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Author Topic: Coming to terms with stroke, tone, subject, and detail  (Read 9276 times)

stoney

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From: Brushwork for the Oil Painter by Emile Gruppe
ISBN 0-8230-0526-7  Published 1983  Note: He specialized in Plein Aire all subjects in all weather conditions.

P. 25 he writes;  Always try to find the stroke that best describes what you feel about a particular subject.  After all, you want to communicate quickly and directly with the viewer--in a broad and simple way.  The direct approach lets you tell the story with a minimum of digressions.  In addition, each stroke says something about the subject.  Remember, look twice and paint once!  First study the subject and figure out where you want to place it on our canvas.  Then look a second time, checking for its characteristic angles and curves.  And finally make your stroke.  By that time, you should know what you're after.  This directness is especially important if you're painting outdoors.  Then you have to work fast, and so you need a technique that records facts quickly and concisely.

Years ago, I painted with one of my old instructors.  We stopped along a road at sunset.  He thought it was too late and too cold to paint--but I jumped out and dis a quick canvas, 25 x 30 inches (64 x 76 cm).  I can still remember his slapping his head as I came back to the car and turned the picture toward him.  "You don't paint pictures," he said.  "You write them--each stroke is descriptive."
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One way to get the right value is by squinting your eyes--especialy when you work outdoors.  That pulls shapes together and simplifies values.  Look for the big pattern and paint it as simply as possible.  Don't count strokes, but remember that one stroke states and idea more clearly than four or five.  Multiple strokes blunt your point, and the picture becomes like a story with too many words in it.  That's why Charles Hawthorne made his students use a knife.  We had to ignore the unimportant details.
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...There's a difference between slapping slapping paint on the canvas and putting it in the right place.  What counts is your feeling about the scene.  What does the scene "say" to you?  And what kind of stroke most expresses that feeling?

Don't let my ideas get in the way of your personal development.  Just use what makes sense to you.  In other words, the way I paint a branch, leaf, or reflection is my own personal solution.  But in showing you the thinking behind the stroke, I may give you some insight.  Remember, when you paint loosely, you're not just throwing paint on canvas, hoping it will land in the right spot.  Each time you make a stroke, you have to think.  You have to know what you want to say.

Students think "perfection" is the greatest art.  But who can draw the perfection of nature?  If you really want perfection, you could spend your whole life on one picture.  You'd never get every detail.  There'd always be more to do...



P. 40 he's going over a Floating Dock painting.  He's got the finished painting and then provides a detail area which he then explains.  He's painted all sorts of things multiple times under differing conditions.

He's addressing a detail element when he writes; The shadows on the distant pilings or the roundness of the sailboat are not important.  Instead, a broken stroke is worked back and forth to establish the feel of the basic character of the subject.  The sailboat, for example, is reduced to just five strokes: a horizontal, a vertical, a slash for a highlight, and two quick, long verticals.  That's all you need to describe it.  More detail would obscure its point as an accessory to the story, not the main subject.  There's no virtue in telling the viewer more than he or she needs to know.

In his Introduction on P. 9 he writes;  Few things are as interesting as a good, descriptive brushstroke.  It's full of character--not only that of the subject, but of the painter too.  It has personality.  It's also analytical.  Seeing a well-placed stroke, you sense the intellect of the painter.  And that's a satisfying sensation.  When you look at a Cezanne, for example, you can almost feel him thinking.

For some reason, the public often equates loose painting with sloppiness.  A watercolorist friend of mine who works in a very free style once told me that a student said he joined her class because he couldn't draw and thought her style would be a good one to emulate!  He didn't understand that expressive brushwork is based on sound drawing ability.  Every stroke counts: the right size stroke, of the right value and color, in the right place.  You're after the significant facts of nature.  You have to look with a sharp eye, ask questions, and draw conclusions.
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He indicates there's two types of painters.  Those who work in line and those who work in mass.  He works in tones.

He also indicates that, properly done, tonal pictures were full of that mysterious something called 'quality'.  That they were wonderfully beautiful.  But that they didn't have much sparkle.  He says that in a big show, a tonal painting would hardly be seen--particularly if it was near one with lots of color.  It just wasn't decorative.

Charles Sovek was another painter that went to a looser style.

I've often wondered how detrimental photography's been; especially since it's become ever easier and cheaper, and it's never been easier than with digital.

I've had instructors tell me the amount of detail is dependant upon the artist and the particular subject.  I've never come up with even a 'rule of thumb'; and I don't know of anyone who has.

Can I 'read' this gentleman's work?  Sometimes.  Do I find it 'satisfying'?  Sometimes.  More often than not, I find it disquieting and unsatisfactory.  That's a property of my inexperience.  Can it also be a result of a lifetime of; Television, Movies, and Photography where things are sharp?  Most definitely.

For me, the best way I can describe it is; it's as if I'm learning a brand new language.

Somewhere in this book either he, or another person he's interacting with says something along the lines of; "Do you want a painting or a photograph?  If you want a photograph, have it printed out."

Deerfield Church

The time it (a work) takes is the time it takes.


liz

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Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 12:03:57 AM
From: Brushwork for the Oil Painter by Emile Gruppe
ISBN 0-8230-0526-7  Published 1983  Note: He specialized in Plein Aire all subjects in all weather conditions.




Hi Stoney,
I never knew how to copy a quote until today when I realized I only wanted to react to a couple of things you said.  I think one big reason why so many aspiring artists get sidetracked from just starting to paint just for the joy of it, is because there are as many descriptions of what constitutes ‘good, better, and best’ art. 


Don't let my ideas get in the way of your personal development.  Just use what makes sense to you.  In other words, the way I paint a branch, leaf, or reflection is my own personal solution.  But in showing you the thinking behind the stroke, I may give you some insight.  Remember, when you paint loosely, you're not just throwing paint on canvas, hoping it will land in the right spot.  Each time you make a stroke, you have to think.  You have to know what you want to say.’

I like best ‘You have to know what you want to say.’  I would change the title ‘Coming to terms with stroke, tone, subject, and detail’ in this order- ‘subject, tone, stroke and detail’ because what you want to say has everything to do with the chosen subject.  But that is a given, so that tone becomes the next important feature of a painting, i.e. establishing the dark to light values that provide the visual appeal.  The strokes and detail would then follow in their order.  Depending on the subject, the painting technique of brush and palette knife strokes would express texture, directionality, highlights, etc. in creating mood, drama, whatever in the painting.  While Emile Gruppe says that a colorful painting would stand out more than a tonal one, it is a tonal painting skillfully executed that may be the superior work of art.  It would have a draw because its tones would stand out from across a room IMO, and upon closer examination it would be exciting to explore as I did one day looking at classical art at the art museum.

‘Somewhere in this book either he, or another person he's interacting with says something along the lines of; "Do you want a painting or a photograph?  If you want a photograph, have it printed out."

I have heard this said by some art mentors, but I think it really refers to the use of reference photos where instead of being a reference, a photograph is actually copied.  That is why artistic license is so important.  Only thing is that beginning artists are often not ready to use their ‘license’ because they don’t know how to crop a photo or add or take away something from it for simplification sake or to make a painting ‘their own’.  And I have experienced that for myself until with more experience painting I have begun to stretch myself.

Shucks, I deleted your whole quotation,  I wanted to ask you about the ‘two kinds of artists who work in line and in mass’, but Emile works in tones.  That makes 3 kinds, huh?  Do you know what he really meant?  How can anyone do a tonal painting without line and mass?  Anyway, this has been interesting.
~Liz 
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 12:05:49 AM by liz »


stoney

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Reply #2 on: November 28, 2018, 12:50:52 AM
From: Brushwork for the Oil Painter by Emile Gruppe
ISBN 0-8230-0526-7  Published 1983  Note: He specialized in Plein Aire all subjects in all weather conditions.


Hi Stoney,
I never knew how to copy a quote until today when I realized I only wanted to react to a couple of things you said.  I think one big reason why so many aspiring artists get sidetracked from just starting to paint just for the joy of it, is because there are as many descriptions of what constitutes ‘good, better, and best’ art.

Apologies for the late reply; I'm just 'coming up to speed' on posts and I hope I don't get the quoting mixed up.

Certainly.  The descriptions are dependent on the individual.  I'm wondering if 'sidetracked' means giving up painting as their beginners work's being compared to a 'Masters' work or a photograph?

Don't let my ideas get in the way of your personal development.  Just use what makes sense to you.  In other words, the way I paint a branch, leaf, or reflection is my own personal solution.  But in showing you the thinking behind the stroke, I may give you some insight.  Remember, when you paint loosely, you're not just throwing paint on canvas, hoping it will land in the right spot.  Each time you make a stroke, you have to think.  You have to know what you want to say.’

I like best ‘You have to know what you want to say.’  I would change the title ‘Coming to terms with stroke, tone, subject, and detail’ in this order- ‘subject, tone, stroke and detail’ because what you want to say has everything to do with the chosen subject.  But that is a given, so that tone becomes the next important feature of a painting, i.e. establishing the dark to light values that provide the visual appeal.  The strokes and detail would then follow in their order.  Depending on the subject, the painting technique of brush and palette knife strokes would express texture, directionality, highlights, etc. in creating mood, drama, whatever in the painting.  While Emile Gruppe says that a colorful painting would stand out more than a tonal one, it is a tonal painting skillfully executed that may be the superior work of art.  It would have a draw because its tones would stand out from across a room IMO, and upon closer examination it would be exciting to explore as I did one day looking at classical art at the art museum.

No argument about your ranking; it wasn't something I had considered when putting together the post. Emile indicated a colorful painting would stand out more than a tonal one; he didn't say it would be superior.

Can't recall which tonal painting I had done, but a person indicated they really liked it based on the close tones.


‘Somewhere in this book either he, or another person he's interacting with says something along the lines of; "Do you want a painting or a photograph?  If you want a photograph, have it printed out."

I have heard this said by some art mentors, but I think it really refers to the use of reference photos where instead of being a reference, a photograph is actually copied.  That is why artistic license is so important.  Only thing is that beginning artists are often not ready to use their ‘license’ because they don’t know how to crop a photo or add or take away something from it for simplification sake or to make a painting ‘their own’.  And I have experienced that for myself until with more experience painting I have begun to stretch myself.

I've also heard (verbal and reading) art mentors mention it in relation to works where a person has utilized artistic license in eliminating, moving, adding to a photo reference as well as something done plein air.  (I hope that sentence makes sense.)  Guess they expect sharp edges like in most photographs.

Shucks, I deleted your whole quotation,  I wanted to ask you about the ‘two kinds of artists who work in line and in mass’, but Emile works in tones.  That makes 3 kinds, huh?  Do you know what he really meant?  How can anyone do a tonal painting without line and mass?  Anyway, this has been interesting.
~Liz 


My read is Emile worked in mass.  That's more apparent in other works.  Charles Sovek was another one who worked in mass.

I have no idea what Mr. Gruppe meant on that.  About all I can suggest is getting the book from your library or via inter-library loan.  Perhaps reading it will lead to an answer.


Apologies, but this is the best answer I can give you.
The time it (a work) takes is the time it takes.