Monday, June 25, 2012

William Merritt Chase

The Blue Kimono
Another one of my earlier inspiration came when I happened upon a book of works by William Merritt Chase. He was an incredible figure painter as well as landscape, interiors and all of the above. I was especially drawn to his figure work and specifically some of the asian inspired works. There are several of his paintings with a women in a kimono or asian inspired background. I love the idea of a three dimensional figure along side a flat two dimensional pattern of fabric or wallpaper background. Maybe because it makes the figure that much more dimensional and interesting against something we know to be flat. As artist we are constantly trying to paint the idea of three dimension on our flat service and that juxtaposition enhances what we are trying to say. 

Back of a nude 1888

There is also the beauty of what might be considered the colorless or at least less colorful quality of the human figure under a specific light source and the more vibrant colors of a piece of fabric or background that just makes the figure sing. I am certainly drawn to that idea. I really do love color and anytime I get a chance to put in a vibrant blue or rich red I'm all over it. 

At the same time, as much as I enjoy color and putting in those vibrant patches whenever possible in my own work, there is an elegance and softness in keeping colors much more muted and understated that I am drawn to as well. An example of this in Chase's work is yet another one of my favorite images in the book. The painting Meditation is a pastel painting in beautiful grays. The subtlety is stunning, the composition is beautiful, the dark light pattern is so captivating it is definitely a piece that inspires me and encouraged me to explore this idea of a more subdued color palette in some of my work.
Portrait of Miss E. 1892

Another example of this simple color palette with a slightly more dramatic punch of color is in his painting Portrait of Miss E. 1892.  I've also used this palette in my own work whether consciously or unconsciously inspired by this piece and other works by Chase. The design of this painting is so captivating to me. If you squint down at it to where everything is so simplified, you will see nothing less then visual poetry. You can not go wrong I think with a mostly dark painting along with small shapes of light placed just so, and then incorporating mostly subdued colors with one punch of a more vibrant color. Just stunning to say the least. Less is more as the saying goes and I believe it certainly is true in this case.
Portrait of a Lady

So to touch upon the idea of inspiration and getting out of the artist “Funk” or to shake things up a bit in your own work so as to keep the creative juices going and growing, I suggest, pulling out one of your favorite art books. Browse through the pages and find one image that grabs you. Ask yourself what is it about this image that touches me, that speaks to me. It may be the abstract quality, it may be the color palette or design, perhaps the subject is what grabs you. Take your answers and turn it into your own work. In the end,  your painting may be something quit similar to the inspiration piece or something totally different and yet was birthed from the inspiration, Whatever it is, just go for it, challenge yourself, be inspired by these great artist who have come before us and learn from them. They have a lot to teach us.

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