of the digital camera, the painting of photos has become a trend, producing camera-friendly artwork, easily distributed through social media. Such work caters to a photographic aesthetic, slick and highly detailed. But considering that most of this work is exhibited via digital media, being photo-ey seems to be acceptable. These works, to the layman may even look like realism or reality, because they are actually paintings of photographs. And that type of imagery they are accustomed to, through the daily bombardment of visual stimulus via the internet, television, and movies. What is hard to explain to someone who does not paint is that this is photo-realism or hyper realism which relies on mechanical processes to create an image. And requires an entirely different set of skills, that have very little to do with realism let alone painting.






The mastering of skills, having technical expertise in drawing and painting allows and empowers artists to be free to create anything they want. But if we cannot allow process and technique to overshadow the subject matter, for in that the modernist are half right craftsmanship, alone is not art.

The language of art is taught and developed through immersion in the practices of drawing and painting. The mastery of technical skills is important, mainly because in doing so you master visual thinking. Those attached to a digital monitor to paint from are short circuiting their process, after a while even they cannot even see the difference between a photograph and nature. Painting from life, forces you to engage with the subject. And you create an image filtered through your eyes, through the depth and substance of life and your perceptions of the world. It becomes art stamped with our own unique DNA and vision.








It was proposed that when knowledge was limited to a few monkeys, the behavior was passed on by observation and learning. But when a significant number of monkeys had learned this behavior – for the sake of simplicity they called it the 100th monkey – that some critical mass of conscious had been reached.

Let us learn from our mistakes,


"..a movement for representational art must be democratic, reversing the status quo of 21st century elitist post-modernist consumerist art. Challenging artists to achieve ever higher levels of perception, interpretation and craftsmanship.."  
--Alexey Steele


**The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon and the Realist Revolution was first publish in 09/01/2012


Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim



Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings


Links:
Novorealism
Alexy Steele
Slow Painting, a Deliberate Renaissance 



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Groovelicious Stuff !






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Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings



Friday, April 6, 2018

Truth and Beauty and whatever happened to Woodsy Owl?






The Four R's



I have always recycled, just pretty much part of the daily routine, and everywhere I have lived it has been a simple and convenient task to accomplish. Sort the material, place it in the bins and set it next to the curb. Maybe it was growing up with Woodsy Owl in the seventies, teaching my children about conservation and that reducing our environmental footprint is just one of the ways to show you care about the planet we live on. As Woody’s says, "Give a Hoot-Don't Pollute!" and don’t forget the four R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (composting).






Truth and Beauty - Cardboard Tubes I oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, Jim Serrett


So, I ask myself, why on trash day only three houses on my block have recycling set outside by the curb? Now let’s not jump to a conclusion here, maybe they are just better at reducing then me, or they just don’t have anything to set out. Maybe they are reusing? That is a valid hypothesis. What it is that they are doing we may never know, the truth may never be told.

“The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash per day, adding to the grand total of about 258 million tons of trash the United States accumulates per year. American communities recycled and composted nearly 35% of municipal solid waste in 2014, diverting 89 million tons to recovery according to the U.S. EPA. Use the "Recycling Explorer" below to learn what to recycle and how.”



Toilet Paper Harvest – John Willhelm

#TosstheTube


And according to a press release by Kimberly-Clark a leading manufacturer of toilet paper, 

“17 billion toilet paper tubes are produced annually in the USA account for 160 million pounds of trash and could stretch more than a million miles placed end-to-end. That's from here to the moon and back -- twice. Most consumers toss, rather than recycle, used tubes,” 

says Doug Daniels, brand manager at Kimberly-Clark the parent company of Scott Bathroom tissue which is ditching the cardboard tube for a more environmental friendly tubeless tissue roll, Scott Naturals Tube-Free Bath Tissue. The invention of tubeless toilet paper will not only reduce the environmental impact associated with making paper, but also reduces the amount of waste generated. Just seems like such a small change for so much positive green impact. On their website you can use a simple calculator to find out how many tubes your household uses and illustrates the magnitude of the problem. The answer will surprise you. link: https://www.scottbrand.com/en-us/featured-products/scott-toss-the-tube






Cardboard Tubes II, Graphite on paper, Jim Serrett

Truth


The truth is I did not know how much waste was generated by TP rolls. We were recycling cardboard when I started playing around and drawing on it because of the nice neutral color and mid tone value. One thing leads to another and so here we are making art, paintings of cardboard tube compositions and drawings on back of cereal boxes. This is the honest account of why these images exist. And yet they are the creations/handiwork of a questioning mind, which is one of the key ingredients of creativity. You must let things germinate and progress, what sprouts from this can be at times surprising.






Truth and Beauty - Cardboard Tubes II oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, Jim Serrett


That is the “simple” truth. The complex truth or deep end of the of pool is that art can affect us on two different levels - emotional and intellectual. The pursuit of art by drawing, painting, etc is first a search for knowledge. An intimate understanding of a thing through investigation, (examining its shape, form, color, place in space, all those physical things) to know its "truthfulness" or be able to render the appearance or semblance of truth “verisimilitude.” For the representational artist, verisimilitude is often more important than perceived truth. The second part is an emotional truth, that we are seeing or experiencing something honest and authentic, these truths are the esoteric products of artistic contemplation. This is often spoken about as when, “an artist bares his soul.” It is that share humanistic moment in art where we understand what another person felt and perceived.  The importance in the second part is that the observer feels the honesty behind that emotion. Truth reveals some type of knowledge and enlightens a deeper experience of reality.  

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle






Beauty


You often hear the sayings “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “beauty is fleeting”. That the “beholders” idea of beauty is filtered through their personal decisions, life experience, interest, beliefs, education, environment, and influences, etc., giving us each a different sense of beauty. Because as humans we are constantly evolving emotionally and intellectually, then would not our concept of beauty also be constantly evolving. Which brings us to the axiom that beauty and thus art is subjective?

 If that is truth, then why do certain images transcend generations and cultures?

In this digital age, we are bombarded with imagery, it is literally everywhere we go, and we seem to require it constantly. Streaming video, televisions of every conceivable size, and in every conceivable place, smartphones, texting, personal computers, laptops and tablets galore, never-ending video games and internet to fill every waking moment. To the point we are addicted to imagery. You would think that would be good for the visual arts or for the understanding of visual aesthetics. But instead it creates even more confusion, where glamour, style, trends, celebrities all becomes elevated to the same status as beautiful or to substitute for beauty.

There are lots of “pretty “pictures around, visit any design store/home furnishing outlet and you will see endless attractive images, but are they beautiful? Are they art? Can a thing be “too” pretty? Also, there are just as many “un-pretty” things that are appealing. Modern art seems to be preoccupied with “ugly”, the more disturbing, repulsive or absurd the better. And the more it legitimizes their modern aesthetic of “anti-beauty” that the expression of the idea is what is beautiful. That these “objects d'art” and images because of their expressive content are beautiful, that beauty is a just a concept. Beauty is in the mind of the beholder?

Why is Michelangelo Buonarroti considered more important an artist than say, Stephen Hillenburg? Stephen Hillenburg is the creator of the cartoon character and animated television series “SpongeBob SquarePants”. A hugely popular and award-winning cartoon which has a following of adults and children. I cannot imagine anyone who does not know of SpongeBob, but maybe a handful of people can name its creator. Everyone knows who Michelangelo is, but try to get someone to name one of his works. By that truth you would expect Hillenburg to be a more influential or famous of the two artists.






By our subjective “eye of the beholder” premise, they both create images that are equally pleasing. Standing in front of the sculpture David or watching episodes of SpongeBob on an iPad would bring the same satisfaction, equally on both the emotional and intellectual level.

We know that is not true. Now before I get hate mail from SpongeHeads (yes, there are people who identify themselves as such), I am certain SpongeBob can be thought provoking and profound and is uniquely creative. However, all things are not equal.


With mainstream media telling us what beauty is, and modern art telling us what it is not, and knowing that all things are not equal, it is no wonder people say art or beauty is subjective. It is just easier than the complicated philosophical subject it is. Our image of beauty can be deceived and manipulated, influenced by our changing perceptions of the world. Different people see things differently, so one would think you could never get a group of people to agree on what it is and yet, there are objects and works of art that seem to be inherently beautiful to all humans.

Since no one can agree on what beauty is. Does that tell us that there is not a universal idea of beauty? Where does beauty fit in, what is its place in art? Maybe the Modernist are right, beauty is a concept. So, beauty alone does not equal art? Maybe this is where truth comes back into the experience. We accept that there are universal truths, things understood by all that fit into fact or reality (Universal Truth can be a debate for another time), “empirical” truths verifiable by observation or experience. For the artist to create a connection and interpret a visual moment so that another human can understand it, it must have some truth. It becomes a shared experience on an emotional or intellectual level. Works of art which have that quality stand the test of time.
We cannot ignore the connection of truth and beauty.







Cardboard Tubes III, WIP, Graphite on Cardboard Box, Jim Serrett

 Art - verisimilitude and the sublime.


There is a rich tradition of verisimilitude in art that reaches far back to humankind’s earliest efforts to describe the world, from the early Greek sculptures, through the Renaissance and the 19th century academies. Verisimilitude; Aside from being fun to say, verisimilitude (pronounced ‘VAIR-ih-sih-MILL-ih-tude’) simply means ‘the quality of resembling reality’ and a work of art, or any part of a work of art, has verisimilitude if it seems believably realistic. The “naturalistic,” seemingly true-to-life, representation of objects and especially of human figures with emphasis upon the expression of emotion.




Through our own intellectual evolution, our requirements of art have become more sophisticated and also those skills associated with creating art. Those artistic techniques developed became recognized as skills that require both patience and technical talent and are worth preserving and appreciating. Our artistic ancestors placed a high value on the craft of making and creating representational art.
When I think of the word verisimilitude, I remind myself that the synonym for it is truth.

Beauty, real lasting beauty that touches another human being is more than just an image, marks or lines. In some way beauty must be a feeling, an evoked emotion and have an inspiring quality. It steps in where speech fails, communicates beyond language and time and creates a dialogue between the artist and the viewer, it becomes a shared aesthetic experience. Art provides us with an understanding of the world which goes beyond the real, it is this transcendental nature which cannot be rationalized, when both beauty and truth are present in art the aesthetic of the sublime emerges.

The “Sublime Experience” is that shared visual experience which has a transcendental nature,
Not only because it reveals “truths" of the world, but also an emotional understanding that transcends words or language and connects us to the larger experience of existence. 

Art for me comes from a very simple place, it does not need complicated conceptual agendas or philosophical context. When artists search for those simple truths and the beauty of our existence, we will always offer society different ideas and perspectives. And when we hone our skills, our visual language to speak with clarity, this is the height of all great art.



Beauty is truth, truth beauty-John Keats













And where are you stretching your own boundaries?


Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 




Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings


Credits and Links:

Woodsy Owl U.S. Forest Service and USDA


SpongeBob SquarePants created by Stephen Hillenburg


Toilet Paper Harvest –  John Willhelm - Photography (used by permission)
The amazing photography of John Willhelm 


Verisimilitude (pronounced ‘VAIR-ih-sih-MILL-ih-tude’) Definition



Why Beauty Matters - Philosopher Roger Scruton




Studies for the Libyan Sibyl, circa 1510–1511, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). Red chalk, with small accents of white chalk on the left shoulder of the figure, sheet. 11 3/8 inches by 8 7/16 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, purchase, Joseph Pulitzer bequest. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art




Saturday, January 20, 2018

Observational Painting









Hello friends You are invited!
To an exhibition of original oil paintings titled “Observational Painting.”
At the Cup'n Cork Coffeehouse and Café, Cape Girardeau’s award-winning hometown coffeehouse, fine food, fine wine, fine art. First Friday in Cape.
Opening Reception on Friday, February 2nd from 5 - 9 pm.
*
February 2 – March 1, Feb 2018
*
CupNCork
11 S Spanish St
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Find out about more First Friday Events at,
#cupncork #capearts #capegirardeau #missouri #artshow #artgallery #gallery #artwork #artexhibition #instaart #artofinstagram #instagood #artcollector #artoftheday #jimserrett #Groovelicious #downtowncg #firstfriday





Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 




Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Green Apple and the Shortest Distance Between Two Points






To create art that connects with other people you must first create art that connects with you. Painting from observation allows me to have a dialogue with my subject, what may be a simple apple to some is an entire conversation to me about form, color, texture, three-dimensional space. How to translate what I see into an illusion of the thing and manifest my visual experience into something that reverberates with another human being. Then placing the image out there in the world to see if another person sees the beauty of the thing I did. I think that only works with sincere and honest observation.




 Green Apple, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, © jimserrett


 “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Archimedes







Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings

#wip #workinprogress #instaart #jimserrettstudio #oilpainting #originalart




Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thanks for Listening 2017







Wow people, here we are again. Another year over..
It has been an amazing year for Linda and I, and we want to express our deepest heartfelt appreciation to our family, galleries, collectors and friends. Thank you for making 2017 such a wonderful year!

May 2018 bring you happiness, good heath, peace and prosperity.

Enjoy the Holidays!

And to my loving wife, Linda there is no words that can express my appreciation and love for you.
Happy Anniversary.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Paint what you see not what you think you see.





On my drawing table I have a small note, an axiom which states,
 “Paint what you see, not what you think you see.”

I'm not sure where I first heard this saying, I just know it has been in my studio for a long time, longer than I remember. I’ve found it scrawled on notes and inside sketchbooks dating all the way back to my early Art School days. It just keeps resurrecting itself.

It's one of those things that is easier said than done. Sounds very simple, until you attempt doing it.

And it is one of those sayings that is hard to explain. An important idea to understand but a concept that is almost a contradiction in terms. Which is probably why it keeps showing up in notes around my studio work space.





As representational artists/painters we are interested in depicting the world around us, however as we attempt to do that we find that paint has its limitation when compared to the real world, that we cannot paint as bright a white or as dark a black as we see them in nature. And that if you describe literally everything you see in a subject in detail verbatim, you will give yourself and the viewer a mental overload. Too much detail can kill a painting, and vise versa, being overly simplistic and too idealized the less realistic.

We are supposed to be more than visual recorders of facts, not simply replicating what you see; but artists, creating a piece of art which portrays the real world in some meaningful way that moves and touches the senses of another human being. So how do you make a realistic representational image that does that? Which is why the saying “Paint what you see, not what you think you see.” sounds like such a contradiction.





With my still-life’s I can do controlled studies like this where I can investigate the subject. The whole idea for me is to slow down and really see what it is that is front of me, to see form, color, space. Not objects, when I see or think objects, all kinds of preconceptions come up, I think the image, some idealized version of the image more than see the thing in front of me. So, I cannot let preconceived ideas get in the way. You must investigate the subject…explore it with the eye of a painter…form, color, edges, light, atmosphere, and how one relates to another. Discover relationships between those elements and look for those nuances that make it unique and interesting, it is one of the hardest things to do,  to let go of what you think you know.






But when you are attempting to paint realism, knowing how to suggest information is more important than knowing the fact. The average person's head has up to 150,000 hair follicles but I would never attempt to paint them, only imply them. A glass bottle is transparent and an apple solid, but I would not paint them the same way, but imitate the differences of their forms. Much of my time is spent figuring out how to convey the character of a thing by texture, shape, color, value, edges that makes a convincing illusion of realism.

It is about creating imagery that reads convincingly to the human eye. So, we will manipulate and alter the imagery responding to the complexity of the subject and to make aesthetic adjustments. The human eye sees the world in shape, color, forms, light, shadow and deciphers that information to represent the natural world. We paint an impression of that information and attempt to set it into a picture plane with an illusion of space and depth. With abstract brush strokes, lost and found edges, and other paint manipulation you suggest and imply “hopefully without getting too gimmicky”, an illusion of the thing in front of you. All the while keeping it simple and true to subject so that it can be considered naturalistic and real. See what I mean easier said than done.





Once you jump that mental hurtle you can really see what’s in front of you, then you can begin to play with the object and express your idea or emotion about the subject.  It becomes a new discovery. And in that discovery, you will open new eyes, those of your viewers and your own.

That sense of wonder, when you move past merely the representation of a thing and transcend it becomes the illusion of nature seen through a poetic eye. It seems that learning to see, is just as much about learning to unsee.

Which just might be another one of those axioms that is hard to explain…




Silver Cup, Egg and Bottle, oil on panel, 10 x 8 inches, 2017© Jim Serrett





Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 





Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings












Sunday, October 29, 2017

MANYmini Extravartganza !







This is OA Gallery’s third annual small works show highlighting MINIwork from MANYartist from around the region and across the country.
.. I am very honored to have four pieces in the show.

Don't miss this amazing exhibit!
It will be a two-month long exhibit at OA Gallery, starting November 3rd - January 6, 2018!
And if you are in the area, check out this show.
.
Going to be a great event!

Opening reception is Friday, November 3,  6-9pm.
The exhibition runs from November 3, 2017 - January 6, 2018

And thank you, Blick Art Materials for your support of the Manymini show




OA Gallery is the premier St. Louis gallery showcasing exceptional, contemporary, representational artwork by over thirty regionally and nationally recognized and  award winning artists.

OA Gallery is located in beautiful downtown Kirkwood, MO directly across the street from the train station.
​101A W Argonne Dr.  Kirkwood, Mo 63122

Hours:
​Wednesday 12-5
Thursday 12-5
Friday 12-5
Saturday 12-5

OA Gallery Website Link
OA Gallery Facebook Link


Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 


Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings









Sunday, August 27, 2017

Underpainting Techniques – Demonstration Six - Part II – WIP





First Color Pass: These are the first color layers over the underpaintings. I have attempted to develop each one equally and establish a similar refinement. It is obvious from the beginning the degree of finish or resolution is more observable in the further developed monochromatic underpaintings.

When I speak of “resolution” I am using it to describe the degree of focus, that with each color pass over the image you make small corrections and adjustments, slowly tuning in the image to the level of three-dimensional reality you wish to see in your painting. With this slow dialing in, each pass should be about fine tuning not correcting and selective focus instead of detail. That is key to moving forward towards you’re vision. The artist Sadie Valeri explains this dialing in like this, “that in every layer of the painting you get 50% closer to reality “and in each additional layer fifty percent more so on. Each one growing exponentially (building) on the last until you achieve a high degree of realism.





Form Painting: So, in the First Pass I wish to make the big statements of color, shape and edges over the value study and drawing.  I want to think about color relationships comparing abstract passages of paint by chroma and temperature. To think about form, that each brush stroke exists in three-dimensional space and state where it is in light and where it is in shadow. The concept of light on form or modeling dimension like a sculpture is often referred to as Chiaroscuro – The contrast of light and shade. The act of modeling light and dark is called “Turning Form”. I like that adage because it simply describes the goal of representational painting to create the perception of depth.

My paint consistency varies depending on which underpainting I am working with but basically, over top of the underpainting I am using thinned transparent glazes which I then work into with more opaque paints wet into wet. Building up of transparent, semitransparent, semi-opaque, opaque and impasto layers of paint (glazes, scumbles, velauturas, impasto) that create different optical effects.




Starting top left moving clock wise- Grisaille, Bistre, Ébauche, Imprimatura.

I am not quite ready to lose my drawing yet, plus I need the values to affect the color passages and to build luminosity and depth. In each paint passage I continue comparing hue, value, chroma, edges, and textures.

I think form and atmosphere, not things. Painting the points of contact, reflected light, the hills and valleys as light rakes across the subject I look for delicate passages and subtle shading. I look for the “air” around the subject, (as odd as that sounds) and try to paint the atmosphere.

Hue - is a color’s characteristic, where it lies in the color spectrum, (the color name)
          and which temperature it leans towards, warm or cool.

Value – is the relative degree of grayness, lightness or darkness of a color.

Chroma – is the colors intensity, the degree of brilliance of a color, from intense to dull.


Chiaroscuro, (from Italian: chiaro, “light,” and scuro, “dark”) 1. The contrast of light and shade and the art of distributing these elements in a picture planes. 2. Light and shade as they define three-dimensional objects






Summary: The main purpose of underpainting is to solve the problems of composition, drawing and value so that you can concentrate solely on the application of paint. Using a variety of techniques to realistically create the illusion of depth, form and atmosphere. (The amount of light, depth and atmosphere you can achieve in this manner is almost magical.) Multiple veils of transparent color contrasted by opaque light passages, produces a level of realism that I believe cannot be matched with other approaches. You literally carve out volume with this method.

Which type of underpainting to use, Grisaille, Bistre, Ébauche, or Imprimatura is about knowing the strengths of each and being able to look at an object as say, “Yes this approach will work best to achieve that", kind of knowing which tool to reach for in the tool box. I was going to go into my thoughts on each and compare strengths and weaknesses? But feel it better to not muddy the waters with that and let people come to their own conclusion. Maybe I will touch on it later, but for now I will say there is a wealth of knowledge within these methods to explore and doing so will expose how to get the maximum impact of what the material can do.

As a Realist, it is important to have a comprehensive range of techniques to draw from and expand your artistic vocabulary.




You can find Underpainting Techniques – Demonstration Six - Part I – WIP here.
You can access more Underpainting Demos through the labels in the side bar or use the search box at the top left of the blog.



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 






Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
 Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings







Monday, July 31, 2017

Underpainting Techniques – Demonstration Six - Part I – WIP




In this demonstration, I will attempt to compare the different methods of underpainting technique used and developed by artist prior to the 20th century. Just walk through any museum and compare the 20th century wing to the 19th and on to 15th century. It becomes obvious that those artists where doing something different, they were using paint differently. They had a vast vocabulary when it came to making marks with paint and with it they could create great illusion of space and form.

Painting in an indirect method, building layers up of transparent, semitransparent, semi-opaque, opaque and impasto layers of paint create different optical effects. The purpose of this is to achieve three-dimensional space, through the refraction of light, what is called “Turning the Form.”

The most important illusions of realism in a painting are Form and Value. And by using the underpainting to divide the image into manageable parts, the drawing, the values and lastly color, they could focus on the actual mechanics of applying paint. They created this amazing tool box of techniques, which liberated them, where they could slowly tune in on the level of realism wanted. Thus allowing these artists to create at a higher level of expression and produce some of the greatest masterpieces in history.








Starting top left moving clock wise- 

Grisaille – (griz-eye’) fr.-  A grey underpainting done entirely in monochrome shades of gray or another neutral color, to produce the illusion of relief sculpture.


Bistre - (the wipe-out method) – An underpainting using warm browns (usually raw umber or burnt umber). A thin coat of umber is painted or rubbed over the canvas and then ‘wiped out’ or lifted using a rag or a bristle brush and a small amount of solvent. Darks are built-up with thicker and leaner layers of umber in a near dry brush approach.


Ébauche – (ay•boash ) fr.  - or first block-in with color or color sketch. This creates the overall general feel and effect of the painting with colors and values.  Leaving a sympathetic underpainting or foundation similar to a watercolor.


Imprimatura is an initial stain of color painted on a ground. It provides a painter with a transparent, toned ground, which will allow light falling onto the painting to reflect through the paint layers. The term itself stems from the Italian and literally means "first paint layer". It's use as an underpainting layer can be dated back to the guilds and workshops during the Middle Ages; however, it came into standard use by painters during the Renaissance, particularly in Italy.


Alla-prima – Italian expression loosely translated “at first try”. Direct painting (wet into wet), a method which is completed in a single session without previous preparation or later layers of paint.


I will be continuing along with the indirect painting technique over these underpaintings, using layering, glazes, scumbles, and velauturas to create a illusion of three dimensional form.

So, I invite you to visit again as the paintings evolve.


You can access more Underpainting Demos through the labels in the side bar or use the search box at the top left of the blog.

A couple of quick Links:
Bistre Method – “wipe out”     
Grisaille Underpainting  




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 





Website - jimserrett.com 
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings