"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!
I'm excited to announce that I'll be hosting my first public solo exhibit at the Bolton Public Library in Bolton, MA. I appreciate that the people of Bolton care about supporting local artists and bringing quality art to the area in a lovely, accessible space. I'm excited to be part of their 'In the Gallery' program.
The show is on display from July 10-August 9 at the Bolton Public Library, located at 738 Main Street, Bolton, MA - just a short distance off of 495.
'Light and Form' will have works from my years at the Ingbretson Studio as well as my newest works done here in Lancaster at my own studio. You'll see my still life paintings as well as some architectural work, some landscape... and that crowd-pleasing portrait of my daughter is bound to show up!
You can drop in to see my artwork any time that the Library is open (see the link above for hours and double-check that the Program Room, where the exhibit will be held, is not booked with another event at the time of your planned visit). I would also be happy to meet you for a guided tour if you're interested. Just reach out to set up a time!
I will also be hosting two public events to get to meet you and to share with you about my work: an opening reception and a talk on Direct Painting. The details are as follows:
July 10, 6:30-9:30pm - Opening Reception with Artist Remarks
August 2, 7:30-9:30pm - Artist Talk and Demo: What is Direct Painting? With Q&A following.
Kindly RSVP below and I hope to see you for both occasions!
In a previous post, I said that still life offers all of the best that the art of painting has to offer - not only the object painted, but what it does, visually. Falling in love with the visual. The next step (and a harder step) in understanding painting is to understand what objects are doing together. This is something that has dawned upon me gradually (and I am sure that my understanding is still incomplete).
One particular way that I have come to know the harmony of different objects working together is the concept of a color scheme. So what is a color scheme? In college I learned one step more than I leaned in 3rd grade. In grade school I heard about complimentary colors: red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow... these colors are "complementary colors." Later on in college someone presented the idea that pictures should have "complementary color schemes." What this boiled down to was: pick a "red" and a "green" and build up a picture using them; this will give your picture a unity and good contrasts and will make it look more like it has a "color scheme."
For me this presentation of the idea was anything but compelling. I believe in large part it was so because the ideas were poorly communicated -- but I also suspect that those teaching me had, in fact, a very shallow understanding of them as well. I suspect some of the teachers didn't really "believe in" or rather understand that color has certain rules and laws to be discovered. Even among many trained painters it is common to say things like "color is entirely relative" or "color is just such a personal thing." In my years of study with Paul I discovered that this simply is not the case. A large part of discovering the truth about color is jettisoning a lot of partial, formulaic knowledge about "color scheme" and what it means to be a "complementary color." I had just to observe what two colors do together.
This exercise can be a very hard and trying thing. Looking for something, trying to observe something about the relationship between two colors that, initially, you can barely imagine. Paul encouraged me to find two colors that "looked magical" together. What did that even mean? They had to look better together than when they were apart. If a certain red looked good with a certain blue Paul would ask "did you try EVERY red with that blue?" This was very challenging: had I really seen every red with this blue? Was there a better one? And often the answer was "yes, there was a better one." Over time, my judgment and perceptions became sharper and sharper and before long, by trial and error of learning to see color relationships, I got to the point where I knew when colors were magical together.
This is one aspect of the harmony that drives mature artists to make still life. There are many others that exist: shape harmony, value rhythms, lost and found, the play of main lines, gesture and movement, transitions, and many more. These larger unities comprise the "game" of visual harmony and are what bring artists back to picture making again and again. Watching for them and understanding them will make you a more discerning art appreciator and will open up a world in which you can delight in still life.
Guest Author: Deirdre M. Folley
A few years ago, John had a portrait commission that was a little different from other such jobs he's received: a mother, Mary, requesting a memorial painting of her recently deceased daughter who had suffered tremendously from a seizure disorder and other difficulties and disabilities in her short life of twenty-two years. John knew Courtney only through what he heard from her mother and from the photos Mary provided as source material. He did his best to capture this young lady, by talking with Mary and by keeping her closely engaged in the painting process with frequent updates of his work in progress.
Recently, I had a chance to ask Mary a bit about that experience of working with John to have this portrait done. Below, she shares about what the process and the product meant and mean to her:
DF: What made you want to commission a painting?
My daughter Courtney passed away in 2014. I wanted a permanent reminder in our home of our daughter. I love portraits and after some research I decided to see if John was available to paint one of Courtney using photographs of her. It is the focal point of our living room and the most talked about piece of art in our home.
DF: And did it come out to be what you were hoping for?
Oh yes. It is a stunning piece. His attention to details is amazing. The details of Courtney’s face are spot on. He even got her smile right which is tough because she had buck teeth. The shading of Courtney’s hair and his attention to the texture and size of her curls make the portrait come alive. Courtney was in a wheelchair for most of her life and had severe scoliosis. John was able to paint her in such a way that you would never know that. She is just beaming with joy. He captured her personality perfectly. It’s so beautiful.
DF: How was the experience of working with John?
An absolute delight. John communicated a clear and concise timeline for the project, worked out a just and fair payment plan and included me in every step of the process. He was sensitive to my grief and honored every request I made from adjusting the shade of her hair, the bend of her nose, to the color of the background of the painting. He left nothing to chance.
DF: Do you receive feedback from others who see the painting?
People love it. Anytime we have people over, the portrait makes them stop for a moment and ask about Courtney. It’s a conduit for sharing about our daughter and the amazing young woman she was. We are blessed that John shared his gifts with us.
I highly recommend John Folley for his portraiture and other fine art. He incredibly talented and we are honored to have his work in our home.
Learn more about commissioning a portrait by visiting the Portraiture page, or by reaching out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello there, I'm John H. Folley. Thanks for visiting the JHF Art Blog, where it's my job to help you become a more discerning art appreciator. Here you'll find updates on my art and activities and some of my art philosophy. You'll also hear occasionally from my wife, artist Deirdre M. Folley. Peace!
Connect with John: