Sunday, March 22, 2015

Perspective and Its Importance

Armand Cabrera

Almost all of my effort in teaching goes to restating fundamental principles to my students, even those that have achieved some small amount of success. Many of my students have always been interested in art but did not pursue it as a career and so many of them lack the basic fundamental skills needed to create the proper framework to place their paintings over. Students often worry about developing a style but in my opinion style is irrelevant when the fundamentals are lacking. 

The biggest problems in their paintings come from a lack of drawing skills and little or no understanding of linear perspective. A simple understanding of perspective includes vanishing points, eye level and horizon lines and a station point.

Anything you paint that has volume to it needs linear perspective to accomplish competently; Portraits, still life, landscapes, seascapes, city scenes; all of them need a thorough understanding of basic perspective. The more complex a scene becomes the more understanding you need. Think of all of the situations that come up in paintings that have groups of animals or people or reflections, shadows or anything with a complex structure to it. All those situations will need an even deeper consideration of perspective. Why go through your life avoiding those things or painting them badly because you lack the understanding to paint them properly?

People interested in learning more about perspective as it applies to your painting and drawing can find the information in the books ‘Perspective for Artists’ by Rex Vicat Cole from Dover books, ‘Drawing Scenery; Landscapes and Seascapes’ by Jack Hamm and ‘Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis’. Of those three books the first one by Cole is only one that focuses on perspective exclusively. The other two cover it in conjunction with good drawing principles.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Julian Alden Weir Still Life Paintings

Armand Cabrera

J. Alden Weir is primarily known for his figure paintings and impressionist landscapes but he also created many fine still life paintings throughout his career. His early academic training under Jean Leon Gerome provided the keen observational skills and drawing facility to create these paintings.

 His color harmonies are exquisite and his use of lost and found edges work perfectly with his subject matter. 

He used the different surface qualities of the chosen objects to great effect heightening the sense of realism and fidelity without  over rendering. The designs are very organic in their flow with nothing    awkward or stiff in the painting of the elements.

It is naturalism, but a naturalism edited with a keen eye and powerful understanding of capturing only the essential qualities to complete the statement with a simplicity of handling.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting to the Heart of a Subject

Armand Cabrera

 Dennis Miller Bunker

Art can be many things depending on who you ask the question of. For me art is getting to the heart of a paintings subject and revealing something of that understanding. It is not just copying the surface quality of the theme blindly, nor is it imposing so much of my personality on the thing being painted that it reveals nothing of the subject.

Painting, at its best, in my opinion, is a discourse between the artist and their motif and it takes a couple of things to accomplish. One is the ability to translate the message and get it on the canvas in a way that is not overworked. The freshness and economy of the application is important to the statement.  It says that you understand what you are communicating.

Isaac Levitan

To do all that though one needs to listen and look, absorb the image and understand its essence, finding the qualities of the thing that makes that scene, in those moments, a unique event never to be repeated. It requires approaching every subject with humility and openness to what we are experiencing and seeing. 

The artist must be careful during the process and make sure they are avoiding rote answers to design and composition color and brush work. It is engaging all the senses in the development of the image. Fighting the comfort of what you know you can do and pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities and experience something new is the only way of achieving this. 

Maurice Braun

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Being an Artist in the Digital Age

Armand Cabrera

I had two computers fail last weekend. My workstation, the CPU fan failed which was reasonably easy to replace although with the storms it still took a week. My laptop was a complete failure of the drive and since its a ten year old xp machine it ewas time to let it go.

 I rely on my computers to give me the date and time, keep my calendar of appointments and update me with current events and weather. Most of my correspondence is through email or text.  All of my advertising and marketing is digital now too. Social media and portfolio sites play a big part in my presence as an artist and of course there is still this blog. All of which I need to be able to access on something besides the two inch screen of my Smartphone.

Of the two computers the laptop was expendable so I’m glad the situation turned out how it did but the whole incident got me thinking about how much technology has changed how I work in the past ten years. While I’m no Luddite compared to people my same age, I’m sure the younger artists out there are rolling their eyes right now at me saying “please, you still work traditionally for the final image you are making.”

Even with my traditional work I have let computers into most of the process. Photo reference is shot with my digital camera and editing is all in the computer, as are compositional sketches and color keys. I no longer have to print out images to work from in the studio I have dedicated a large monitor for that. If I do print things they get printed from the computer. 

This last week has left me picking up old ways of working, lots of pencil thumbnails and some small color sketches and painting from field studies. What I noticed immediately is how much the preliminaries in the traditional process matter and how much more focused I am working that way. 

My traditional painting is the end result for me but even so digital tools really allow decision making to be put off indefinitely and I think that matters a great deal in painting. One of the reasons painting outdoors from life is so important is it forces decision making during the process whereas working in the controlled environment of the studio, especially with tech, does not.

Going forward I am going to be paying more attention to this to see if there is a way to use tech in a way that doesn’t short circuit decisions and leave everything up in the air in a fluid state of endless process and multiple outcomes.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Artists’ Studios

Armand Cabrera

I've been having fun sharing pictures of artists in their studios on line and I thought I would post some of them here. Life could be hard for artist in the 19th century but those studios were beautiful especially when the artist was successful as you can see in the following images.

                                              Mucha working on the Slav Epic

Albert Bierstadt's Studio

Puvis de Chavannes

Howard Pyle

N.C. Wyeth

Frank Brangwyn

John Singer Sargent