Sunday, December 29, 2013

Crystal Bridges Museum Close Up

Last Friday, Kimberly and I visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. It's not a large museum, but it is a beautiful building. As always, seeing these pieces up close allows me to gain a better understanding of the work which is poorly represented in reproductions in books and on the web. Shared here are some of the close up photos we were able to capture during the visit. Click on the images for a larger view.

Here's Dennis Miller Bunker's "Portrait of Anne Page." This full image is one that I pulled from the web, and does not do the portrait justice.

While the face is beautifully painted,
it's the hands that reveal the true mastery. They reveal a subtle variation between warm and cool color and an incredible economy of brushstroke.
The roses also showcase this delicate and simplified brushwork.

Here's another by Bunker, "Wild Asters." This overall shot is another that I pulled from the web. The colors in all of the reproductions I have seen do not come close to the warmth of the actual painting.

Notice how much warmer and more diverse the colors are in the detail shots we were able to capture.

Here's John Singer Sargent's "Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife." Far more impressive in person, and so very different from the portrait work he was doing at the time.
Here you can see how thinly and fluidly he painted Stevenson, almost effortlessly conveying his features.
In contrast, Stevenson's wife is painted with thick and scumbled dabs of paint.
Here's Sargent's "Capri Girl On A Rooftop." In reproduction, it looks rather detailed.
Close shots reveal the simplicity of the figures.
And here is one more by Sargent. A close up of a "Portrait of George Henschel."
Here is William Merritt Chase's "The Song." Establishing photo is not mine.
Another great one to see in person, so that you can see the simplicity of the brushwork.
Next is Frank Benson's "Summer Day." I've always loved this piece. His brushwork is rich with broken color.

And finally, Gary Melchers' "The Embroideress." I was not familiar with this piece, and was blown away by it. I once again pulled this overall shot from elsewhere.
With the detail shots, you can see the thickness of the paint.

The hand is especially interesting. A complete contrast to the one I shared by Bunker, and yet no less stunning. A vibration between warm and cool colors, and it appears that he may have used black to turn the fingers from the light and fade the tips into the background.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Painting a Kansas City Icon - The Western Auto Building

A number of artists, painters and photographers, have depicted the iconic Western Auto building in Kansas City, and here's my take. I wasn't drawn to the sign, and that was my biggest challenge. The way the moring light flared off the top of the building was what grabbed my attention. The problem I faced was telling the story of the light without overwhelming the viewer with the enormity of the sign. I couldn't leave just leave it out. I had to find the perfect balance of color and value. After painting it 3 times, I realized that what set it properly within the painting was the way the light hit the supports behind the letters. These flares of orange and red played down the letters and complimented the bright orange of the top of the building.
Western Auto by Patrick Saunders (oil on board, 9"x17")

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Ever since digital imagery came into its own over 20 years ago, there have been attempts to mimic traditional media. Where others have failed, Waterlogue nails it.

Waterlogue is a new app born from a collaboration between John Balestrieri and Robert Clair that converts photos instantly to beautiful watercolor studies. Neither photoshop nor Corel Painter have yet to match this level of believability. Kimberly and I spent the day shooting everything, and we were consistently amazed at the outcome.

This really is a killer app. With a few simply clicks, I can choose from a variety of styles and post to all forms of social media. The most bland photo ops are quickly transformed into a thing of beauty.

For the painter, this is a great tool to assist in the decision making process. The app quickly gets to the heart of the images and filters out unnecessary details, revealing the prevailing colors and values. For the student, this is like having an experienced teacher looking over your shoulder and hammering home "Squint! Focus on the major areas of darks and lights!"

For those who think "now anyone can be a painter," I'm afraid you're missing the point. Painting is about the exploration of the world around us. The choices we make and the act of creation are far more important than the final product. Until our iPhones become self aware, I think we're ok. Waterlogue is an excellent tool that aids us in simplifying and interpreting an image, but we remain responsible for the experience.