Gaining Momentum

It has been a productive week for me – artistically. I have been working hard on my latest project, which is a Pirates of the Caribbean theme, and I really like where it is going. Because this is another gift for someone, I will have to hold off on showing you some progression photos, but I will have those up when the painting is complete. I am also in the process of creating another short movie about creating this painting.

I have spent the last year or two educating myself on the various techniques of still-life and figurative painting. When I finally went back to a landscape painting last year (The Runoff), I was disappointed in the results. I felt that my landscape skills had stalled and I realized I needed to balance my skills better to accommodate the various aspects of my current projects. For example, my current project is a mixture of figurative, landscape, and portraiture work. If two of the elements appear strong, they will still be overwhelmed by a weak third element. As nice a face I might paint, if the tree is a formless blob then the viewers eyes will just focus on that. So I have been working hard on my landscape skills and I hope it shows in this next project.

Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough

I guess I figured I had achieved a sense of accomplishment with landscape works or perhaps I just got a little bored with landscapes – or both. I entered the oil painting realm with the desire to paint landscapes, but then I realized that there was so much more I could cover that I got lost in my explorations. I can now say that figurative works are my favorite. I love depicting people in scenes that tell stories, however I still have a great love for landscapes. It’s funny that my feelings on these genres are completely opposite of my favorite oil painter – Thomas Gainsborough.

Gainsborough (1727-1788), was from England and was a tremendous portrait and figure artist. Even if you think you have never heard his name, you are most likely familiar with his most famous work The Blue Boy. Not only could he convincingly render emotions in his faces, but he could bring out the fine details of the clothing his subjects were wearing. In the Blue Boy for example, I don’t think it’s the youthful skin tones he rendered, but the blue satin on the boy that makes this a classic. Light seems to pour off the canvas from his costume even without the bright gallery lighting. I’ve been fortunate enough to see this painting in person (it sits in San Marino at the Huntington Library) and I was in awe of it. The eyes of the boy seem to penetrate his viewers and leave you pondering why he appears so confident. The boy gives off such confidence that you might suspect he has just won something. The background is so understated that you don’t even notice it. It’s a very serene landscape with earth tones to complement the cool blue satin of the costume. The funny thing here is that Gainsborough actually didn’t like doing portraits. He only painted them out of financial necessity. Commissions for portraits came in constantly which gave him a comfortable living. In his early years however, he was trying to sell his real passion – landscapes. They didn’t sell well though, not because people thought they were substandard, but because oil portraits were the rage in those times. So he continued the portraits to make his living and it wasn’t until his later years, after he made his mark on portraiture, that he returned to his first love.

The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough
The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

While my first love was landscapes, it has since shifted to rendering people. Since I don’t have to rely on my art sales exclusively; I don’t have to target my works at a particular audience. I certainly appreciate the various genres of oil painting as they have their own inherit challenges. In my mind, a good artist can specialize in one genre, but since many paintings include faces, still objects, animals, and landscape elements (sometimes all of these in one), it is important to be competent in all of these areas. That is my goal now and that is why I am working on my landscape skills.

See you next post.

3 thoughts on “Gaining Momentum”

  1. I think it’s great that you’re willing to objectively critique your art, and are able to admit when a skill needs to be perfected. This is an extremely important trait for any kind of artist to possess: painter, sculptor, even photographer and writer. All the arts, really. Most people are not capable of stepping back from their emotional attachment to their creation – their “baby” as it were – and admitting to themselves where improvement is possible and necessary. I admire that in you. Can you teach me how to do that?

    Side note: The Huntington is in San Marino, not San Marcos. 🙂

  2. Thank you Jessica for spotting that error – I’ve updated the post. As far as critiquing your own work, in my case, I have to step away from a piece for a few days and then come back to it. It’s like proof reading a document – you need fresh eyes to spot mistakes. When I keep looking at an area I’ve just completed, my emotions obscure my objective eyes. I’m so excited that I’ve completed a difficult section that I just think it’s great no matter what. When I take a few days from looking at one of my works I’m able to pull out areas that are not as hot as I thought they were.

  3. Looking forward to seeing this new painting! My collection of original pieces from the great artist known as Ryan Williams continues to grow and grow! Soon enough they will be worth millions, but to me they are priceless!!!

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