Search For Water

posted in: Painting | 2

Hints require guessing. Guessing is a game and purpose of art. In painting we forever try to find something, some mental anchorage. In the late 19th century we learned to make the guessing the central theme of painting.   The artist invited the beholder on a journey of discovery. The process of discovery usurped the old role of discovering something. Formerly discovery led to an answer.

By the late 19th century artists reveled in camouflaging the object of discovery to the extent that looking and questing took priority over finding something.  This new criteria affected both abstract and representational painters. Here are two examples from late 20th century watercolorists. Each one immersed the beholder in a surfeit of shapes and colors to help them realize a sensation of looking. This experience of looking was still tethered to recognition, but, barely. Their images had more in common with how vision aggregates individual phenomena into a recognizable idea vs. being able to name and identify a subject.

Each of these next two artists selected water as their motif because, water can diffuse information and pull us away from the drive to identify.  We simply settle back to enjoy the cascade of forms, textures, and colors as they present themselves in the cacophonous context of the nature.

Example 1. Bill Nichols, 1982, watercolor, “Log over Bradley Creek”, 19×27.

Example 2. George Harkin, 1983, watercolor, “September Gathering”, 40×60.

What follows are three images which invite you to look at color, shape and texture as you examine these excerpted bits of nature. They are assemblages of shapes and reflectance patterns that invite easy guessing but, follow-up with the question of how does the dense pattern of colored shapes make this sensation possible?

Example 3. First step using decalcomania, “Intimate River.”

Example 4. Second step, further vibrations of shape and color, “Intimate River.”

Example 5 presents another watery surface with another high horizon. The confused areas of paint aggregate to suggest a logical place but, their overlapping arrangement suggests otherwise.

Example 5. “Uncertain Shoreline”, oil on dibond.

Example 6 relies on fragmented shapes aggregated by similarities, shapes and proximity. The quick read is easier here but, after reading the image the beholder is invited to consider how the compiled color shapes were composed and, how that process of composition proceeded. This is because the image is built of small shapes laid side by side not by directly outlining mimicked shapes. This process can be explained by my title, “The Search for Sky in Water among Cattails.”

Example 6.  “The Search for Sky among Cattails”, oil on dibond.

2 Responses

  1. Sue Robinson

    Just today for the 1st time I looked up impressionism (loved it!) and came upon your video on painting water lilies. Now I am “hooked” because you make it look so easy. I have all the right colors and hope to try it in the next couple of days. Thank you for showing how impressionism is done.

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