Saturday, September 3, 2016

Vanitas I - The Death of Superman




Here is my finished piece exploring the art of the Vanitas. What a fascinating subject matter to dive into.
Vanitas I -  The Death of Superman, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches © Jim Serrett

Memento mori is a Latin phrase which means "remember that you have to die", the phrase certainly speaks about the frailty of life and our mortality. Originating from a practice common in Ancient Rome; as a general came back victorious from a battle, and during his parade ("Triumph") received compliments and honors from the crowd of citizens. He ran the risk of falling victim to haughtiness and delusions of grandeur; to avoid this, a slave stationed behind him would say "Respice post te. Hominem te memento" (“Look after you [to the time after your death] and remember you're [only] a man."). Memento mori!” Remember that you will die!”







The early religious imagery surrounding death was often used as motivator to live a good, meaningful and virtuous life. Churches would commission and display memento mori art to compel viewers to meditate on death, reflect on their lives, and re-dedicate themselves to their theology. 





By the seventeenth century Dutch Masters like Adam Bernaert, Pieter Claesz and Willem Claesz Heda had turn this imagery into a genre of its own called Vanitas, still life paintings which often contained religious and allegorical symbolism to remind us how vain and insignificant our human concerns are and consequently, how important it is to turn to God/deity. The term Vanitas comes the opening verse of Ecclesiastes 1:2 in the Latin Bible “Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas’, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.



Still Life with a Skull by Philippe de Champaigne,
 Vanitas c. 1671 is reduced to three essentials Life, Death, and Time


Keep in mind we are talking about the Golden Age of Dutch culture, the Netherlands was an economic and cultural powerhouse in the seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company was the largest commercial enterprise in the world, controlling more than half of all oceangoing trade. The Dutch were enjoying a very high quality of living for the era, and artists like Rembrand, Frans Hals and Vermeer were producing works of art at a caliber and quality that still astonish us today. With the wealth and exotic goods of it's far-flung trade, there seemed to be a considerable interest in religious themed imagery that had a moral lesson with some symbolic reminder of death to underscore the “vanity” of life and the need to be morally prepared for final judgment.




A Vanitas Still Life with Skull, Books, Römer, Oil Lamp and Pen, by Pieter Claesz, 
c. 1645 Oil on wood 15.5 x 23.5 in

The Oligarchy Vs Theocracy of the seventeenth century Dutch Republic and Painting in the Dutch Golden Age are pretty interesting subjects, certainly a fascinating period of history. Below I have added a couple links that go further in depth. 


However, I want to stay speaking about the imagery and metaphors that these Dutch Master were creating. The symbolic meaning of objects used in Vanitas paintings runs a gambit of psychological nuances and subtleties. Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit (decay); bubbles (the brevity of life and suddenness of death); smoke, watches and hourglasses, (the briefness of life); and musical instruments (brevity and the ephemeral nature of life). The skulls and empty glass are fairly obvious. Some of it may be a little ambiguous today, decaying flowers, insects and fruits, but for most I think the allegories can be interpreted to where they still reveal a hidden meaning or truth. And in that is the universal truth, the one thing, that no matter what socio-economic background or theocratic religion, the same reality exists, just how short our existence is. And what we do with it does matter.




As the late great comedian Gene Wider said, "Time is a precious thing. Never waste it." That is the meaning or narrative I get from those Vanitas and memento mori pieces. Yes, remember that you are mortal humans, that yes each of us will die in time. We are not ten feet tall and bulletproof, little reminders that we are not Superman might be good for us. So the candle will go out, we must come to terms and know our mortality/humanity.


But we must also not forget, Memento vivere - Remember to live!






Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 








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



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Memento Mori - Vanitas WIP






Having spent much time sketching the anatomy skull it is understandable that I would become interested in the significance or meaning of such an enigmatic image. The skull certainly represents the frailty of life and the inevitability of death. Building on this theme I’ve become interested in other symbolic imagery I can add to this narrative. All which has led to a close study of the art of the Vanitas, the seventeenth century Dutch paintings filled with allegories and symbolism illustrating the impermanent nature of life and the vanity of human activity. And what kind of painting I could create that communicates the temporary nature of our existence.  More about this subject matter as I push through this painting. So here is the contour drawing of my idea on the easel.

Memento mori - Remember that you will die. Know your mortality.
Memento vivere - Remember to live.



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


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




Sunday, July 24, 2016

Memento Mori No.4







Very interesting subject. I love a drawing challenge, and this skull with it multiple planes is more of one than I thought it would be. To describe form, think light and shade and it will explain the object.

Memento Mori No.4, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches






Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 




Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com 
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Friday, July 15, 2016

Memento Mori No.3




The more you know about a subject, the more you’ll discover what you don’t, and the more you will want to learn. As I pursue these drawings, it is beginning to shed new light on how I look at the face, I am beginning to see the structural framework of the skull in people’s faces and visualizing all the relationships of the features.






Memento Mori No.3, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 




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



Saturday, July 9, 2016

Memento Mori No.2





Learning the proportions of the head, by understanding the anatomy of the skull.
The two main parts of the skull, (Cranium) the skull and (Mandible) the lower jaw and chin.
The round cap of the skull, (Calvaria) the bony ridge below the eyebrow (Supercialiary Arch) the (Zygomatic Bone) commonly referred to as the cheekbone. The goal is to expand my practical understanding of anatomy and the ability to apply it to observations from life.





Memento Mori No.2, Graphite pencil with white chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches





Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



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



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Memento Mori - No.1






"Say Hello to my little friend!"
Received this great anatomy skull for my Birthday, going to be working on some drawings.






Memento Mori I, Graphite pencil with White chalk on Strathmore toned paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 




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




Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam






The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam, 1916, oil on canvas, 36 x 26 inches


This patriotic flag painting was painted by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935).
I believe it to be a street in NY city, one of several pieces he produced in this genre. These are some of the most distinctive and famous works by the artist. There were around thirty painting in his "Flag series". (Notice the flag in the foreground and how it has only 48 stars as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states in 1916.)  Always an inspiration and one of my favorite artists.


Happy 4th of July!




To learn more about Childe Hassam click this link.




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



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


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Buddha Baby – Finished





I have had this little guy for over a decade, he was a dash ornament for a few years and has been hanging out on the bookshelf for several more. I've always wanted to add him into a painting somewhere/sometime. Plus, I figure anyone that stuck with me this long deserves a little recognition.

Painting, (creating a work of art) is always a balance of the internal and the external. The object I see and how to technically recreate the illusion of it in form and color with pigments. And the internal, that which generated this connection with me enough to want to create a expression of it.




Technique is important, it is the tool bag from which you pull, the foundation on which you create. Usually what attracts me to a subject is the underlying abstraction, how to convey light and form with painted shapes is more than enough of a challenge. Honestly there are times when I am oblivious to what the thing is that I am painting and see only color, edges, shapes – form described by light is a fascinating subject and the medium of oil paint is the most incredible material to depict it with.






The emotional attachment artists have to their subject matter is a difficult thing to explain. Funny thou - it can easily be seen in a piece, the expressive response has a tendency to works its way in unconsciously while you are creating. Sensitivity, intuition, passion are words used to describe that empathy for your subject. When I look at great art, art that really touches me, all tend to exhibit three central traits... skill, creativity and empathy. And empathy being the most elusive, for I feel that it is something which takes time, and something that is more experienced then learned, it is...some reflection of our artistic selves and our inner emotional lives.




“With our thoughts we make the world.” ― Buddha




Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 


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






Friday, April 22, 2016

Finished the challenge!







Here we are at the end of my 30 in 30-day painting challenge and I have got to say that it zoomed by, I must have had fun.                           

I enjoyed exploring composition and colors with these alla-prima paintings. From the beginning I intended to concentrate on design and composition but as I reflect over the collection I started to see an unexpected story being told. As I was looking at the big forms in nature, a theme quickly evolved that was about earth and sky and water. Lots of weather effects, dramatic skies, sunsets and clouds, the forces of nature.  So I was happy that they collectively communicated the spirit of the natural world.

My approach was to be as direct and complete with my brush as I could and record the motif in front of me. The goal was to make quick and spontaneous decisions, describing things simply and abstractly. Yet hang onto that illusion of real space and place and the experience of it. I find myself looking a lot at the Barbizon painters, Charles-Francois Daubigny and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and the Russian School of the late nineteenth century Isaac Levitan and Ilya Repin.  These painters handle the sense of space so masterfully, so much abstraction in their work, brush handling, surfaces and texture. They could just drag the viewer into the atmosphere of the painting


Anyway this is where my head has been during this endeavor. Looking for insight from artist of the past and observing the world for inspiration.  








You can see all 30 paintings at my Pochade Box Painting blog.



Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 



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


LINKS:












Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day Twenty of the Thirty Day Challenge






It is twenty days into my Pochade Box Painting challenge. And a few of these sketches I will certainly develop further into larger studio pieces. So far I have enjoyed the process and gained some gratifying hours of pushing paint around. Can’t beat that.



Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 



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