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M’s Notes 1st Quarter 2012


The Making of A Masterpiece, Part III Posted on January 13, 2012 by M Gallery of Fine Art SE

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13 (1,2,3,4) The stretched canvas for the big painting is 6’x4’. Jack places the empty canvas and the preparatory sketches side-by-side. He begins the master work by lightly drawing in the tree trunks and rocks using raw umber over a pink wash. All the plein air oil paintings and drawings were arranged on an easel next to the larger canvas, so that Jack could refer to them as he composed his large painting. Jack employs a couple of step stools, as well as raising and lowering the painting on his easel, in order to reach all areas of the large canvas.


(5,6,7) Here are 3 more photos of Jack as the painting progressed. With multiple step-ladders, he was able to slowly build up his form from a general shadow and light to more refined detail. (8,9,10) Jack mixed large piles of value scales for green, gray, blue and violet, which was kept on a glass palette on his taboret, and used a hand-held palette for mixing the exact color/value to be applied on the large painting. Throughout the process, Jack refers to his drawings and paintings that were done "on location". These were not used to make an exact duplicate, but to use as a reference to compose the finished painting, moving and editing elements to improve design. (11,12,13) Now at this stage, Jack works from the general to the specific, carefully setting up his under-structure and constantly adjusting the rhythms and unity. The last picture shows Jack in the Winslow teaching studio with the large piece. The original plein air study was 18"x12". Jack went back to the spot several times to complete this little outdoor study. The large painting evolved over about 6 months. Layers of glazes over impastos and passages in the under-painting help create the dimension and atmosphere. The large painting is not meant to look like a photograph. It is a composed, designed, and inspired by the plein air studies (both oil sketches and pencil sketches) to look beyond the facts and see something more beautiful, a visual poem based on color, rhythm, light and harmony.


Deep in a Cloud Wall Posted on January 23, 2012

Harbor Mist By Sergio Roffo

In Mark Helprin’s Novel, Winter’s Tale, the central characters Peter Lake + his white guardian angel horse, Athansor, both crash into a giant Cloud Wall just off Long Island, disappearing into it and emerging years later, no longer of this world, hearing and seeing things no one else can. One night, post cloud wall experience, Lake is carried on a tour of all the graves of the world, observing and remembering all the dead.


I was always obsessed with the content of Cloud Walls, which are defined by the weather service as are abrupt lowering of clouds from the parent cloud base, a cumulonimbus or super cell, with no visible precipitation underneath. Forming in the area of a thunderstorm updraft, or inflow area, they can often exhibit rapid upward movement and cyclonic rotation. It often develops before strong or violent tornadoes. They also can sock in a harbor with a bone chilling mist, no visibility and no wind. Always where warm moist air and cold, cold water meet they are a mariner’s nightmare. When I sailed regularly on the Great Lakes, and the cloud walls would appear on warm sunny days, when the water was still very, very cold. Appearing as if out of now where they would swallow up your boat in a thick soup of damp…at times wind blowing 20 knots and no visibility out to sea combined with very bright sun near shore. I’d stand on the deck of my Sea Sprite peering into nothing hoping with all my might there were no giant freighters active in the shipping lane; eyes tearing with the lack of focus, blasting the air horn every few minutes, as if that would somehow help. And of course as any sailor knows making while making headway at 6 knots I was frantically praying somehow this horrific wall of puce would lift. At one point on the Bay of Green Bay, with the children on board, a cloud wall filled with lightning came bearing down on us, water sizzling a if with snakes from the rain pelting the surface. No wind, no sound, save the roar of the wall headed our way. Hair standing on end, we all made it eventually to shore, in awe, damaged electric system but safe and grateful for our return. Cloud walls are truly amazing. One time as a student piloting a very old Cessna 150 I was swallowed by a cloud wall over Oshkosh, Wisconsin, flying VFR. It was a calm sunny winter day when we left Appleton: the cloud appeared out of no where. It consumed my airplane + immediately iced the wings, windows, everything in terrifying rime ice. Of course the poor little plane began to buffet wildly and my instructor, 40 year veteran pilot Howard Brown, took control, I hung my head out the banging side window (brrrr…) and we managed to blindly careen our way safely to the landing strip which mercifully was wide + long. When we landed Howard’s hair was standing straight on end…and the pump boys at the FBO voiced their dismay that we had cost them money in a wager (they had assumed we were gonners and betted on our demise.). Sergio Roffo’s painting of the Cloud Wall shows Alerion + Beetle boats safely socked in the Straight Wharf harbor on Nantucket. They appear so peaceful and at rest. Today here in Charleston we are experiencing similar weather in the harbor only with the addition of about a 25 knot wind. Sergio’s painting reminds me so vividly of those times near and on Lake Michigan. Deceptively calm, eerie


in the cloaked quiet, halyards softly clanking with the flat seas. Every pilot, every sailor, knows to disappear into such softness risks returning as a ghost like Peter Lake in Mark Helprin’s wonderful novel. I am charmed by the mystery cloaking this harbor, delighted by the nautical accuracy of the boats Ruffo depicts (two harbor socked sailors just ambled in the gallery to tell me the names + types of boats depicted in the harbor…and how rare it was to see such accuracy!). Roffo a an elected “Fellows” member of the American Society of Marine Artists has won numerous awards including two prestigious "Grumbacher Gold Medals" and the “Yankee Sagendorph Award”; presented by Yankee Magazine. This work and several others by Sergio can be viewed on our website at www.mgalleryoffineart.com


Serenity by the Creek Posted on February 16, 2012 by M Gallery of Fine Art SE

Serenity by the Creek

Roger Dale Brown, "Serenity by the Creek," Oil on Canvas, 48"W x 60"H

In the American South today there is a tremendous movement towards authenticity and a local sense of self. It is reflected in the food, political conversation, architecture and art. The return of southern born individuals to the south to live and work is very significant and many of the hackneyed assumptions of what it means to be southern are vaporizing, being replaced with a delightful understanding of what it means to own your past, be present in the wonderment of the here and now, and understand the possibilities of your future.


Roger Dale Brown epitomizes the southern ethos: He is kind, hard working, and spiritually aware and as genuine a human being as you would ever want to meet. His paintings reveal his reverence for the places of his birth, childhood, adulthood. He understands and is able to reveal the southern landscape like no other painter I have ever seen. I believe it is his deep roots in the culture of his home, his landscape. Serenity by the Creek is a classic example of a painter not only profoundly understanding what he is painting, but unfolding it for the viewer in a way that allows an intimacy and experience that goes far beyond the twodimensional canvas. When you stand in front of Serenity by the Creek, it is as if you could walk up the stream, throw a line out for a fat trout, hear the insect hum, birds trill, creatures rustle. It is obviously a compilation of decades in the woods of the southeast. Giant forests populated by Sycamores, oaks, hickories, beech, hackberries have been the backdrop for Roger’s work for most of his life. As population pressures and climate change effect these forests, the work of Brown and other landscape painters throughout the southeast become only one of bringing great joy the owners of the works, but a chronicler or a time and place which is being dramatically altered and exceedingly rare. Leiper’s Creek, where Roger painted the studies for Serenity by the Creek was profoundly changed in the recent Nashville floods. The giant old growth trees he so lovingly rendered are no more, except in Roger’s work, his studies and his mind’s eye. When I stand in front of Serenity by the Creek I am ever so conscious of the need we all have for wild places and the intrinsic drama of a great southern forest, its sacredness and quiet dignity. They are the holy places, places that calm our souls, return us to sanity and give us understanding of the greatness revealed before us.


Art of the Real: David Poxon Posted on March 6, 2012

David Poxon, “Blue Ford Tractor”

http://youtu.be/CKf5TiRuNFQ A slide show of David creating his works of art and an interview with Denis Ryan.


Angus McEwan Posted on March 13, 2012 by M Gallery of Fine Art SE

Angus McEwan, “Painted Door at Marsasloxk”

http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=nyv1ryVHMho&feature=youtube_gdata_player A slide show of Angus McEwan's works.


Cityscape Posted on March 27, 2012

What Follows in this M’s Notes is reprinted from Sandra Walker’s website and provides a window into her world more thoroughly than any words I could craft. The First section is her biography, the second excerpted from A+I Artists and Illustration and the third from a 2003 issue of Watercolor Magazine. Enjoy! M About Sandra Sandra Walker’s watercolors are represented in numerous public and private collections and embassies throughout the world. Her work is included in the collections of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Senator George McGovern, author John LeCarré, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and many others. She has won many international competitions, including the Singer and Friedlander/Sunday Times award for the best British Watercolor and the Grand Prix at the Tregastal Salon International de la Peinture á L Eau in France. While living in America, she was commissioned by the United States Mint to design a Congressional medal honoring Simon Wiesenthal. Sandra was also commissioned by Prime Minister Thatcher to paint the Houses of Parliament, copies of which have been sold worldwide to benefit the Thatcher Foundation. She has had solo shows in India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, France, Italy and Mongolia. In 1999, Sandra was elected a member of the prestigious Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, an exclusive membership of 60 of the most important British watercolorists. Collections: Partial List United States Mint Ferens Art Gallery& Museum, Hull Convention Centre, Washington, DC


Bank of America, New York, NY National League of Cities, Washington, DC American Embassy, Colombo, Sri Lanka Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC Wall Street Journal, New York, NY National Geographic Society, Washington, DC U.S. Senator George McGovern U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy The Chase Collection, Denver, Colorado Singer & Friedlander Merchant Bank, London Count Alastair von Laubach John Le Carre U.S. Senator Fred Thompson Henry (“The Fonz”) Winkler The Rt. Hon. Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven (Margaret Thatcher) Sandra Walker is an American, but she married an Englishman and has lived outside of London for the past 14 years. Soon after her arrival she saw a notice for the Singer & Friedlander/Sunday Times Watercolor Competition. Deciding she has nothing to lose, she entered. To her amazement, she took First Prize. With a laugh, she explains her win by saying her painting was probably the only one that wasn’t of hillsides and pastures. Her work stood out, she says, because Photo Realism is unusual in Britain. As much as Walker considers herself an artistic oddity in England, she is an elected member of the prestigious Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolor, an honor she finds surprising because she is a woman and an American – and because membership is limited.


Architectural city scenes are Walker’s passion; the older and more decayed the better. “There are enough other people who do pastoral scenes, especially in England,” she says. “I don’t have to get in on their act.” Because the scenes she prefers are intricate, she takes many photos, draws loose sketches, and makes color notes rather than working on site. Then she lays out her photos and studies them. “Something will emerge, and I’ll say, ‘Yes, this is the view I want to paint.’ I know it when I see it.” She explains. “Usually it has a lot it do with shadows.” By arranging her prints in a collage, she creates exactly the scene she wants. First she decides on the focal point, then how much of the surrounding area she intends to include. She also edits out trees or traces of greenery. Photos, she says, are a good guideline but should never be slavishly copied. If the angles in the scene are particularly tricky, she lays out a grid on the photo and paper first. But she always sketches very carefully, pointing out that “if something is out of kilter in an architectural subject, you are in trouble.” Walker draws using a triangle and does a great deal of measuring, but she’s never been tempted to do this tedious work on a computer. After deciding the dominant color mood of the work, she begins painting in whatever area interests her most, laying in washes lightly. “Sometimes,” she notes, “I don’t know until the end if the painting will work because shadows are everything, and they go in last. I also never know when to stop. I keep wanting to add other things or splatter more.” Splattering, in fact, is Walker’s secret to creating the look of old bricks and stone. Whereas layers of paint would appear flat, she creates texture to give the painting a three-dimensional look. She taps a fan brush – a large one heavily laden with wet paint for big splatters, a smaller, drier brush for smaller ones – against the handle of another sturdy brush. Many of he splatters are multicolor; for instance she splatters red, blue, and green, to produce the convincing look of old bricks. For the basic color of old bricks, she mixes burnt sienna and raw umber with a touch of Payne’s gray. At times she splatters on white or uses white to create graffiti on the bricks. Occasionally Walker is commissioned to portray brand new buildings but claims “there’s no thrill, no heart, no soul in new buildings until I get there and splatter.” Besides splattering, the artist uses razor blades, sandpaper, crayons, old credit cards and medical syringes to create the look of old brick. Or, she plays with Windsor & Newton Aquapasto gel to achieve the required texture. As for isolating certain area during the process, she says, “I have a love-hate relationship with masking fluid. I hate it but will use it for a length of wire along a building, for instance. Usually it’s not worth the effort of masking out whole sections. It looks contrived. I can paint around almost anything.” Walker is adamant about the quality of her supplies, “Never use cheap paper, paint, or brushes,” she advises. “They undermine your work.” She uses one kind of paper – 140-lb Arches hot pressed – explaining that even though she paints old buildings with a lot of texture, she still likes the smooth, hot-pressed surface,


which she roughs up. She insists on Nos. 3 and 4 sable brushes for most of her work, and a No. 10 for larger areas. Her palette consists mainly of burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ochre, Payne’s gray, raw umber and lamp black. Normally she has two or three paintings going at once. It takes weeks to complete one painting, although Walker admits that she is painting smaller now for practical reasons: Rooms in English houses tend to be smaller, and there isn’t an active market for large paintings. Certainly she need not worry about her place in the British art world. It seems she is well established, considering former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher commissioned a scene depicting the Houses of Parliament. Bring realism to your watercolors with photographs. Sandra Walker shows how your photographs can be the first step towards a Photo realist painting: “Whether artists think about it or not, every one of their works falls at some point on an imaginary scale that ranges from complete abstraction to I-can’t-believeit’s-not-a-photograph Photorealism. While I may not be in the vanguard of the latter, a great joy for me as a painter lies in the magic that occurs when pigments applied to a two-dimensional surface suddenly look like a particular landscape, still life, or individual. This, it seems, makes me a Photorealist. Photorealism is an extreme form of naturalist paining that had its beginnings in the United States in the late 1960s and relied on the use of photos to achieve extraordinary realistic images. Also known as Superrealism, it evolved partly in response to abstract art, Minimalism, and other non-representational styles. What made the Photorealist different from other realistic painters working at the time was that they didn’t attempt to hide their reliance on the camera. Instead the declared its use to be a virtue. One popular technique of these early Photorealist involved projecting photographic images onto large canvasses, and then reproducing them in minute detail. SUBJECT MATTER Subject matter for these artist could be just about anything – except, perhaps, traditional views that, when rendered photorealistically, might have seemed too boring, pretty , or sentimental. Such proponents of Photorealism as Richard Estes and Chuck Close worked from colour photographs of storefronts, neon signs, petrol pumps, traffic lights, and in Close’s case, close-ups of his own head.


From the beginning, Photorealism was embraced by the public, which found it easier to understand than, say, abstract expressionism. But the art world itself was divided about what some regarded as little more than ‘living room art’. Indeed, as American journalist Tom Wolfe observed in his 1975 book, The Painted Word, one of the accomplishments of Photorealism “was to drive orthodox critic bananas.” That was then. In the last two decades, representational painters have quietly established an alternative tradition to the mainstream of late modernism. To those of us who follow the alternative tradition, it’s acceptable to regard as artistic input the choice of a subject; the way it’s composed, edited, rearranged; the altering of colors and shapes to emphasize or de-emphasize certain characteristics; and the use of skills to apply paints to paper or canvas in order to achieve desired effects – even if, somewhere along the line, photographs were involved. Also, I have found that working from life, in cities in particular, is often impossible – and thus the use of photographs, for certain paintings, is virtually necessary. Wherever you are, inevitably a car will pull up and block your view; and in certain neighborhoods personal safety is a concern. (if you want to attract attention, one of the best ways – as most artists know only too well – is to set yourself up in a public place with a tin of paints.) Then too, shadows are constantly moving. Like most realistic painters, I paint what’s around me. Because I live in England, this often means British scenes. But no chocolate box landscapes. I prefer city views, in the long tradition of such artists as Canaletto, Utrillo and Hopper. And in the category, even though I now live in a small Buckinghamshire village, the streets of New York City intrigue me perhaps most of all. Thus when I begin a painting, my first step is often to seek inspiration in the bustling streets and brick tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. (This is the site of the demonstration painting Delancey Street.) Here I wander the streets at random, taking hundreds of photographs of anything that catches my fancy. Many of these will find their way into my bulging files back home of as-yetunused photos. Because of the way I work, however, every one of these images could potentially feature in one of my future paintings, since I borrow images from one photograph and include them in a painting that is based mainly on photos of a different scene entirely. For example, my painting Harvey Milk Lives, incorporates a storefront I photographed years ago on what was otherwise a boring building. “Working from life, in Cities in particular, is often impossible – and thus the use of photographs for certain paintings is a virtual necessity.”


After developing and printing my photographs, my next step is to consider composition. For me, the image I have chosen doesn’t necessarily dictate the size of the finished painting. In the past, I have compressed whole city blocks into a quarter sheet of watercolor paper, just as I’ve devoted an entire 56x76cm sheet to a relatively small detail I particularly liked, such as an intriguing window or doorway. And sometimes, I simply feel in the mood to paint something big. ASSEMBLED IMAGES The next thing I do as I look at the photographs I’ve assembled of the images I want to paint, is to take a sentimentality check – that is, make sure that there’s no danger my final painting will end up formulaic or banal. For the Photorealist, falling into the sentimentality trap can be surprisingly easy. My advice: stay as far as possible away from anything that smacks remotely of Norman Rockwell, and, avoid ‘cute’. As I work out my painting’s final composition, I am sometimes obliged to rearrange seemingly commonplace details to bring about need, order and clarity. The shifting in position of a lamp post or the removal or addition of an automobile or a rubbish bin, for example, are among myriad intuitive decisions that ultimately make a painting done from a photograph into a work of art, and not just a slavish reproduction of a photograph image. The last – but not least – of these intuitive decisions is knowing when to stop, with respect to the wealth of information most photographs provide. There is no hard and fast formula for this. It is simply a subjective judgment that must be borne in mind as the blank areas of paper begin to disappear. My last word of advice is this. If you like to paint realistically, and you find that photos help you to do this, go ahead. Many representational artists do – even many who work from life, such as portrait artists. OPTICAL AIDS If it helps, remember that David Hockney, in his book Secret Knowledge, suggested that such old masters as Caravaggio, Velazquez, Van Eyck and Vermeer used optical aids to assist them. And that Thomas Eakins, one of American’s foremost realists – whose works are currently being shown at the Metropolitan Museum in New York – often painted from projected photographs, a fact he never tried to hide (though after his death, his wife did). There may be critics out there who would rather have root canal work than say a kind word about Photorealism. But I say, ignore them. Ignore them, get out your camera, take photographs… and paint.” –Sandra Walker, RI


Denis Ryan: “Art of the Real” Posted on March 30, 2012 by M Gallery of Fine Art SE

Denis Ryan, "Road to Damascus”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkQVNkHWdnY&feature=youtu.be “Art of the Real” will be on display April 6th- 30th with the reception on the evening of the 6th. 11 Broad Street, Charleston SC 29401. www.mgalleryoffineart.com


M Gallery of Fine Art SE LLC 11 & 43 Broad Street Charleston SC 29401 843.727.4500 www.mgalleryoffineart.com


M's Notes 1st Quarter 2012