This monograph is about the connection between creating a painting and viewing one. It is about similarities both painter and viewer share in understanding beauty. It is for connoisseurs and creators of paintings — those who appreciate, as well as those who want to paint better.
The monograph was conceived as a prelude to a more significant, definitive book on the technical approach to painting; here, philosophy (or perhaps opinion) lays a foundation for the ‘how to do.’ In a practical sense, the monograph is about understanding (1) the differences in the overall color between one scene and another when struck by different effects of light and (2) the different colors within a scene when light strikes different objects. To accomplish these understandings, I urge special attention to a fundamental truth: the colors of objects change in different conditions of light. Light, then, changes the way we see. Exploring this phenomenon is one of the fundamental keys to creating beauty in painting.
This monograph will also explore the spiritual/emotional elements of painting vital to any art form. By omitting to mention these elements, one is lead to believe that technique is all there is to it; that is why ‘how-to’ books are often so deadly.
Since the time of the Impressionists, people have had difficulty considering distinctive a landscape painted in a restricted range of green. They know that the quality of light striking a scene changes its color. An early morning dawn or the warmth of an evening sunset each define different light conditions. People are looking for something that describes nature in all its mysterious beauty. This vitality cannot be achieved by painting in an average or ‘generalized’ light.
The method described in this monograph is not meant to interpret all art — many beautiful works have been done that do not rely on these principles. The method described here cannot be classified into a particular style. It is a language, a fundamental vocabulary that underlies my personal definition of good painting. It is, however, a grammar to express a vision that has freshness and meaning.
Although painters judge color in different lighting, they also pay careful attention to form. Light gives them a different color sensation as it strikes other parts of a surface. We perceive variations of form as different colors, not shades of the same color, to show each part of the form in its respective space. These variations of colors will show planes receding, as well as roundness — the three-dimensionality of objects.
Even by the late 1880s, the Impressionists themselves began to edge away from depicting the transience of life and lean toward bringing structure back into composition. For example, influenced by Ingres and the American William Paxton, Renoir began to hark back to the more classical form in their depictions of sensuous young women. While I am strongly guided by Impressionist principles, particularly the need to capture the fleeting nature of light, I know it is essential not to sacrifice form or underlying structure.
What the connoisseur and creator will find here will allow them to understand a broader range of expression, a more significant psychological depth, and bolder use of shape and light, hence form and color, than seen in Impressionist work.
It is often said I paint in an Impressionist manner. I reject that characterization. Although I strive to depict a scene in a particular light — something the Impressionists stood for — Impressionism often lacked the harmony of light and frequently used decorative color harmonies that relied on a single note of color running through the work. Further, impressionists frequently concerned themselves with factual depiction rather than rendering the rhythmic relationship of form and thus failed to capture their subject’s beauty.
As painters, we must reject any names, however endearing, others may impose on our work. Stylistic classification is a concept art historians use to group painters’ works for easy reference. No true painter can be bothered with labels; they can only paint at the level of their knowledge.
A painter is an individual. Only work that stands apart from others’ has a value unto itself. It can never be so when it is an extension of the work of others.
Painting has standards. In this monograph we will explore those standards.