Sunday, August 19, 2012

Favorite painters

I have a slowly growing list of favorite painters, and I'd like to share my list with you.

I must caution, however, that I have never had any formal art training, which includes art history. I am sorely lacking knowledge of painters of the past, so my list tends to lean heavily toward contemporary painters, particularly watercolorists.

In my defense, watercolor is what I love, so I can't help but favor some great contemporary painters who love the medium as much as I do. I'm also blessed to have taken workshops from a handful of these painters.

Some of my favorite watercolorists:
Joseph Alleman
Jane Paul Angelhart
Carol Carter
Lynn Ferris
Joyce Hicks
Antonio Masi
Jeannie McGuire
Dean Mitchell
John Salminen
Ron Thurston
Mary Whyte

Some of my favorite painters:
Edward Hopper
Grant Wood
Charles DeMuth

Of course, the tricky part is explaining why these painters appeal to me.

I'll break my explanation into categories.

First, I love architecture, and several of these painters are noted for their skill in rendering architectural subjects. DeMuth, Hopper, Alleman, Masi, Mitchell and Salminen are masters who engage the viewer with dramatic interpretations of geometry and space.

Second, even though I don't really know the rules of composition and design, I can instinctively appreciate great design. All of these painters arrange the elements of their paintings in ways that simply feel right to me.

Third, you tend to develop preferences as a child, and I loved several storybooks that included illustrations that were representative of the early regionalist art movements in the U.S. So I am naturally drawn to Wood, DeMuth and Hopper because of a host of book illustrators who apparently internalized those styles.

Fourth, I appreciate efforts to push watercolor into new territory. I'll put Carter, Masi, McGuire, and Thurston in that category. Carter uses all kids of wet-into-wet techniques to reinvent her subject matter. Masi and McGuire are bold enough to use opaque watercolors in tandem with transparent watercolors, and the results add depth and atmosphere to their subjects. Thurston will break every "rule" -- as long as it looks good when he's finished.

Fifth, I enjoy dramatic light and shadow. I'll put Hopper, Angelhart, Ferris, Mitchell, Salminen, and Whyte into this group. Notice that subject doesn't really matter in this context -- Portraits, figures, landscapes, interiors -- all are enhanced by a mastery of lights and darks. Entire compositions are elevated by the effective use of this simple duality.

Sixth, I love watercolor. I enjoy watching artists ride that wave, so to speak. The move toward super photo-realistic watercolors generally leaves me cold. I appreciate the effort and the skill of the painter, but I don't feel anything when I look at those paintings.

On the other hand, let me see purple, mauve and golden hues mingling in the shadows of an old barn in a Dean Mitchell landscape, and I feel joyful. Joyce Hicks fits into this category because of the lovely bright washes that construct her landscapes -- her paintings look so carefree, as if all the washes just landed there in mere moments and were perfect at the onset. Now, I know that is not the case, that she spends a great deal of time developing compositions from her sketches and studies, but the final effect is so refreshing. Carter also really excels here with her boldly imagined florals, landscapes and portraits.

So these are a few of my thoughts on my favorites. Who are your favorite painters?

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