Sunday, 29 May 2011

Wolf Kahn - on painting and being a landscape painter

"A painting with content" (Video 2)
"I was trying even then to do something I'm still trying to do - to get away from description and at the same time still be a landscape painter"
Wolf Kahn

This a two part interview with Wolf Kahn - the renowned landscape painter who works in both oil and pastels.

The two videos from 2008 are from New Art TV

In the first he talks about the earlier part of his life and how his artwork developed and was influenced by the philosophies and contemporary art movements of the fifties.

This is the second part of the interview with Wolf Kahn in which he describes how he got launched and started to sell seriously

"I'm constantly trying to get away from the deliberate...and intentionality"
Wolf Kahn

Thanks to Debora L. Stewart (Contemporary Asbtract Pastels) for alerting me to the videos


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A view of Box Hill, Surrey and English landscape painting

I guess I should not have been surprised to find A View of Box Hil, Surrey - one of the paintings from the BBC programme This Green and Pleasant Land in Tate Britain

After collecting my errant sketchbook last week (see ) I got more exercise for the day by walking around all the galleries on the main level.  Everything has moved!  It was a very odd experience because everything has moved (due to a major refurbishment programme - see Tate Britain is changing)

As a result, I found myself looking at everything with fresh eyes.

A View of Box Hill, Surrey by George Lambert (1700-1765)

A View of Box Hill, Surrey (1733) by George Lambert (1700 – 30 Nov. 1765)
considered to be the first proper landscape painted in England
Oil painting on canvas support: 908 x 1804 mm

Location: Tate Britain

I came across one of the landscapes mentioned in This Green and Pleasant Land in the room devoted to eighteenth century art.  This included a small section about very early landscape painting.  That's the point at which landscapes start being painted purely because of the scene.  There are no buildings or landowners with their estates being portrayed as such.

A View of Box Hill Surrey is George Lambert's most famous painting.  This is what the Tate has to say about this painting
Lambert was one of the pioneers of landscape painting in early eighteenth-century Britain.

This painting presents the landscape without the sorts of buildings –palaces or an aristocratic estate – which traditionally featured in such views. Is this evidence of a new appreciation of nature for its own sake? Certainly, landscape became the focus for discussions about the relationship between painting and poetry, and aesthetic ideas such as beauty and the sublime.
 (From the display caption March 2011)
I seem to recall the programme as saying this particular painting is regarded as one of the first proper landscape paintings in Britain.  Certainly Lambert's claim to fame is that he was one of the first artists to develop an English way of painting landscapes.  His paintings were not purely about imitating the Italian way of doing things - landscapes were painted for their aesthetic value rather than as a backdrop to a history story

I discovered that this painting is unusually wide and not a conventional format.  I tried sketching it - and it's much wider than the two squares side by side which I initially thought was the format.  I've taken a look at some other landscape paintings by Lambert and it seems he rather likes this almost letter box-like format.  Just imagine if this had become the accepted dimensions of landscape format!

After George Lambert - Box Hill, Surrey
pencil and coloured pencils

The land in front is now part of the vineyard of Denbies Wine Estate.  Below is an extract from Google Maps which shows both the subject and the approximate location of the artist - although the wheatfields are now vineyards.  It would be interesting to see what the view looks like today from the same fields.

Denbies Vineyard on left, Box Hill on right
the red marker marks the approximate viewpoint of the artist - looking east
From Google Maps - click this link to see full size

I'm doing a post about George Lambert this week as he's an interesting artist and one I was completely unaware of until I watched the programme.

A footnote - the Olympic Road race

Interestingly I learned while researching this picture that Box Hill is to be one of the locations involved in the cycle road race at the Olympics next summer.  The zig zag road up Box Hill - so beloved of both cyclists and motorbike riders - provides the hill challenge to the race. See Cycling Weekly's Olympic road race route officially revealed

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

This Green and Pleasant Land

BBC iPlayer - This Green and Pleasant Land - The Story of British Landscape Painting
If anybody else, like me, forgot that tonight was the night that This Green and Pleasant Land - The Story of British Landscape Painting was on here's the iplayer link for the download

I caught the last half an hour and was gutted that I missed the beginning - until I remembered the joy of the BBC iPlayer!

Here's the blurb - which will surely make all those who can't get iPlayer as sick as parrots!

400 years of art history in 90 minutes? This film takes an eclectic group of people from all walks of life, including artists, critics and academics, out into the countryside to take a look at how we have depicted our landscape in art, discovering how the genre carried British painting to its highest eminence and won a place in the nation's heart. 

From Flemish beginnings in the court of Charles I to the digital thumbstrokes of David Hockney's iPad, the paintings reveal as much about the nation's past as they do the patrons and artists who created them. Famous names sit alongside lesser-known works, covering everything from the refined sensibilities of 18th-century Classicism to the abstract forms of the war-torn 20th century with a bit of love, loss, rivalry and rioting thrown in. 

Contributions come from a cast as diverse as the works themselves, including filmmaker Nic Roeg, historian Dan Snow and novelist Will Self, who offer a refreshingly wide range of perspectives on a genre of art which we have made very much our own.

I'm now off to bed with my iPad to watch it from the beginning!

[Update (the next morning!): A brilliant programme on all sorts of levels - the photography is absolutely stunning.  Plus it was an intelligent summary of how landscape developed as a genre at the same time as covering several important artists drawing and painting landscapes with really insightful comment.  I'm going to watch it all over again!]

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Places to Paint - Maine

Slack Tide (oil on panel 16" x 12")- by Kevin Mizner
Recently I came across the work of Kevin Mizner and his blog Maine-ly Painting  
This Blog draws on my over thirty years of experience painting the beauty of Maine. I'll have some pointers, comments and even criticisms on art.
I was impressed with his work - his landscapes and seascapes of Maine - and the way he wrote about art and the places he painted.  I've been to Maine and sketched in Maine and I'd have loved to have had somebody provide me with a guide to the places to paint.  So I decided to ask him to write a guest post for this blog about his favourite places to paint in Maine - and this is it!

Maine has been a destination for artists for nearly one hundred-fifty years. Why? It's all about the light. 

Maine sits rather high in the Northern Hemisphere, at about the same latitude as Spain, and a little south of the UK, which gives it a raking, angular light. Any artist will tell you that an angled light gives a more vibrant glow to colors than a more direct, straight overhead light.

But in addition to the angle of the sun, Maine juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Maine has salty, moist air, infusing the light with a radiant shimmering glow. Combine that quality of light with Maine's three thousand miles of rocky coastline, replete with quiet harbors, fishing villages and a few sandy beaches, and it's small wonder artists flock here to paint.

The artists who've painted here are a veritable Who's Who of the greatest ever: Frederick Church, Thomas Moran, Winslow Homer, Robert Henri, Andrew Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, and John Singer Sargent, to name but a few.


One of the more popular spots in Maine to paint is the small island of Monhegan.

Monhegan is a spit of rock about two miles long and half-mile wide, but it has breath-taking views at almost every turn. The only way to get there is by ferry. Once you're on the island, be prepared to walk, as no vehicles are allowed - other than the beat up trucks used by the year-round Lobstermen population.

Acadia National Park

Summer in Acadia (oil on panel 11" x 14") by Kevin Mizner
The next great spot is Acadia National Park.

Acadia may be one of America's smallest National Parks, but it is spectacular, none the less. Located on the ten-mile wide Mount Desert Island, it is the only spot on the east coast where the mountains meet the sea.

Kevin's favourite place to paint in Maine - Harpswell

What is my personal favorite Maine spot? Harpswell, Maine.

Located about thirty miles north-east of Portland, Harpswell is an accumulation of small villages and islands on Maine's mid-coast. Of all the spots along the coast, it is the most unspoiled.

Photograph of Mackerel Cove
Orr's and Bailey Island's offer gorgeous views of the coast that rival Monhegan's.  Mackeral Cove on Bailey Island is in my opinion, one of the most picturesque spots on the coast!

A part of Harpswell, and my home for four years, is Cundy's Harbor"Cundy's", as we locals call her, is one of Maine's authentic working water fronts-- no condos in sight. It's harbor is chocked full of lobster boats and trawlers, the shore has quaint wooden-piling wharfs jutting out to service the boats.

Cundy's Harbor In Light Fog (oil on panel 11x14) by Kevin Mizner
Huddled on either side of the one road into (and out of) town are old New England Cape Cod style homes that have weathered the harsh seasons for one hundred or more years. I have travelled the state from stem to stern, and Cundy's Harbor is the quintessential Maine coastal fishing village.

Other places of note:

In the footsteps of the Artists

I've mentioned Monhegan, but Baxter State Park in northern Maine has Mount Katahdin, a favorite spot of the great Frederick Church.

Any fan of Andrew Wyeth knows he summered and painted in Maine. Travel along Route 1 to Thomaston, and head out to Cushing, Bristol and Friendship and you'll be trodding the same ground "Andy" walked as he made his masterpieces.

John Singer Sargent painted in Acadia (eg Sand Beach, Schooner Head)

Edward Hopper painted one of the lighthouses at Two Lights Park in Cape Elizabeth (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

And Kevin Mizner painted in all those places...

The best time to visit

Finally, when is the best time to visit?

If you want to watch and paint the lobstermen and eat some good lobster, come in summer. If you want to see the spectacular foliage of the maples and birches, come in the fall. If snow scenes and some skiing are your cup of tea, come in winter.

Winter Light Cundy's Harbor by Kevin Mizner
Spring for us is called "mud season" and for a good reason! All that melting snow, and bare grey branches are not worthy of painting in the slightest. Unless you're Willard Metcalf. Oh, he painted in the western mountains of Maine near Bethel.

So there you have it. My ideas on what's good to paint and see in Maine! I hope this works for you, and if you would like anything more in way of information, paintings or photos, please don't hesitate to let me know.

This is the latest in a series of posts about Places to Paint.  If you're interested in contributing a guest post click this link to find out what you need to do.


Monday, 9 May 2011

How to mix natural greens for landscape painting #1

How to mix greens for landscape painting is a perennial topic and right now it's very topical in the northern hemisphere given the fact the trees are now all in leaf and it's warm enough for plein air painting to start!

I'm going to be exploring the topic of mixing greens over the course of a few posts.

I'm starting with a great video by Jan Blencowe (The Poetic Landscape) on YouTube which very graphically illustrates how you can mix greens for landscapes by mixing black and yellow.

Jan recommends using Mars Black as it's non-toxic.  She also uses transparent yellow, yellow ochre and ultramarine to demonstrate the range of greens which can be produced.

Tony Johansen identifies Mars Black characteristics as being:
  • only black available in acrylic ranges
  • only major black pigment that is 
    • non-toxic, 
    • a good drier, 
    • safe to over paint 
    • can be used in all media without reservation. 
  • It is dense and opaque with a warmish brown undertone

One thing - the video was uploaded over two years ago and the reference to website is redundant as that site no longer exists. You can find Jan on the two links in the first sentence of this post.