Some say that direct painting is the easiest type of painting to understand but the hardest to master.
It consists merely of painting the right color in the right place.
Why didn't I think of that?
In my previous blog post on this topic, I shared a bit about technique and why it might matter to know about technique, and then I introduced the idea of Direct Painting, which is my speciality as a member of the Boston School tradition. Some famous practitioners of this method include John Singer Sargent, Zorn, Hakeem Zaria, Velasquez, and of course the masters of the Boston School: Tarbell, Paxton, and Benson.
Let me dive in a bit more to what Direct Painting is (for those of you who didn't get to my talk and painting demo).
Direct Painting means: No underpainting ("underpainting" basically just means a preliminary sketch in paint on the canvas before getting to the actual colors of the composition) or building up of values or layering of tones -- just directly to the final effects.
One of the key phrases masters of Direct Painting have used to describe it is "all the horses at once." This means that the Direct Painter wants all the aspects that he will include in his final painting to be developing simultaneously; not letting any one "horse" get too far ahead.
This means the artist must be constantly thinking about all aspects of painting and be constantly evaluating his picture for them. These aspects include form, color (hue, value, and chroma), shape, gesture, edge, sense of light, overall feel, composition, paint quality, depth, atmosphere of form, and anything else he can think of that he wants in his final painting. It is much like juggling -- however, once an artist thinks he has all the balls balanced in the air, sometimes he discovers a new ball! Which is to say: studying a subject so closely can lead to surprising visual revelations, even mid-painting.
Direct Painting also requires a sense of detachment and even daring, because a painter will sometimes have to "destroy" previous layers of work in order to incorporate new information and correct old. I find that I can't be hesitant in this approach.
Put simply, Direct Painting means that I start with "blobs of color" on my canvas and gradually mold them into my composition, almost like carving into marble. I'm just looking at the colors.
This method of painting is in contrast to Indirect Painting, in which painters approach the canvas by first "solving" the shape, composition, and value problems of a painting and then "gluing in" color on top of a brown or gray version of the painting (the "underpainting"). The danger with this method is that it can often sacrifice the live observation of color. My own opinion is that color creates form and that drawing cannot be "solved" without it.
As I've come to grasp this method and enjoy it, my obsession with color has only increased and my eyes have been opened to the world of the color spectrum in ways that I simply could not imagine with my previous art training.
I've also become a much more efficient painter; whereas I used to take weeks or even months to see a thing and try to get it in front of me on canvas, I can now tackle the same subject matter in literally a matter of hours. There's no time - or pigment - wasted as I make my way to the final result. (For the same reason, Direct Painting is so interesting to share in person, as when I do Live Painting at events).
What do you think -- Have you heard of this method before? Is it a technique you could imagine getting into?
"I don't know anything about Art..."
We hear it all the time and even use this excuse ourselves.
Most of us don't make movies, or write novels, or cook haute-cuisine meals, yet we feel free to make such statements as, "that film is not worth watching," "his first novel was better than his second," or "this restaurant has delicious food." At the same time, we often feel inadequate to make the most basic judgments about one painting versus another, or whether a collection could be considered good or bad; beautiful or - we'd never dare say - ugly.
So many of us accept that Art is a topic reserved for "them;" some group of people with access to a particular education or unique innate gifts.
Or we think that Art is too subjective for anyone to be able to claim any expertise. "I know what I like" is as far as we can get.
In reality, Art (as in, for example, the fine art of painting) is a pursuit with objective measurements and standards.
One way to become a discerning art appreciator is to learn about technique.
To start off, I'd like to share about Direct Painting, the technique in pursuit of which I left my comfortable Metro-Washington, D.C. job and brought my little family to New Hampshire in order to train in the atelier of Paul Ingbretson. After several years of focused study, I'm now producing my own art with this method and teaching it to my own students. It's the best way that I have encountered to get to the heart of a subject: its form, its depth... and especially its color.
In an upcoming blog post, I'm going to tell more about what Direct Painting means and how it's distinguished from other approaches in oil.
For now, I'd love to invite any locals who are interested in learning about Direct Painting - and adding this fascinating approach to their arsenal when it comes to art appreciation - to my upcoming talk and painting demonstration at the Bolton Public Library.
This talk is taking place as part of my ongoing exhibit, Light and Form. The exhibit is on display until August 9. If you can't make it to the talk, I do hope you'll drop in another time to see the collection (all of the included paintings were executed using the Direct Painting Method) before the exhibit wraps up.
If you're not local and can't make it to the talk, please stay tuned here as I share more on this topic in the coming weeks!
Update: Read What is Direct Painting, Part II here.
Thank you to everyone who came out to my talk and demonstration! It was a great time!
Hello there, I'm John H. Folley, an oil painter in the Boston School tradition. Thanks for visiting the Beauty Advocacy Blog, where it's my job to help you become a more discerning art appreciator.
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