| 01 November, 2015 09:37
Last week we looked at Sargent's "Gourds" and then painted the apple photo below, translating his subject matter into an upstate NY theme.
Some observations we made based primarily on this painting:
- Sargent frequently used gouache to add small bright brush marks over dark. Often these were white with another color added.
- Sargent frequently severely cropped scenes.
- Sections of his paintings, especially background, border on abstraction with organic shapes. Can you pick out gourd leaves in the background?
- He used wax to preserve light textured hard-edged lines.
- He molded shapes such as the gourds painting wet-on-wet within the shape.
- In the background he probably painted light to dark.
- Much of the background, as he built texture and added darks, is wet-on-dry. He used dry brush effects.
- Sargent made bold use of both color and light. In this painting, spackled light permeates the background even with all its darks.
A selection of class paintings are below. Some of them are fantastic! They are easier to "read" than the perceived visual chaos of Sargent's. The one comment I'd make in general is that many of the backgrounds still should be livelier, using both more color and texture, especially keeping Sargent in mind.
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A quote from Charles Slovek's Secrets of Sargent's Watercolors
The Artist's Magazine - April, 1989 (Cover Story):
My first exposure to John Singer Sargent was in art school. A teacher brought in a portfolio of fine reproductions and after going through them and seeing the artist's effortless brushwork, impeccable value control and convincing illusion of reality, I couldn't wait to run home and paint like Sargent. But my teacher wisely delivered a short but eloquent dissertation that I eventually dubbed, "How I learned to look at a Sargent without wanting to paint like him." The reason for this caution is not because Sargent wasn't a superb artist, but because his paintings appear so easily executed. It's all too easy to get mesmerized with the technique, toss aside all other approaches and concentrate solely on duplicating Sargent's surface mannerisms. When this happens, you risk not only losing your own identity as a painter, but also miss the essence of why Sargent's paintings are so successful.
The key to Sargent is realizing that he was the ultimate observer. Some critics believe his emotional detachment from a subject gave his work a superficial quality, disqualifying him from the upper echelons of great art. In some respects the critics may be right. On the other hand, Sargent was himself and I don't think he much cared what the critics said. He was an enormously talented painter who had the gift of accurately recording exactly what he saw in front of him. He loved painting for its own sake, and isn't that what it's all about? Sargent's heritage to us includes not only a fine example of the heights to which a representational painter can climb, but also a rich textbook of artistic principles from which to learn.