Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Artwork of the month: The Death of Germanicus.

There are parts of human history that I obsess one simply because they reveal a portion of truth about the nature of mankind, as to what we are capable of.  I like to paint these important events in history, repurpose them and link them compositionally to a historical work of art about the same event.  Nicolas poussin did the same thing here.  

Poussin took the history of Germanicus's murder and used as a compositional model a sarcophagus from Rome.  Brilliant conceptual, compositional oil painting; Albeit there are so few that can and will connect the dots to read this painting as it was intended to be read by Poussin.  

This oil painting is a Masterwork example of compositional oil painting.  Go spend some time reading its imagery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Nicolas Poussin
French, 1594-1655
"The death of Germanicus"
1627, oil on canvas

Germanicus was murdered out of envy and fear...
...fear always has and always will destroy mankind's future.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Since I have been working on improvisational oil paintings as late, I thought that I would post some of my older writing on the subject.  As I paint I write; I write about my thoughts on my own work and experiences.  So some of it might make sense, other parts your just going to have to say "good lord whats wrong with him" and move on to the next section that makes sense to you.  As all of my writings on oil painting was written in the moment, some of it is always going to change over time.

3.8.1  Improvisation.

     The improvisational oil painting is completely honest work, in that it cannot lie, because it does not go through an editing process.  That is not to say the editing process is a lie, but to elaborate on the dependance of immediacy and reaction of the improvisational oil painting.  Improvisations of any kind are the first thought, line, brushstroke, or action, expressed by reacting to one’s environment and creative process.  The improvisation is honest because it is the first unedited reactions to both environment and the work itself.
     The improvisational works an artist completes exposes the work of his character, sense of being, and mastery of the relationship between himself and his chosen medium.  Improvisation is the finest means to tutor the student of oil paintings natural ability for composition as its practice teaches him to be bold, balanced, and visually organized immediately.  Improvisational oil painting instills in the artist the foresight to see bold compositions as they are being revealed in the moment.  Personally for the oil painter improvisation is an unconscious method toward a logical and complete understanding of one’s disposition, finally revealing to the artist the implications following his thoughts.  

     The improvisational oil painting should be completed in a short amount of time.  Timed improvisational study is a good starting point for the student of oil painting.  Timed study, a method of improvisation, is a necessary stage of development in teaching an artist to be immediately resolved.  Set a time limit to work within, such as five or ten minutes, then increase the amount of time allowed for each study as you progress to one hour.  During a timed study the artist cant truly edit for lack of time, and must just simply react to the subject-matter.  This process should cover the course of a few months while increasing the complexity of the subject-matter.  
     The student of oil painting will start with representation, then progress gradually into abstraction of each subject. To be able to render realistic subject-matter improvisationally is a necessity or prerequisite before beginning abstraction. The abstract improvisation becomes a personal experience where once completed, is retrospective to the oil painter, as it was to me. 
     It is not just the act of painting an improvisational work of art; it is the acts of repetitive improvisational thoughts which allow the abstract oil painter to trust their own intuitive nature.  As time progresses the oil painter will transform at ease with his first thoughts and strengthen those initial ideas learned from the practice of improvisational works.  The abstract improvisational oil painting ends up being about paint, and is considered an expressionist work.
     The abstract oil painter should study improvisation all his life.  However, he must not confuse his improvisational works for complete works of art.  Although each improvisational painting may be a great work of art, the improvisation is an incomplete idea that has yet to go through the discipline of editing and should not be its own ends. Although there are works intended for instilling control through immediacy, an improvisational oil painting finds its usefulness merely is in its act of doing, and leads one to new ideas, a deeper understanding of composition, and the resolution of the complicated relationship an artist has with his medium.