I signed up for a seminar on Color that began five weeks ago, and I have learned a lot about color and remembered a lot about color that I knew and had forgotten about.
Most surprising of all, I found that studying and absorbing all of the material and getting the homework done is a lot harder than it was when I was in my 20s, even in a subject matter that I really care about.
Coincidentally, at the end of January the local museum announced that there would be an exhibit of original works by Monet, Degas and Pissaro as well as some lithographs each of them did in collaboration with George William Thornley. I was really excited by the idea of getting to see some art in person after months of confinement (and having missed the big Monet exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art that was in place this time last year).
Yesterday my daughter and I donned our masks and went in at our assigned time to see the exhibit.
At first impression I have only two words: Oh, WOW!!!!
This piece, titled "River and Mill Near Giverny" was painted by Claude Monet in 1885. It has the same soft atmospheric colors that many of his paintings from that year that were painted in Giverny have. It almost feels like there was fog from the river that made him actually see the colors this way.
This piece is a pastel by Edgar Degas from 1896, titled "Seated Dancer". I had seen several oil paintings of dancers done by Degas, but this was the first time I became aware that he had done so many pieces in pastels or charcoals. The color is a bit different from his oils -- almost more intense, especially the backgrounds.
"The House in the Woods", painted by Camille Pissaro in 1872. I had never seen one of his pieces other than as a photograph. His colors are very realistic, like a slightly blurry photograph, but without the soft "foggy" look of Monet's pieces. I also noticed that each of Pissaro's landscapes also includes figures, almost as if the human beings had to be part of the story of each piece, while Monet's pieces were all about the landscape.
Of course I had heard of all three of these Impressionist artists, and before this exhibit had previously see some original pieces by Monet and Degas, but just who was George William Thornley, and why would three painters agree to work with someone doing lithographs?
The closest equivalent I can think of would be silk screens or block prints, but each of this approaches creates a different "look" than the original painting or pastel, just as the lithograph is different.
Turns out that George William Thornley was an awarded painter at the Salon on his own, and my guess is that the idea of working in a different media was intellectually interesting. Artists are a continually curious bunch, after all.
The result of the collaborative efforts were successful enough that each of the artists involved signed the lithographs along with Thornley.
"Sheltered by the Haystack" is the work of Pissarro with Thornley. It has the soft sepia tones of an old photograph, but still all the great detail of Pissarro's paintings and the boy asleep making the human being the focal point.
One of the collaborations with Degas produced this piece titled "Dancers". I was again reminded of a photographic technique as the color reminds me of a cyanotype , but it is without a doubt instantly recognizable as Degas' style and subject matter.
"The Wild Coast" was my favorite of the lithographic collaborations in the exhibit. Not only is it unmistakably Monet's minimalist landscape style, the choice of a blue paper with the black ink just feels like the wild, rocky and stormy coast line.
While Monet had not previously had any interest in making prints (unlike Dega and Pissarro who had worked with copper plates themselves), this collaboration was very successful.
After spending an hour and a half in the museum, my "art brain" was just buzzing and energized with new excitement to make more art!
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter brought me a large glass vase of tulip bulbs that were just beginning to have buds. This picture shows what they looked like yesterday as they have all bloomed and are beginning to get a bit blowsy.
At some point in the last five weeks in the color seminar there has been some discussion about color derived from natural substances, and I remembered a project my very first art mentor had done a number of years ago with flower pounding.
I thought it might be a fun project to do, just to see what might happen, having no preconceived notion of what the results might be. (Having done some natural dying of wool yarn about 40 years ago, I'm well aware of the fact that what you see can definitely NOT be what you get.)
So I pulled out a stack of old newspapers, a piece of cardboard from the back of a drawing tablet, some parchment paper, painters tape and a small hammer that I normally use to put nails in the wall to hang pictures. I had some white fabric pieces that seemed like just the thing to use for this experiment, and so I set to work.
Let me say that the dog was unimpressed by the "banging", and immediately asked to go outside to hang out in the sun on the deck.
This is the result of my efforts. I used only two leaves, and I bent one of them because I wanted a bit of variety in the placement in the finished piece. And this is one tulip. I removed the stem and the base where the petals were attached because I thought it was too thick to make a tidy pounding. There were six petals, so I divided them into two groups of three so it looks like two flowers.
The color of the leaves was not a surprise -- very much the chlorophyll green I thought it would be. The petals, however, were the expected surprise. Although on the plant they look orange, the pounding is pinker, with some very purple tones in some places -- pretty exciting. The really dark long oval shapes in the pounding are where the anthers of the bloom fell onto the fabric and I decided to leave them there just to see what would happen.
I plan to do a considerable amount of stitching to add detail to this and probably mount it on either a canvas or a cradle board.
Now I'll be on the look out for anything that's blooming, just to do a few more of these to see what happens.
I'm feeling good about this weekend's art projects, and I'm ready to get back to work in class and in the studio.