Munsell tutorials on video

Paul Foxton, from Learning to See, has released two video tutorials over the past month. Each one features a beautiful little flower painting, is hands-on practical, self-contained and easy to follow. Which would I recommend? Both!

They are available at Gumroad for “pay what you want”. I will add that the suggested $10+ is a bargain. Be generous.

Time’s Unfolding: A Flower Painting Demonstration

Time’s Unfolding, the first of the two tutorials demonstrates a flower painting from setup to finish, covering everything from sight-size, grid-assisted drawing to value control and the thoughts behind the motif. What I like about the way Paul teaches is his way of breaking down complex ideas into practical steps that can be applied to any subject. (He’s a master at skipping the mumbo-jumbo. A rare skill.)

The point he really nails in this one is that it’s about slowing down and taking the time to look (with the aid of a few simple, home-made tools to help figure out what you’re looking at).

Secret Treasure: A Munsell Painting Demonstration

Paul Foxton's video "Secret Treasure"

The second video, Secret Treasure: A Munsell Painting Demonstration, builds on the first, and as the title says, is much more about what Munsell is and how it can be used to assist in making a painting. It begins with a practical guide to describing and analysing colour, before using Munsell as a tool to mix and match the colours needed to make a particular painting.

The delicate transitions in his little flower motif are exquisite, but the point he makes is that matching them it isn’t rocket-science, it’s about taking care in comparing one patch of colour to the next. Munsell is used to describe the differences between each mix very clearly in terms of hue, value and chroma. Again, no mumbo-jumbo, it’s about learning to see the variations and use them.

I’ve been using and writing about Munsell studies since 2007 (my ‘colour theory’ category should find most of them), but Paul’s video is a much easier way to learn!

Hopper’s drawings

Hopper drawing

A heads up for anyone interested in the preparatory drawings behind the works of great artists.  The Whitney Museum of American Art is currently showing an exhibition titled Hopper Drawing. It runs until Oct 6, 2013. Related is a web resource called “Explore Hopper’s studies” – which is not just fascinating but may also serve to remind many of us why we keep sketchbooks…

A big thankyou Whitney Museum for making it available!

Richard Murdock

Richard Murdock is a contemporary artist with an ageless style. I have watched his work for a number of years, quietly cheering his successes from the sidelines. Clearly I’m not alone in my admiration given his recent interview in the March 08 edition of American Art Collector magazine, part of which, I’m delighted to be able to post an excerpt. More of Richard’s work can be seen at Enjoy.

Richard Murdock

Richard Murdock recent exhibition

Tell me about your own take/approach to the still life genre
My paintings involve both formal and informal elements, an abstract composition married to quotidian subjects. That is, I consider carefully how shape, color and placement suggest the less tangible aspects of time and space. This might seem an insurmountable task in a small still life, yet the challenge intrigues me. Moreover, since I paint subjects that are simple, ones often overlooked when more elaborate perspectives are considered, connoting a strong presence is compounded. Yet, I am aware that this can be accomplished, and here, I am reminded of the Dutch masters. Like them, I seek the simplest means, transformed through art, oil and dirt really, and attempt to reveal life, love and existence.

Tell me about this piece that you have provided? inspiration, style, idea behind it, etc.
For example, magnolias represent the evanescence of life. Each year, they come, bloom with a frisson with color, yet fade. For me, they are a vanitas, a reminder of life’s shortness. I combine them with marble, a more permanent feature, which I hope amplifies this theme: we are, after all, equally short-lived when compared to the age of the earth.

Aside, though from the thematic issues here. I am enamored with the subtle colors of each flower, broken by a staccato of brilliant red-purples. The creaminess of each petal resounds again in the color of the marble. Yet this distinction, a fraction of a difference in hue and chroma, recalls, symbolically as well, our entrenched yet hardly understood relationship with nature itself: we are so distinct from it yet so dependent on the world around us.

Likewise, we modify the world around us, in life as well as art. Perhaps we never quite pay attention to an eggshell, unless a poet points out its frangible beauty. When I paint them, I am moved by their geometry, a sort of Platonic experience, while the jagged edges recall for me, life’s irregularities. Yet how can such a perfect form be so delicate as to allow light to penetrate? Here, light too becomes a means to investigate contradictions between order and disorder, the permanent and the delicate, what we can control and what we must accept.

Finally, in my painting of roses, I sought a subject that perhaps is more familiar. Roses mean so much today, from a celebration of love one to a reminder of those passed. By wrapping them in muslin, I wanted to suggest both. Like my previous two painting mentioned here, I continue to remind my audience of life and time. Often happy moments and sad ones repeat like waves: one high moment is mirrored by a low one. Here, the undulations of the muslin, wrapping the roses and embracing them, reflect this truth about life’s ups and downs.

Give me a general quote about your work
I am continually inspired by simple objects and use them as a visual metonymy for life’s obvious complexities. In this way, I am something like a late student of John Ruskin who examined the minute in nature with great reverence. Moreover, my artistic predecessors include, most certainly, the Dutch flower painters Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Huysum. You see, I have no problem delving into the art of the past with a vengeance, since I cannot escape my time. No matter how much an artist strives for eternal verity or blinkered modernity he or she will always be of a moment. So, like my predecessors, I filter nature, something common to all humanity past and present, through my unique perspective, that of a living, contemporary thinker and painter.

Kinetic sculpture

Kinetic sculpture is like mobiles and stuff, right? Art that moves with motors or steam or clockwork. Or rot – I made a still life animation based on rotting fruit – it certainly moved by itself. Among the famous would be Marcel Duchamp with his Bicycle Wheel in 1913 – probably the first. Then race forward to the 50s (which became something of a golden age) with Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely. All pretty good. For their time. Nowadays we have Theo Jansen. Take a look…