Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “Edgewater Gallery VT

Approaches to Abstracting a Landscape Painting

The specifics of how to create a less literal landscape painting seem to be a constant topic of discussion with my students, especially those who don’t come from an art-school background where the artist spends formative years in the mix, constantly exploring or discussing different ways of making art.

I have previously written about the toggle between formal concerns and storytelling in representational work in the following post:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/narrative-and-abstraction-in-representational-painting/

And about pure abstraction in this post discussing the shows of Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Nelson, and Melinda Stickney-Gibson:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/three-abstract-artists-ellsworth-kelly-jenny-nelson-and-melinda-stickney-gibson/

Stepping further into how to break down this discussion, I see that most non-realist landscape painters are combining several ways of achieving this, and that the methods fall broadly into the two categories of what you choose to paint (and leave out) and how you choose to paint it.

In the image selection arena, the artist can either choose a view that had reduced detail for an open, minimalist landscape, or a macro view that has a prominent pattern —-for example, a rock cliff , sundappled water, or a glen of tree trunks.

The tools that the artist then employs in the painting process to emphasize abstraction can include simplifying, flattening, or distorting the shapes: reducing the amount of elements included; changing naturalistic color to non-literal choices; and/or unifying the surface with brushstroke or other technique to create overall  texture or pattern.

I have selected pieces from a number of contemporary artists who explore this terrain, many of whom I know or am friends with. In most cases artists are combining several of the approaches mentioned above, using pictoral tools that we, in this generation, have been fortunate enough to inherit and absorb from centuries of painting. The contemporary landscape painter then draws from the smorgasbord that art history provides and, putting it all in a sort of personal artistic blender, comes forth (usually over time) with their own version of the abstracted landscape.

Because the combinations are personal and often subtle, I have chosen to discuss each painting on its own merits rather than sift them into the categories introduced above.

I should add that I love gestural and color field abstract painting and generally am not so interested in realist landscape work. But having long ago chosen for myself a stylistic swath that lands somewhere in the middle, I find these explorations to be endlessly exciting, both in my own studio and in the work of other artists.

 

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I,

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I, 6.5″x7″.

I couldn’t resist selecting this piece of Stuart Shils, as I have also painted this dramatic locale in Western Ireland. It is just clear enough that in foreground we have farm fields, but the second shape is so peculiar that the mind could read it as abstract. So, by choosing to paint this bit of cliff that wends its way out into the Atlantic in a long curve, the artist has chosen subject matter that lends itself to abstraction and has also painted it in a broad, loose, and painterly way, emphasizing the color field aspect of the shapes within.

 

Deborah Munson, "Sparkle Square", pastel on paper.

Deborah Quinn-Munson, “Sparkle Square”, 12″x12″, pastel on paper.

Deborah has selected as her subject matter in this painting broad areas —and only two–that lend themselves to a patterned surface. It is key to the painterly beauty of “Sparkle Square” that the flecks of reflected light are varied in placement and shape, as are the shallow waves and subtly shifting color. Mystery is created by the dark shape of the shore. This is an example of the artist both selecting an image that is abstract in its simplicity and rhythm, and enhancing those aspects in the surface treatment.

 

Hannah Bureau, "Windham", 30"x30".

Hannah Bureau, “Windham”, 30″x30″.

Hannah, who also paints pure abstraction, selects material for her landscapes that has a feel that suits her sense of shape—squared off rhythmic forms that repeat within simple divisions of sky and land. In “Windham” I love the way the sky is so different from the ground—the sky like a Rothko and the ground a de Stael. At the same time, the mind reads them perfectly as an ethereal sky and cultivated sweep of land.

 

Eric Aho, "Ice Field",

Eric Aho, “Ice Field”, 80″x100″.

In Eric Aho’s ice series, the view is more pulled in than expansive, creating opportunity for very strong compositions that play with the formal elements of shape and line within a reduced color composition. The black shapes have depth when the eye reads them as descriptive—cracks in the ice leading to water below—but also emphasize the directionality of the fractured shapes as they point toward each other and the center of the piece. My eye delights in the play of shapes with this piece every bit as much as it does with a completely abstract painting.

 

"Blue Tidal Pool", 20"x24".

Christie Scheele, “Blue Tidal Pool”, 20″x24″.

As I have long influenced by the mid-century generation of American color field painters, this piece of mine reads as near abstraction, sitting on top of the picture plane almost before it reads as landscape. My selection of tidal flats as subject matter—already so stark and minimalist—is the starting point, enhanced by flattened shapes with subtle variations in color but no descriptive textural detail. The strong horizon evokes a vista, but turn this piece on its side and you have an abstract painting.

 

 

Wolf Kahn, "Orange Radiance",

Wolf Kahn, “Orange Radiance”,

Brighter-than-literal color is not of itself abstract, but combined with the simple fields of color that Wolf Kahn is known for creates a painting that sits right up on the surface plane. In addition to his famous barns, Wolf has also worked extensively with the repeated motif of tree trunks moving across the canvas, creating the patterned effect discussed above. In some paintings this is a more regular and more pronounced repetition, but I particularly liked the color in this piece and the way that the folliage is treated as diffuse scrubs of color. Look carefully, though, and you can see that as soft-edged as these shapes are, they are very particular, varied, and elegant.

 

 

 

Arnold Levine,

Arnold Levine, “Waves at Jenner”, 16″x20″.

“Waves at Jenner” uses brush stroke to create both an energetic expressive field and at the same time capture the feel of big surf crashing on rock, all of this using low-key, tonalist color. To my eye, the mind reads the scene perfectly for what/where it is, but the white strokes are actually more abstract than descriptive, sitting up on the surface of the picture plane. Arnold works in both abstraction and landscape painting, and this piece falls beautifully somewhere close to the middle of that spectrum…but rather closer to abstraction.

 

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14"x16".

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14″x16″.

Heather very much starts with the first strategy, reducing the content not only by choosing the simplest sea and sky imagery but also by eliminating detail within that. The subject is just recognizable, mostly because of the horizon and the gleams of light in the sky. The color is dense and murky–and also gorgeous—evoking one of those heavy weather days, but even more so a color field painting that sits on top of the scumbled and blended surface.

 

Jeorg Dressler, "Outlook

Jeorg Dressler, “Outlook XVI”, 18″x36″.

In “Outlook XVI”, as in other work by this artist, the soft blend is a wet-into-wet technique starting with a little more detail than many of the pieces discussed here. The surface is so heavily blended, however, that the subject matter takes a back seat and the viewer’s attention is brought to the movement that Jeorg made to achieve this effect. The result, in a descriptive sense, feels both like moving weather and as if we are witnessing the scene from a moving vehicle. As a whole, the technique crates both dreamy narrative and energetic abstraction.

 

Steve Dininno, "Boardwalk,

Steve Dininno, “Boardwalk, 7″x9”.

This monoprint of Steve Dininno’s is a study in monochromatic color and and reduced detail. To abstract an urban view—a scene that is inherently busy—certain light/weather phenomena are generally employed. In this case the image is being swallowed in fog, allowing the graphic elements to swim out of its implied depth even as the lines of perspective lead the eye forward into the scene. That there is so much interest in “Boardwalk” while at the same time so much empty space is a clear demonstration of the power of the less-is-more phenomenon, when skillfully done.

 

Donald Elder, "Untitled Landscape #0154, 12"x16".

Donald Elder, “Untitled Landscape #0154, 12″x16”.

These trees and, I presume, a light pole, are about as un-fussy as they could be. They, and the blended and scumbled surface relate to the Wolf Kahn piece. However, the eye here is funneled back in space, much like in the Steve Dininno above, and the analogous color composition is quietly moody. The foreground blacks help anchor the piece, creating contrast within the otherwise low-light scene. This piece balances beautifully between capturing the mood of a moment and place and pure, delicious painting.

 

Kate McGoughlin,

Kate McGoughlin, “Winter Sky Ashokan”, 8″x8″.

In this piece Kate uses surface texture to work the sky into a color field that is only just recognizable as a cloud bank. The shape of the shore is simplified, color exaggerated, though she did create a juicy reflection–so much a part of the land-into-water visual experience. The water is quieter than the sky, as is often the case. The white line that was scratched into the pigment on the left is a lovely graphic element that is entirely non-literal. Examining the elements, there is clear back and forth between those that are more descriptive of the scene and those that are more abstract.

 

Thomas Sarrantonio, "Transition",

Thomas Sarrantonio, “Transition”, 50″x60″.

Thomas is doing several painterly things in this piece that move it away from realism. There is clear patterning and brush stroke both in the field and the sky above that break up the surface into rhythmic abstraction. Combined with the soft band of fog in the middle distance,  this creates a duo perception of paint sitting on top of the picture plane and a recognizable field/sky with atmospheric perspective. The relative symmetry of this image also illustrates the point that when a painter reduces the number of elements, those that remain hold an enhanced interest.

 

Staats Fasoldt,

Staats Fasoldt, “Fair Street”, 11″x14″.

Staats is a master at relating shapes and creating light. Similar to my aesthetic, the number of shapes tend to be reduced and surface of them flattened, but the outlines of the shapes themselves have a good deal of subtle variation. In this piece, the paint handling within the shapes is also beautifully varied, the strip of light in a way that describes light itself and the shapes within the buildings in a more abstract manner. The blur on the left encroaching on the foreground building also seems to be more about the movement of the watercolor than about any recognizable visual phenomenon.

On the whole, what makes these all good paintings is that they are successful in capturing both the feel of the scene depicted and the surface, compositional, and color interest of pure painting, allowing the viewer to delight in both aspects. As for all painting, drawing ability is essential, since the artist needs the hand to do what the eye requires; creating dynamic compositions made of compelling—and usually highly edited— shapes, palettes, and surface.

Occasionally, there is an element that is barely or not quite recognizable…but interesting or gorgeous. My comment to my students when this emerges in their work is “I don’t know what that is…but I really like it so I don’t care”.  This observation would apply to the irregular light shape on the right in the Fasoldt piece and the field in the Sarrantonio. In many of the other pieces, there is an element or shape that we think is probably this or that…but we are not sure: the cliff in the Shils; the dark shore in the Munson; the orange band in the Kahn—field or hill?; the tidal pool in my piece; the light pole in the Elder, and so on. These mysteries serve to create complex interest as the mind works to accept the mixed metaphor that they provide.

 


 

I would like to mention the galleries that I share with many of these artists: Julie Haller Gallery in Provincetown, MA; Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY; Gold Gallery in Boston’s South End; and Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury VT–check them out to see additional work!

 

 


Small Studies in Oil on Primed Paper

I began using small oil-on-primed-paper studies as a teaching tool in my September 2013 workshop at the Provincetown Artists Association and Museum.

At work on one of the studies for

At work on one of the studies for “Blue Above”. (Photo courtesy of Carol Duke.)

As you can see above and below, I did several versions of the same image, moving elements around, encouraging my students to do the same.

Version

Simple version, tidal pool coming off the bottom and corner of the picture plane.

It is not just a question of what is included and what is left out–though that is always a major consideration in my work (see https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/contoursdistillations-a-solo-show/   for more on that conversation). Even in this very reductive composition, there are many variables. What, exactly, is the shape of the tidal pool cutting toward us, and where does it leave the picture plane, both on the left and on the right? How high or low is the horizon line? Cool greens, warm greens, or both? Back shore more compressed and lighter, making it seem further away, or larger and darker, bringing it forward?

Version with suggestion of houses in back land form.

Version #2 with suggestion of houses in back land form, and Long Point lighthouse on the right.  Tidal pool moves off the right side. (Sold)

I decided to go very white with the sky in the large piece, since I love the shore phenomenon of bright blue sky overhead and white at the horizon, which is due to the many miles of atmosphere, denser close to earth, that we are looking through.

Blue Above, 12

Blue Above, 12″x36″ , currently at the Julie Heller Gallery, Provincetown, MA.

None of these versions is any better or worse than the other—they are just different. The choices that I made for the larger oil were largely mood-driven. For example, I opted to emphasize the simplicity of the major shapes by omitting the lighthouse and bits of detail on the back shore. Including them would have made it a more descriptive piece, which I do from time to time. But at heart I am a minimalist, enjoying the open feel that these compositions bring.

First set of small

First set of small studies. (Mostly sold; two are currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.)

I soon saw that the studies function nicely as small paintings in their own right if I finish them the same way I do a larger piece. They look great framed with a mat and under glass, though I have also exhibited and sold a number of them mounted on board, sealed to be airtight, and presented without glass, such as the below.  I did a grouping, example below, for a small works show without any intention to do them larger—some of them are images I already had done as pastels or larger oils. Switching it up!

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6″x6″, sold by Thompson Giroux Gallery. (Sold)

 

Study/Triptych in Reds

Study/Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 5″x5″/ea., private collection.

I decided to leave out the soft water-shape in the larger version, mostly because I knew that I was going to frame each panel separately and I felt that the simpler field dividers would work best, carrying the horizontal sweep of the composition through the strong verticals of the frames and the wall space between.

Triptych in Reds

Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 24″x24″, currently at Gold Gallery, Boston.

 

 When I do these studies, I don’t do them to copy them later in a big piece, but rather to familiarize myself with some of the elements. I have my students do several of the same image, and until they do they really don’t get the concept. It isn’t to come up with the perfect study to be copied, but to move things around and look at the results to see what sections work best, comparing all of the studies. Having done that, choices will still need to evolve organically with a larger piece–and just the size difference can really influence this process— but you now have the advantage of  having posed key questions to yourself.
Study/Intervening Bay

Study/Intervening Bay, 7″x7″, private collection.

In this recent piece I moved the front tidal pool a bit over toward center in the larger piece and had more room to play with the blues. It became clear that in the 24″x24″ version I needed to clearly differentiate between the three groupings of marsh grasses to indicate far, middle, and close proximity, using color to establish distance. Why? It just didn’t look right to have them all on the same plane in this particular image. This, though, is something that in another painting I might love—allowing all of the shapes to sit right on top of the picture plane, functioning as a color field painting.

Intervening Bay, 24″x24″, private collection.

The study and the large version each ended up where they needed to, and different from each other in subtle ways.
Study/Open Road #1, 4.5

Study/Open Road #1, 4.5″x14″. (Sold)

These two are quite similar, the main difference being the enhanced distance in the road that I created with the larger piece.

Open Road, 20

Open Road, 20″x60″, available at Gallery 901, Santa Fe, NM.

 

Sometimes after both—or all of—the pieces are finished there are things that I prefer about the study. In the following two, it is the differences in size and materials themselves that create a somewhat divergent feel.

Study/Sunset Sea, 5″x5″ (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).
One element to be considered is that the texture of the paper is more assertive in a small piece, and often a bit more matte, even though my linen also has tooth and the paint is applied to the same dark, absorbent ground. Here I feel that the study is more painterly and the oil-on-linen more photographic.

Yellow Band, 36″x36″ (at Julie Heller Gallery).
With the following pair, the study is simpler and more illustrative than the larger piece that came after.
Study/Skyline

Study/Skyline, 7″x7″,  (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).

In the larger size I needed to add more buildings, and I opted to make it more atmospheric. It turned out to be very useful to have established the front detail in the small piece, since I wasn’t at all sure how it was going to work out or even if I wanted to include it. I liked it well enough in the study to follow my own lead in the larger oil.

Skyline with Lifting Rain

Skyline with Lifting Rain, 20″x20″ (sold by Edgewater Gallery).

Here are some pieces from my current collection of studies that I haven’t yet done large. I will do this with some, and others will remain in small format only.
What I choose to paint next is driven by a complex set of considerations, partly mood-driven and partly tending to the needs of my galleries. Yet sometimes I love to not over-think it, changing direction at the spur of the moment. Any of these could be explored in large canvas at any time, and/or my next large piece might be of an image that I did not approach first in small format.
Study/Mountain Contours

Study/Mountain Contours, 4.5″x14″, currently at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY.

 

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6″x8″, currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.

Study/Lake Mists, 5

Study/Lake Mists, 5″x5″ (currently at the Tenderland Home, Phoenicia, NY).

 

Study?Gleam over Tidal Flats,

Study/Gleam over Tidal Flats, 6″X10″. (Sold.)

 

Study/Green Valley

Study/Green Valley, 6″x10″.

 

Study/Late Summer Light, 5"x7.5".

Study/Late Summer Light, 5″x7.5″.

 

Study/Meadowlands with Mists.

Study/Meadowlands with Mists, 3.5″x10.5″. (Sold.)

I was so enjoying the color on the above that I decided to do a version without the industrial detail in the back landform.

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4″X8″. (Sold)

And then I wanted to simplify even more and use the soft lavender with greens instead.

Soft Summer Light, 4"x8".

Soft Summer Light, 4″x8″.

Additional pieces (updated since the publication of this post):

 

Study?Yellow Bush, 4"x14.5", Edgewater Gallery.

Study/Yellow Bush, 4″x14.5″ (at the Tenderland Home).

 

Study/Waterspouts, 6"x9".

Study/Waterspouts, 6″x9″ (at Julie Heller Gallery.

 

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6"x9".

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6″x9″.

 

Study/Summer Marsh, 5"x12".

Study/Summer Marsh, 5″x12″ .

 

Study/ClusteredCLouds, 5"x12".

Study/ClusteredClouds, 5″x12″. (Sold.)

 

Study/White Fields, 5"x11".

Study/White Fields, 5″x11″ (Sold).

 

Study/Grey Dawn, 5"x7".

Study/Grey Dawn, 5″x7″.

 

Study/Winter Warmth, 7"x7".

Study/Winter Warmth, 7″x7″ (sold).

 

Study/Se.rene Winter, 5"x11"

Study/Serene Winter, 5″x11″ .

 

Study?Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4"x12".

Study/Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4″x12″ (sold).

 

Study/Green Fields, 5"x13".

Study/Green Fields, 5″x13″.

 

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6"x8".

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6″x8″ (at Tenderland Home).

 

The study below illustrates another use for the small format, as it was a a study for a commissioned painting (something that I have always done in a small pastel or oil to iron out the imagery that has been chosen by the collector):

 

Study/Resting Clouds, 4"x14".

Study/Resting Clouds, 4.5″x12″ (sold).

 

Lifting Clouds, 18"x42".

Lifting Clouds, 18″x42″, (private collection).

 

You may have noticed that some of the oil-on-paper pieces have a deckled edge and some have a clean edge. This does not translate with the large oil-on-linen work, but instead is something that I’ve been playing with in my pastels for a number of years. Some images have shapes within that relate to the uneven edge, and others have a more linear sweep to the composition. Those that have the deckled edge are framed showing it, and the others have the mat coming right up to the edge of the image.

I never like to over-plan. But even though I got along just fine without these studies for years and years, I have to say that for myself and for my students, they can have a liberating effect. Once you have internalized some aspects of what you are doing, it is much easier to proceed with confidence and an exploratory attitude.

What’s been Going on/Is Coming Up, Spring 2015

After a hard and busy winter I am so very happy to be in transition to the warmer season ahead. The work in my studio and recent events gave me a wonderful distraction from the relentless weather in the Northeast, but all logistics and movement are so much easier and more enjoyable with warm sunshine, no snow or ice, and planning that can be relied upon.

My solo show at Gold Gallery in Boston remains up through April 25th.

Everyone has heard how massively hit Boston was with snow this past winter, and the reports were no exaggeration. We had planned a February show, agreeing that since they had February traffic and business, we should go for it.

Sometimes I just love the expression: “Man plans. God laughs.”

After a few postponements, we did open with a reception on March 13th. It was a lovely time for me, with many in-depth questions, especially about my Affinity Series and the multiple-panel pieces.

Gold Gallery

Gold Gallery

The gallery brought my work to the AD 20/21 Fair down the street from them a few weeks later. I love the way the work pops on the grey walls.

Work at AD 20/21

Work at AD 20/21 with Gold Gallery

I wrote a blog post about this multiple-panel piece in the show as an example of how a new idea evolves. This piece has quite a story, involving photos of my son Tony; Maya Lin; Storm King; and many sketches and studies.

Green Waves, oil on canvas, 14"X82" framed.

“Green Waves”, oil on canvas, 14″X82″ framed.

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/the-evolution-of-a-new-concept/

Edgewater Gallery of Middlebury, Vermont brought my work to the Affordable Art Fair NYC at the end of March, so I decided to attend. I hadn’t been in several years, and found the whole fair to be well-organized and accessible, a kind of bubble of positive energy. This year was very successful, not surprising with with the quality and variety of work and the good vibe.

I was meeting up with friends and collectors at different intervals for three days running, so I spent quite a bit of time there. The first day I decided to get further involved by collecting information on some of my favorite artists being exhibited at the fair in order to write a blog post about it. This is a review of the work of the five artists that I selected:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/a-review-of-the-affordable-art-fair-in-nyc/

A few pieces of mine

A few pieces of mine at the Edgewater booth at the AAF.

I got a first-hand look at how hard the galleriests at these events work as I returned often to the Edgewater booth,  enjoying the chance to get to know Kate, Rachel, and Zoe a little better in between their many conversations with fair-goers and invoicing and wrapping sold work. The days were up to 12 hours of standing and smiling and chatting, and they had a great attitude throughout.

I have had several commissions in the first months of this year.  Although I am a tonalist by instinct, over the years I have found that I like to meander this way and that with my palette. These five pieces are about as bright as I can imagine going, but I am pleased to see how “me” they look, even with more saturated color.

Installation shot of four pastels commissioned through Megan p eter Fine Art.

Installation shot of four pastels commissioned through Megan 
Peter Fine Art.

"Saltmarsh in August", headed soon to it's hone on Martha's Vineyard, commissioned through the Louisa Gould Gallery.

“Saltmarsh in August”, headed soon to its home on Martha’s Vineyard, commissioned through the Louisa Gould Gallery.

I recently enjoyed a visit at my friend Marie Vickerilla’s studio. She had new work finished for her upcoming show in New Jersey that I was determined to see before it left her studio.

Marie's studio

Marie’s studio

Our conversation about this body of work had a lot to do with mixed associations (see my discussion of this in the blog post reviewing the Affordable Art Fair) and complexities of surface. I have always loved Marie’s more minimalist work, and found this new series to be exciting in a different way–lost and found edges and layers; unusual color juxtapositions; and stories begun one place and and finished in another.

From her statement about this series: “Not until after the work is complete do I realize from where the painting has come. From shifting lines holding up a shape, lines and bars moving from place to place, a kind of organization emerges from the randomness, and I find a correlation to some slow-moving event in life.”

Actually, I’ll just say it, since I have before in conversation: I think Marie is a genius. It’s not always apparent to me where and how her decisions are made, but they have amazing clarity, subtlety, and depth—“unique voice” is an understatement.

Inviation for MArie Vickerillas show.

Upcoming Shows:

May 9th: Chace-Randall Gallery (upstairs space), Andes, NY, 10th Anniversary show, 5 – 7 p.m.

A solo at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY, July 16-Labor Day, reception July 25.

The Shandaken Studio Tour, July 18-19.

A solo or duo at Louisa Gould in Vineyard Haven, MA, August 13-26:

A few new pieces:

"Perceived Acuity", 18"x52".

“Perceived Acuity”, 18″x52″.

"Blue/GreenSea", 3 panels of 12"x12"; 12"x16"; & 12"x12"

“Blue/GreenSea”, 3 panels of 12″x12″; 12″x16″; & 12″x12″

A few of my recently sold pieces:

"Skyline with Lifting Rain", 20"X20", oil on linen.

“Skyline with Lifting Rain”, 20″X20″, Edgewater Gallery at the Affordable Art Fair.

5 Trees

“5 Trees”, 20″x60″, Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

Turqiouse Light

“Turquoise Light”, 30″x30″, Gold Gallery.

My February workshop “Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape” at the Woodstock School of Art managed to come off, despite terrible weather, and succeeded in what I had set out to do. A new workshop, it involved an unprecedented amount of planning for me, as I was determined to develop exercises that would lead my students into a deeper analysis of composition and color, and a more conscious understanding how the elements form the whole.

The landscape itself is so seductive that it can actually get in the way of crafting a good painting, so much so that often I see artists plateau in their skill-building, finding it hard to advance to the next level. This workshop was designed for those artists, though I think it also works well for beginners as a step-by-step.

Day #2, working with color (those touchy greens!)

Day #2, working with color (those touchy greens!)

I was concerned that the artists in this workshop would feel constrained by so much structure, but they all surrendered to the process and felt that they learned way more than in a workshop with more open painting time. The exercises are also really fun—I did them myself first to make sure of that.

At work on a frigid February day.

At work on a frigid February day.

I will be teaching the same workshop in Provincetown in September, as well as these others coming up in 2015:

Woodstock School of Art, “Landscape in Large Scale” , June 20-23:

http://www.woodstockschoolofart.org/scheele_landscape_in_large_scale2015.html

Artists Association of Nantucket, “Landscape and Mood”, July 13-15:

https://apm.activecommunities.com/nantucketarts/Activity_Search/landscape-and-mood-with-christie-scheele/300

Provincetown Artists Association and Museum, “Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape”, September 14th-17th.

https://www.paam.org/workshops/summer-2015/?course_detail=constructingdeconstructing-the-landscape&start_date=9-14-15

Woodstock School of Art, “Interpreting the Landscape in Oil and Pastel”, October 17-19

http://www.woodstockschoolofart.org/scheele_interpreting_the_landscape_in_oil_and_pastel2015.html

I hope to see many friends and followers this spring and summer at a reception, a workshop, or my studio. Many of you have been students, collectors, and friends, in one order or another, and I love to see you show up.


A Review of the Affordable Art Fair in NYC

I had a fine time at the Affordable Art Fair in NYC recently. Edgewater Gallery of Middelbury, Vermont featured my work along with eight other gallery artists, so I decided to attend to meet up with friends and collectors.

The quality of the work was overall higher than I had remembered from my last visit, and as I wandered around and connected to the work of several artists on view, I decided to write about some of my favorites.

These bodies of work bring up some thoughts about mixed metaphor in art.  Aspects of complex combinations found in a given piece or body of work are often hard to name individually, since the references are myriad: historical, art historical, nature-based, daily visual stimuli; art forms such as music and literature; and they source many personal experiences and memories embedded in the mind and body.

With representational work, there is a narrative, at least implied, as well. I prefer one that is not sewn up tight and so leaves room for the viewer to emotionally occupy the piece.

The art that I respond to the most is a rich visual stew that is experienced viscerally but bears additional fruit with analysis. Even when minimalist on the surface, it evokes deep, complex feelings.

The work of Tessa Grundon, at the Arco Gallery booth is rich with associations. I see ancient parchment or fabric; the residue of floods both small and large; things buried and rediscovered; the passage of time; and the impermanence of our treasured objects.

Tessa Grundon

Tessa Grundon, “Stour l (Lungs/Contour)”, Erwarton mud and beeswax on handmade paper

Tessa Grundon says about her work:

“I use an array of materials and artifacts relating to specific geographical locations – local maps, wax from nearby beehives, pigments from the muds, earths, plants and charcoal, debris found along the strandlines of shores and riverbanks both rural and urban. With these materials I create work that embodies a sense of place, totems of landscapes I know and love.”

Tessa Grundon

Tessa Grundon, “Contour in 16 Pieces”, mud and beeswax on handmade paper

 

Her lines are based on topographical maps, and also feel like leaves, forests, seaweed, Chinese landscape painting; the hand of a talented cartoonist, and Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock depictions of ocean waves.

Tessa Grundon, detail

Tessa Grundon, detail

Much more overt are the photographs of Nine Francis at Julie Nestor Gallery. The subjects of these portraits look out at the viewer with matter-of-fact assurance, seemingly taking a brief pause in the course of a busy day.

Nine Francois

Nine Francois, “Deer 2”, archival pigment print

“I use photography to express personal versions of my own selective truths. My images start off in the objective, as all photographic records do, but frequently don’t stay there. They are transformed through various techniques and processes to make them mine–to take them out of the realm of fact and reportage and and place them into the service of exploring and responding to my world.”

Nine Fransois, "Ostriches"

Nine Fransois, “Ostriches”, archival pigment print

While the narrative element is what is first perceived, the photographs have a strong formal presence with reductive off-center compositions, soft edges, and sepia-and-white color. One aspect of their narrative presence that I like is that they balance perfectly between visual richness and beauty and a slightly goofy, cartoonish air, leaving the story open to interpretation.

Nine Francois, "Couger 2"

Nine Francois, “Cougar 2”, archival pigment print

Ren Adams at New Grounds Print Workshop is very consciously working with mixed metaphor in her hybrid-technique prints. I get a sense of batik fabric in some of them; physics; surrealism—the abstract kind, such as Miro; a dash of Kandinsky and maybe a little Klee. Her color choices are almost but not quite organic and also evocative of the traditional inks of Ukiyo-e woodcuts.

Ren Adams,

Ren Adams, hybrid printmaking techniques

“Synthesizing ideas found in physics, information theory, Eastern philosophy, archaeology, digital culture, mass media and linguistics, I embrace the interdisciplinary nature of mixed media, layering printmaking techniques with drawing, painting and digital processing. These layers address convergence, the originating space where substance takes root, generating a virtual archaeological dig where viewers uncover artifacts, moments and mysterious terrain. The resulting alchemy of image integrates micro and macro components, revealing transitory connections while expressing multiple points in time simultaneously.”

Ren Adams

Ren Adams, hybrid printmaking techniques

It strikes me that these layered prints explore space beautifully. Within a relatively shallow space, the elements occupy varying depths and push against the edges of the paper, creating movement both outward from the sides of the picture plane as well as back behind it.

 Red Adams


Red Adams

I was immediately smitten with the work of Park, Sun Hee with Artflow Gallery. Constructed  of tea-bag wrappers, these minimalist pieces are highly crafted and rhythmic, art historically evoking Louise Nevelson and Agnes Martin. They invite the viewer into a contemplative zone with reduced color and a surface texture that create the illusion that these are made of a natural substance—cork, perhaps. The construction also brings to mind the rock work of an intricately designed wall or chimney.

Park, Sun Hee, "Thinking and Metaphor" #1

Park, Sun Hee, “Thinking and Metaphor” #1, tea-bag wrappers

“We see a minimalism not smothered by geometry and are returned to the metaphor of thinking. Following her analogy, we come face to face with the necessity of cataloguing and sorting one’s ideas. But, as theses grids she has set out towards refuse to flatly repeat, we are reminded of the even greater importance of disjunct thinking and and outjutting whims, runaway trains of thought, illogic, and must needed asides in the life of the cognizant mind.”

Park, Sun Hee, "Thinking and Metaphor" #2

Park, Sun Hee, “Thinking and Metaphor” #2, tea-bag wrappers

Underneath the associations created by the formal elements, I catch undertones of long-vanished warehouses containing carefully stacked silks, teas, woods, porcelain, and fragrant spices.

Park, Sun Hee, angled photo

Park, Sun Hee, angled photo

The intricate mixed-media drawings of Laura Jordan with Rebecca Hossack Gallery reflect city life with its packed visual stimuli. With a lively line and strong narrative, Laura “works in pencil, pen, watercolour, collage and print to create wonderfully rich large-scale images of Metropolitan existence – in all its vitality, humour, horror, pathos, wonder, and bathos.”

Laura Jorden, "Metro"

Laura Jorden, “Metro”, mixed-media

“With an acerbic wit and visual acuity that place her in the great satirical tradition of Hogarth and Rowlandson, Laura Jordan maps the political, social and architectural landscape of contemporary London, New York, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro.”

 

Laura Jorden, Marble Arch

Laura Jorden, “Marble Arch”, mixed media

Always on the lookout for strong formal elements, I appreciate the lovely, almost organic-feeling shapes that the accumulated detail of each drawing creates. The drawings also scatter off from these clusters in sometimes truncated fragments, as if sections were erased—but oh so carefully—leaving the compositions enhanced.

Laura Jorden,

Laura Jorden, “A View of Paris”, mixed media

Since I can’t resist being in such good company, I will include my own work. Here is my Skyline piece, quite a different take on the urban experience. Employing the flattening, simplifying effects of moments of light and atmospherics such as rain, fog, or sunset, I am take an intrinsically busy locale and find a view and treatment that creates space.

"Skyline with Lifting Rain", 20"X20", oil on linen.

“Skyline with Lifting Rain”, 20″X20″, oil on linen.

There were not a large number of tonal pieces at the Fair, so my body of work stood out in that way (as did several of my selections above). One fellow who was enquiring about my work commented that while my skyline is in greys, it is softly uplifting, and also very clean.

Swirling Winter Sky, 20"x24".

“Swirling Winter Sky”, 20″x24″.

The simplest thing I can say about this body of work is that it is about creating light and space in a world crowded with possessions, information, obligations, and actions. I choose a minimalist approach to balance all of that with softly flattened shapes, blended edges, and tonalist color while recognizing and retaining undercurrents of more complex realities.

Red River Shore, 20"x30".

“Red River Shore”, 20″x30″.

 

I got halfway through writing this blog post before I realized that all five of the artists that I selected–six including myself—are women. I am not even sure what to make of that, or if there is anything to be made of that, except that women are masterful at multi-tasking (this is explained in brain science research) and so by extension might have a particular facility with artwork that accesses multiple associations.

You are welcome to comment if you have any other ideas.


December Newsletter 2014

It has been a busy, fruitful year, but I am not dwelling too much on the past! My sights are set on 2015, when I will have several shows that I am very excited about.

The first will be in March at Gold (Au) Gallery in Boston, my second solo show with the gallery. My solo in fall of 2012 was quite successful, but I am looking forward to this show taking place in a better economy. Below is the piece we have used for advance PR, just finished less than a month ago.

"Rolling Cloud", 44"x68".

“Rolling Cloud”, 44″x68″.

There will be another version of “Trove”, 35 3″x5″ paintings in a divided frame—here is the one that I did and sold in 2007. This second frame is the last that I have been able to find, so only one more of these! The new one will have a weather theme.

"Trove", 30"X48" overall.

“Trove”, 30″X48″ overall.

I am working on a new idea for a multiple-panel piece, waiting for the delivery of canvas to begin work on the final version, which will come in (framed) at something like 14″x82″. A planning stages photo is below.

Studies for "Green Waves".

Studies for “Green Waves”.

 

Some recent highlights have included three blog posts that I quite enjoyed writing. These often generate quite a bit of discussion on FB that I wish was taking place on the blog where more folks could enjoy it, so feel free to jump in.

Most recent, this short one about how grounding a creative process is:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/creativity-and-happiness/

Some stories that I love (and a few of you might recognize them!):

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/sweetest-sales/

And my version of a rant  about the costs, hidden to many, of making an artwork and bringing it to the public eye:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/this-painting-costs-what/

My early fall was well-occupied with this commissioned piece which was challenging in certain ways. My clients–who are also friends–wanted a piece that was most definitely in my signature style, but that also included a fairly large structure.

 

44"x68".

44″x68″.

The small pastel looked great with some loose detail for the building, but when I got to the large oil, there was just too much of it to leave open. So I hunkered down and went after the architectural detail, surrendering to process. Then, however, the building looked too linear and didn’t fit with the rest of the painting. Finally, I made it all sit together by putting a fairly translucent layer of a lighter brown over the whole castle and embedding it with more blend into the white sky.

This is what makes each piece an adventure. I thought that the large Rhododendrons flanking the pond would be difficult to pull off/make interesting, but they fell right into place.

The reflection, however, was always going to be the star of the piece!

One other observation about process is that when it comes to a section that has quite a lot of  of detail, I think of it as an abstract painting within a painting. This slows me down and enables me to focus with pleasure and patience, eventually backing up and scrutinizing how the area is working with the whole.

Below, a few recent pieces.

"Green Horizons", 12"x48", oil on canvas.

“Green Horizons”, 12″x48″, oil on canvas. (Studio.)

 

"Marsh at Dusk", 12"x16". oil on linen.

“Marsh at Dusk”, 12″x16″. oil on linen. (Studio.)

 

Five oil-on-paper paintings of just 3.25"x3"/ea.

Five oil-on-paper paintings of just 3.25″x3″/ea. (Studio.)

 

"Affinity/Sunset Reflected", 12"x36". Oil on linen with frayed edges overlaid with graphite gridding.

“Affinity/Sunset Reflected”, 12″x36″. Oil on linen with frayed edges overlaid with graphite gridding. (At Albert Shahinian Fine Art.)

 

And this piece that I repainted last summer, brightening the color.

"Endless Sky", 36"x72", oil on linen.

“Endless Sky”, 36″x72″, oil on linen. (At Gold Gallery.)

 

Some work that has sold recently through my galleries.

 

"Lifting Rain, 20"x60". Sold by Louisa Gould Gallery.

“Lifting Rain, 20″x60”. Sold by Louisa Gould Gallery.

 

"Mountain Sky with Mists", 24"x30". Sold by Chace-Randall Gallery.

“Mountain Sky with Mists”, 24″x30″. Sold by Chace-Randall Gallery.

 

Seaside Reds, 20"x20". Sold by Edgewater Gallery, to my dear and recently   rediscovered friend from my year in Bolivia as an exchange student!)

“Seaside Reds”, 20″x20″. (Sold by Edgewater Gallery, to my dear and recently rediscovered friend from my year in Bolivia as an exchange student!)

 

"Counterlight BLues, 16"x20". Sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

“Counterlight Blues, 16″x20”. Sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

 

"Sunset Sea with Sailboat", 5"x14", oil on paper. (Sold by the Julie Heller Gallery.)

“Sunset Sea with Sailboat”, 5″x14″, oil on paper. (Sold by the Julie Heller Gallery.)

My other shows coming up in 2015 are with the Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard and a show exploring my most minimalist, color-field imagery with my gallery of longest-standing, Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck.

My fall workshops on in Provincetown and Woodstock were very focused and great fun. For 2015, I have two new themes on the schedule. (Contact me for a full course description.)

 Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape, WSAFebruary 14-16 Sat-Mon

Landscapes in Large Scale, WSA, June 20-23, Sat-Tues

Provincetown Artist’s Association and Museum, Sept. September 14-18 Mon-Thurs(Workshop will be similar to Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape.)

Interpreting the Landscape in Oil or Pastel, WSA, October 17-19 Sat-Mon

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/painting-workshop-considering-composition/

Last comment for now is that I have been doing quite a bit of mentoring/coaching of other artists this past year and especially recently, enjoying working with both early career and experienced artists. I developed my mentoring programs years ago after meeting and conversing with many artists who had so much hope and conviction, but didn’t understand the ropes. The work is satisfying to me because I can clarify and demystify, and thus take some of the emotional weight out of the process of bringing artwork into the marketplace. I am grateful to the many artists who have trusted me to help them rewrite artist’s statements, brainstorm new series, scrutinize resumes for old contacts, and open themselves up to advice.

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/mentoring-for-artists-for-career-and-work-support/

Happy holidays, happy 2015!