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.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another artist that inspires, Robert Heindel

Several years ago I came across a fabulous little book that truly inspired me. On the cover is a mult- figure piece in an orange and blue color palette. A beautiful image of ballerinas. Their instructor or perhaps, and more likely a choreographer stands in the midst of them explaining some steps or emotion they are to convey in their dancing. It is a horizontal image, with most dancers blending into the background, not fully rendered, and all but one focusing their attention on this single choreographer. This one dancer facing us, her head turned upward, appears lost in her own world, perhaps dreaming of what it will be like for her to be dancing on the stage before an audience. 

I can't remember where I came across this little book, but I was immediately captured by the subject, at the time I was in ballet classes myself and have always been moved by the beauty of the ballet. I was even more compelled to own this book as I saw such power in the true beauty of the abstraction and design on the images in the following pages.

The artist whose work was in the pages of this small book is Robert Heindel. This was my first exposure to Heindel's work and wow I just fell in love with it. I love the realism combined with abstraction and design, so many beautiful lost edges, value and color pattern. There is so much feeling in his work, its just amazing. Heindel was an illustrator for many years before turning to doing work for himself and becoming a gallery painter. In this little book he talks about the freedom he was experiencing in not having to please a client and having all those deadlines. He mentions how being free from that pressure had helped him grow as an artist. Heindel passed away in 2005 at the age of 67 but his work and voice live on in his amazing paintings and illustrations.

All of the paintings, drawing and pastels reproduced in this book were inspired from his work with the Royal Ballet Company and several other ballet companies he worked with. You can really tell how familiar he was with the ballet and the drawing of human anatomy, you can feel the strength of his subjects, the weight and strain of muscles the dancers have and yet they are full of elegance and grace. He talked about how he was not as much interested in the technique and getting everything dead on correct but rather being more interested in the emotion and feeling of the piece. However, without a doubt you can see his knowledge of drawing and anatomy coming through each piece. 

I believe this was the first “Art book” I ever owned and it is a constant inspiration to me, the images are full of life, emotion, movement and strength, all of I which I aspire to emulate in my own work.