In The Immediate Vicinity

posted in: Blog, Composition | 2

Toward the end of the 18th century northern European artists began painting carefully observed landscapes studies. They served to help create a greater feeling of natural credibility in their larger studio works. They were prompted by new interests in geology, meteorology and botany. This effort would culminate in an advisory remark by Michallon to Corot, “Observe nature scrupulously. Take it down as you see it without exaggeration or embellishment”.  Corot and John Ruskin would both pass along this advice to other artists. Our own Hudson River School artists, like Sanford Gifford and Frederick Church took this as a mantra for their own work.

But, close observation of nature is always compromised by our own acculturated, schematic ideas of flora and geology. We have been observing and transcribing flora for thousands of years. These historic creations still influence our observations and work today.  If we consider a Netherlandish  Millefleurs tapestry from about 1500 we note that the flora and fauna rest on a dark background which helps to provide a sense of space behind the imagery (example 1).  Using this notion of densely described nature continues as a subject. John Singer Sargent would crop out a patch of nature and,  provide the feeling of deeper space through the application of darkened shadowed areas (example 2).

Example 1. Millefleur Unicorn Tapestry, 1500.

Example 2. John Singer Sargent watercolor of a patch of dense flora, 1906.

In revisiting the subject I used a top-down or aerial point of view. The design rests on a hub and spoke system which you see superimposed in red over step one of  “In the Immediate Vicinity” (example 3). Example 4 presents step one of “In the Immediate Vicinity” without the diagram. Example 5 offers step two of the process and Example 6 presents the image in its current state.

Example 3. “In the Immediate Vicinity” step 1, diagrammed to show hub and spoke composition.

Example 4. “In the Immediate Vicinity” step 1, without the diagram.

Example 5. “In the Immediate Vicinity” step 2.

Example 6. “In the Immediate Vicinity” step 3, present state.

My final example, “Berries in an Autumn Thicket” (example 7) continues the experience of looking up close.  The design relies on a triangular or, “A” frame structure.  There are small references to pockets of light in the top and, a small luminous blue cave of vines set deeper into the image.

Example 7. “Berries in an Autumn Thicket”, oil on Dibond.

I invite you sign up for my two-day painting workshop, Natural Elements at the West Hartford Art League. It is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday January 19 and 20, 2019. You may register on line at the West Hartford Art League’s website or call the registrar at 860 231 9019 ext#2.

My show continues at the White Gallery at 342 Main Street in Lakeville, Ct. the show has been extended through November.   The gallery is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM. for other hours or an appointment tel: 860 435 1029 or visit

I again invite you to join me this year for Jerry’s Artarama’s tradeshow and workshops at their Art of The Carolinas in November (9th -11th) in Raleigh Durham NC. I now have two workshops to offer you with only one space available for Saturday and 12 spaces for Sunday. My Saturday workshop SA1807 is “Nature Up Close” in oil/wc/and acrylic. My Sunday workshop SU1807 is “Cities in Motion, Bridging Realism and Abstraction”. A more fulsome description is available through Jerry’s Artarama Art of the Carolinas website. Or on  Try  Also, for the complete description of my workshops you can visit this website but, under the category of “Classes and Events” on the homepage.

2 Responses

  1. Linda Rose

    Hi David,
    Do you ever use the Fibonacci sequence, perfect ratio, in your composition?

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