I remember a childhood family vacation which included Niagara Falls. As I looked over the rail into the Horseshoe Canadian falls I felt an animal magnetism to enter the rush of falling water. The sensation was both awe inspiring and scary.
Since that trip I have found many artists presenting the sublimely perilous invitation of plunging water. J.M.W. Turner was often motivated by this idea of the “sublime” in nature. In 1820 the “sublime” was described as the sensation of viewing a dangerous situation from secure position; that is, witnessing a deluge with nature’s force locked within a picture frame (example 1).
Turner’s watercolor has placed the viewer in the roiling current of the mountain’s river.
Seven years later using a more transcriptive approach in his painting, Frederic Church, like Turner, puts the viewer in a precarious position. We are embedded near the water which pulls us down into the riled waves below (example 2).
In my following examples I have put you, the beholder, into the water. In example 4, “Top of the Falls” You have been invited to meld with the falling cascade as it turns over the edge into a frothy explosion. The painted vortex of energy is built from the sides. We slide down into a bowl of exploding water. Descending linear perspective curves help draw the viewer into the falls. They eventually find tranquility in the flattening river below.
My final example presents more step-by-step information. Here is a horizontal descending (to the right) design with subtle shadow shapes serving as counterpoints leaning up in an opposite direction. Furthermore, the eye is given an alternative destination in the upper left as the river appears to meander back into shadows there.
The translucent effects were built with layered, thin, oil glazes brushed over silver enameled aluminum. Later glazes were more opaque and specific in their placement. This glazing process become more particularly spot-placed as the painting advances through subsequent steps (examples 5, 6, 7, & 8).
I invite you to join me in November at Art of the Carolinas, sponsored by Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh, N.C. I have three one-day workshops. Friday, November 15, it’s “Spectacular Flowers” from 9 to 4, use code FR 1907 to register. Saturday, it’s Water Scapes” from 9 to 4, use code SA1907 to register. And, Sunday, it’s “Natural Patterns, Abstracting Nature” from 9 to 4 use code SU1907 to register. Go to artofthecarolinas.com to register.