Sunday, July 12, 2015

Artistic Intent

By Armand Cabrera

“Brush strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and all the littleness are in it.” ----- Robert Henri

Intent is often overlooked when creating a painting. Intent is different than an idea for a painting. The idea is subject or narrative of your image but just as important for the image is the why of it. Why make this image?

In my opinion it is intent that drives the creative process and affects the outcome of the final image. Why not make it conscious? I would argue the best paintings an artist can make have a clear intent from their author. The artist has found something to say about the subject being depicted.  There are more utilitarian forms of intent like only painting to make money or painting to be famous or just practicing for improving ones skill but even there knowing the purpose of your work will affect the outcome.

Every artist who has ever attempted to sell their work has had to deal with compromise. Once you put your work up for sale you begin a form of collaboration.  Better to have that collaboration at the beginning of the painting process before the artist actually starts the image than the end.

 At its best all parties respect their roles in the transaction and this allows the artist to willingly accept the work being requested or purchased outright. In its worst form selling art can be a nightmare, it is a job with the artist being little more than the one who renders the idea with little other input into the creation.  Sometimes an artist can be asked to change a finished piece of art to accommodate an interested client. To the degree the intent of the picture is embraced by the artist the better chance that artist has of creating something worthwhile.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

George Inness Quotes on Art

by Armand Cabrera

Most of these quotes come from the Inness biography Life, Art,and Letters Of George Innes which was written by his son in 1917

Details in the picture must be elaborated only fully enough to produce the impression that the artist wishes to produce. When more than this is done, the impression is weakened or lost, and we see simply an array of external things which may be very cleverly painted, and may look very real, but which do not make an artistic painting. The effort and the difficulty of the artist is to combine the two, namely to make the thought clear and to preserve the unity of impression.

Art is the endeavor on the part of the Mind (Mind being the creative factor) to express through the senses ideas of the great principles of unity

The over love of knowing is a chronic trouble with artists, and produces in their works the appearance of effort and labor instead of that freedom which is the life of truth.
Knowledge must bow to Spirit

The greatness of art is not in the display of knowledge, or in material accuracy, but in the distinctness with which it conveys the impressions of a personal vital force, that acts spontaneously, without fear or hesitation.

We are all the subjects of impressions, and some of us seek to convey the impressions to others. In the art of communicating impressions lies the power of generalizing without losing the logical connection of parts to the whole which satisfies the mind.

Never put anything on your canvas that isn’t of any use; never use a detail unless it means something.

You can only achieve something if you have an ambition so powerful as to forget yourself. 

A picture without passion has no meaning and it would be far better had it never been painted.

Let us believe in Art, not as something to gratify or suit commercial ends, but something to be loved and cherished because it is the handmaid of the spiritual life of the age.

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