Monday, June 29, 2015

George Inness

Armnad Cabrera

George Inness was born in 1825 on a farm just outside of Newburgh New York on the Hudson River. His father was a successful grocer and just after Inness was born the family moved to New York city and then again four years later to Newark New Jersey. It was here Inness received his education and discovered his interest in art.

In 1839 at the age of 15 his father bought him a grocery store to manage but Inness had decided to pursue painting and his father reluctantly paid for art lessons. His first teacher was John Jesse Barker. Inness then studied engraving for two years in New York City. He studied painting for a year with French Artist Regis Francois Gignaux and attended classes at the National Academy of Design.

In 1849 Inness opened his own studio in New York. He also married Delia Miller who died just a few months after the wedding. He remarried Elizabeth Abigail Hart a year later and the couple would have 6 children together.

In 1851 a patron sent Inness to Europe for fifteen months. He rented a studio in Rome and studied the old masters and painted. It was probably here he became interested in to the philosophy of  Swedenborgianism which held all things in nature had a spiritual relationship with God and that an artist’s perspective is influenced by this experience.

His work became more ethereal in his later years using his memory and painting with a softer more emotional intent. His later work transcends the natural world touching on the poetic and sublime.
He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1853 and became a full Academician in 1868.

Inness had a retrospective show of his work in 1884 and he won a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition. George Innis died in 1894 in Scotland after watching a sunset.

Inness landscapes
Alfred Werner
Watson Guptill Publications 1973

Quote: The true purpose of the painter is simply to reproduce in other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him. A work of art is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion. Its real greatness consists in the quality and force of this emotion.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Artists and Family Life

Armand Cabrera

Today is Father’s Day which got me thinking about artists and most of the professional artists I know not having children. Maybe it’s the difficulty of becoming a professional artist in the first place. Is it the lack of a steady well-paying income for most artists? The delay of success when and if it finally does come compared to other professional careers could be the main issue but there is something about being an artist and especially a gallery artist that keeps them from having families.

Commercial art seems to be different, maybe because of the more reliable pay it lends itself to more normal choices than gallery work. It is not just the men I know; many of the professional women artists too are childless. All of which makes one wonder what it is about choosing art as a career that keeps people from starting a traditional family.

Of course there are always exceptions to the trend and there are artists both male and female who do have children and just like individuals in the rest of society, some of them are better at being parents then others are.  Most of the time it seems that artists that marry spouses that support their choice to be artists and have a steady highly paid professional career increase the opportunity to provide a better chance for family life than artists who marry or partner with other artists.

Some famous artists that remained childless 

Leonardo Da Vinci
Nicholas Poussin
Albrecht Durer
Rosa Bonheur
John Singer Sargent
Cecilia Beaux
Edgar Degas
Mary Cassatt
Winslow Homer
Thomas Eakins
Edward Henry Pothast
Elizabeth Shippen Green
Guy Rose
Grace Carpenter Hudson
Kate Greenaway
Georgia O’keefe

Jackson Pollock

Monday, June 1, 2015

In the Judges Seat

Armand Cabrera

Yesterday I was the judge at the first Paint Great Falls Plein Air Competition and Quick Draw hosted by The Arts of Great Falls. It was a small event with a good group of artists participating. Before the presentations I do a little speech about judging art shows. I’ve had the honor of judging many shows over my career and I take the responsibility very seriously.

I like to explain to the participants what I look for in a painting. Some of the shows I’ve judged are not plein air, but I think there are some common requirements for an award winning painting if the show is representational art. Here is my list of things I look for to narrow the field when I judge.

A grasp of the fundamentals

John Carlson says in his book on landscape painting “if you attend a concert at Carnegie Hall you expect the musicians to be able to play their instruments.” This also applies to painting. The fundamentals of representational painting have been well established over the last two thousand years. A sense of light, clean color, perspective, and proportion are all basics for good representations of the natural world.
This still leaves plenty of room for individual style and interpretation of those basics.

A unified statement

A good painting needs to have a strong focus; it makes a statement and is not confusing. The design elements are given the proper emphasis and the handling of the fundamentals and the materials add to the overall effect instead of detracting from it.

Bringing It All Together 

If these things are in place then the painting must do three things that are more subjective. The artist must choose their best painting for inclusion in the show to be judged, it must be better than the other artists in the show and the judge or judges must recognize that fact. The same painting that wins an award at one show could be overlooked for inclusion in another show or not be as good as the rest of the entries. That is how subjective painting can be. I like to remind the participants of this to help them assuage any disappointment they feel if they don’t win. 

Spring Afternoon Blueridge  12 x 16 oil on linen 
outdoor painting by Armand Cabrera

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mixing Greens Part 4

Armand Cabrera

I’ve covered mixing greens for landscape paintings in earlier posts but I still have some advice that can help you capture the greens of spring and summer and make successful paintings.

When you have a painting that has one color that dominates the image design becomes essential. When you restrict your color choices you must find other ways to add interest. Design becomes more important to the success of your painting.

One way to add design is using a series of rhythmic shapes and weave them through the painting. Rhythmic not repetitive, repetitive shapes call too much attention to pattern while rhythmic shapes have similar qualities of shape but are not exact copies. Their attributes change over the sequence to create movement and flow. You do this by changing the size, direction of the marks and their shape slightly from one stroke to the next.

Another way is to use paint calligraphy varying the qualities and thickness of the paint from thin passages that just stain the canvas with color to areas of thick impasto that pull the eye toward them.
Varying the level of detail is another effective tool for an artist. The center of interest can be controlled and information rich while less important areas can be simplified to represent just their essential characteristics.

The last thing to do is allow the painting to have some counterpoint to the overall color of the image, In a green landscape painting this could be the shadow colors, the sky or some other feature that is designed to break up the greens while retaining the superficial sense that what you are viewing is a green landscape.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hans Heysen

Armand Cabrera

Hans Heysen was born in Hamburg Germany in 1877 his family moved to South Australia in 1884 when Hans was 7. In 1899 he was sent to Europe by four local patrons in exchange for the work he would produce there. Heysen studied at the Academie Julian under Benjamin Constant and Jean Paul Laurens and the Academie des Beaux Arts.

Heysen returned to South Australia in 1903 and He started a studio in Adelaide where he taught art classes and displayed his paintings. . In 1904 he was married to Selma Bartels. After a few successful exhibitions Heysen was able to purchase a home near Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills which he called the Cedars. The couple raised their eight children there. He built his studio on the property with limestone from the local quarry. 

He made many trips into the countryside to paint and draw the landscape. Heysen worked in watercolor and oils. His watercolor paintings of Eucalyptus were highly sought after. His paintings won him many awards during his lifetime including nine times for the coveted Wynn prize for best Australian Landscape.

The 148 acres Cedars property is a museum today and contains hundreds of works of art by Heysen and his daughter Nora, who was also an artist. The house and studios of both artists are preserved along with the gardens and can be visited by the public.

Heysen was made an officer of the British Empire in 1945 and he was knighted in 1959. Hans Heysen died in 1968 at the age of 90.

Here is a link to The Cedars Museum for people interested in finding out more about this artist and his work.


Hans Heysen
Andrew MacKenzie

Oz Publishing 1988