Thursday, September 20, 2007

Magnolia leaf

9/19: Magnolia leaf, oil on canvas panel, approx. 6x4 in. SOLD

At first this seemed easy. I felt I understood the twisting forms well enough and didn't think the foreshortening would be hard to deal with, but of course it turned out to be quite a little challenge. While painting these leaves I kept Bruegel in mind - in a few places I thought I had managed to touch on that simple quality that he had, but most times not.

Sometimes I imagine how Bruegel would approach something, he and his thin paint. For him it was a matter of delineating some shapes and filling them in, which is maybe why many of his great crowd scenes are just complex arrangements of simple shapes (or simple arrangements of complex shapes). This is after all what kids do, before being taken in by brushwork and paint build-up and various other art school pretensions. Now, Rembrandt is a god and I love a thick brushstroke as much as the next guy, but "lean to fat" doesn't have to mean "lean to obese" - that is, paint build-up doesn't have to be the goal of all oil painting just because Rembrandt showed us his way. How many painters are out there who can do a good job and are totally unconcerned with brushyness? In my humble opinion, the simple falling of light on the cap or the sleeve-folds of a bagpiper in Bruegel is at once earthly and sublime in a way unmatched by Hals and Sargent and their wannabes, or even Rembrandt and Velásquez.

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