Reverberations through Touch

posted in: Blog, Uncategorized | 11

In 1888-89 Van Gogh experimented with color contrasts applied in a pattern of touches (example 1) versus large continuous blended areas that had been the tradition in landscape painting. He was not alone. In Italy since the 1860s Macchiaioli landscape painters were also creating images through patterns of touch and color contrasts (example 2). The word macchia means to spot with color touches. And, in the United States in the late 19th century artists like George Inness used vibrating paint touches but, with fuzzy edges. As a follower of Swedenborg he was influenced by current romantic, pantheistic theories of divine energy permeating and reverberating through nature (example 3).

In each case artists espoused an idea of presenting the vibrating, living pulse of unified nature. Van Gogh and Inness sensed this reverberation was a spiritual force.  Artists like Bonnard (example 4) and the Macchiaioli of Italy also sensed the biological condition of vision could be better expressed through vibrating patterns. Neuroscience has confirmed that our frequently refocusing eyes (3 to 4 times per second) and our fluctuating perception of color intensities (color depends on our cones in the small focused illuminated center of our vision) that we do see fuzzily and with fluttering imagery which gets stilled and fixed in our cortex.

The following examples present artists’ works with color contrasting reverberating effects as a part of their painterly intention.

Example 1. Van Gogh, 1888, Sower, an experiment with vibrations. Van Gogh was anxious that this was not a successful experiment.

Example 2.  Macchiaioli painter, Guilia Bandini, small landscape, 1887.

Example 3.George Inness, Indian summer, 1894,

Example 4. Pierre Bonnard, a neo-impressionist of the late 19th century who continued until the mid-20th century with this landscape of Le Cannet 1945,

What follows are two new paintings of mine which both aspire to present vibrating surfaces suggestive of how we see and how reflective surfaces in nature flutter in our perceptions. Examples 5 and 6 present a shallow vernal pool perforated by shoots of grasses, natural flotsam, and notes of reflected sky.

Example 5.  Step one of Randall’s Farm Vernal Pool,

Example 6. Step two of Randall’s Farm Vernal Pool goes brighter with more vivid contrasts and stronger reverberations.

The next painting (examples 7 and 8) of a farm’s shallow field pond progressively simplifies the subject matter while increasing the variety of surface activity to stimulate a feeling of subtle motion.

Example 7. Step one of a shallow farm pond with too many large distracting elements dividing the surface.

Example 8. Step two with more surface energy and cross patterns and, with some vertical plants reduced or eliminated.


11 Responses

  1. Roxene Sloate

    Love the vibrations, movement and excitement you get in shallow farm pond with simplifying color changes and the lines water patterns! Your work is always fresh and surprising!

  2. Roxene Sloate

    Love the excitement and movement you get by simplifying the color and the linear marks! Your paintings are always inspirational and surprising!

  3. randy k davis

    awesome as usual! love that the surface could be interpreted as a frozen surface also!

  4. Ken Wright

    A flash of fresh air for the spirit and mind! Gifted sharing of your gifts! Beautiful. Thank you!

  5. Edward Shumate

    I have always painted blending the surface. This is something inspiring that I will have to try. Wonderful!

  6. Fredric Neuwirth

    Example #6 the over painting is very effective plus the addition of red and glazes.
    The examples of other artists work is helpful but I did not see it clearly with Bonnard.
    George Inness was your best example.

  7. Rick McGill

    David, would like to let you know that I am in charge of art ed. at our art club.
    We have 225 + members.
    Wickenburg art club in Wickenburg arizona.
    I bought your series about the impressionists (13 videos) and showed them over a 13 week class.
    Videos were much loved and many members have incorporated your style and techniques into their own work.
    Basically many of them have found a new method for their artwork.
    Thank you for all you do and will look forward to more great teaching.
    Rick McGill VP

  8. Paula Budinger

    Every week I look forward to your series. I am a quilter, not a painter, and have studied about color for years. I have learned more in these last weeks than ever, especially about the increase in value in adjacent colors. Thank you for being such a fine teacher. I may have to take up painting.

  9. Catherine Rosensteel

    David, I have absolutely grown in my appreciation and love of the history of art and understanding of the elements that contribute to great art. I have all of your videos and would like to show them and incorporate them in my classes at the Greensburg Art Gallery, Greensburg PA. I teach adults, usually recently retired, who have wanted to paint for many years and can’t wait to understand and paint the images they have wanted to paint – I call it their bucket list. I have mobility issues myself and may not be able to get to your workshops but truly appreciate your blogs and videos. May I use your videos in my classes as examples of how to design and make great paintings?
    Again, thank you for all you have offered so exuberantly to us!!!

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