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John Russell, The Garden, Longpre-les-Corps-Saints, 1887

I watched a fascinating documentary the other day about an Australian Impressionist artist named John Russell. This was my first time hearing about this artist, despite him being a fellow Australian and also being connected with many prominent artists like Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. It seems like there is an endless pool of brilliant artists who I have yet to discover.

In the documentary, he is described as the “great Australian artist that nobody has ever heard of”.

This article will summarize some of the key points about his life and art, but I encourage you to also watch the documentary for yourself as it is very well done.

Early Days

Russell was born in Darlinghurst, Sydney in 1858. He was the son of a successful engineer. When his father passed away in 1879, Russell was left with a substantial inheritance which allowed him to pursue a life of his choosing. He decided to pursue a life of art and moved to London in 1881 to study at the Slade School of Art.

John Russell, In the Morning, Alpes Maritimes from Antibes, 1891
Friendships with Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Tom Roberts and Other Artists

Moving overseas to study art allowed Russell to connect with many of the great artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Armand Guillaumin and Emile Bernard.

Russell developed a close friendship with Vincent van Gogh whilst he studied at Atelier Cormon from 1885 to 1887. Below are drawings by Russell of van Gogh.

John Russell, Five Studies of Vincent van Gogh, c.1886-1888

Russell also kept in regular contact with fellow Australian artist Tom Roberts. Roberts pursued a different path in art and achieved great commercial success in Australia. The two discussed stories of their journeys and artistic discoveries in many letters to each other. In the letter below to Roberts, Russell describes his dissatisfaction with the academic art of Paris in the time.

“Oct 5, 1887, Paris

My dear Tom Roberts,

I am delighted to hear of your continued success in painting. To have so soon found your road. Here we are all in the dark, too much occupied with style. I’m about finished with them and will jump out of Paris as soon as possible. The tone of things don’t suit me.

Good luck!

Yours ever sincerely,

J P Russell”

John Russell, Cruach en Mahr, Matin, Belle-Ile en Mer, 1905

He met Claude Monet in 1886 when he visited Belle-Île, a French island off the coast of Brittany. Belle-Île would end up being a key source of painting inspiration for both Russell and Monet.

Below is a letter from Russell to van Gogh describing his thoughts of Monet's work. He seemed to be critical yet endearing of Monet.

“Sunday, July 22, 1888

My dear Vincent,

Saw ten of Mr Monet’s pictures down at Antibes. Very fine in color and light and a certain richness of envelop. But like nearly all the so-called Impressionist work, the form is not enough studied. A lack of construction everywhere.

He is undoubtedly a remarkable colorist and full of courage in attacking difficult problems. We should all do the same. It is the only way to get strong.”

Influence on Henri Matisse

Russell proved to be a crucial influence on Henri Matisse's development as an artist. Matisse went from creating dull paintings of grays and browns (like the painting below) to luminous paintings with vibrant colors, all due to the influence of Russell and the other Impressionists. Russell opened Matisse's eyes of what is possible in terms of color.

Henri Matisse painted with Russell during the Summers of 1896 and 1897. During these meetings, Matisse learned about the Impressionist approach to color from Russell. Matisse was fascinated by the luminosity of Russell's paintings and the amount of light he was able to convey on the canvas.

Henri Matisse, Belle Ile, 1896

Below is a painting of Belle-Île by Matisse which demonstrates his newfound appreciation of color.

Henri Matisse, Belle Ile (Le Port De Palais), 1896

Vibrant color ends up becoming a key feature of Matisse's work.

Henri Matisse, Dishes And Fruit On A Red And Black Carpet, 1901
Painting of his First Wife

One of my favorite paintings by Russell is below, which pictures his wife amongst a sea of flowers. Her beauty does not take over the painting, but is rather woven in with nature. The painting is a stunning display of broken color and a compressed value range. The reds, oranges and yellows provide a sense of warmth, yet it does not feel overpowering. There is a pleasant subtleness about the painting.

John Russell, Mrs Russell Among the Flowers in the Garden of Goulphar, Belle Ile, 1907

Sadly, his wife passed away in early 1908 after a battle with cancer. Devastated by the loss, Russell is thought to have destroyed many of his paintings. He married again and ended up moving back to Sydney, but he never seemed to reinvigorate his passion for art.


Having learned more about Russell's life, his connections with other artists and of course his stunning paintings, it is amazing to think that so few people have heard of him. It is almost like his legacy got lost between the cracks.

I suspect there are a few reasons for this:

  • He was not fully embraced by Australia because he worked mostly overseas and did not return with much of his work. He was also not fully embraced by France, because they favored the French artists.
  • He was not driven by commercial success due to his financial independence.
  • He was shadowed by the fame of the artists who surrounded him. Auguste Rodin wrote in one of his final letters to Russell:

"Your works will live, I am certain. One day you will be placed on the same level with our friends Monet, Renoir and van Gogh."

Whatever the case, he seems to be gaining recognition over time.

John Russell, La Pointe de Morestil, Calm Sea, 1901
What You Can Learn from John Russell
  • Try not to limit yourself to a particular style. Keep an open mind and always try to improve and explore different ways to render the subject. As quoted earlier, Russell was thought many of the artists in Paris were "all in the dark, too occupied with style".
  • There seems to be a great sense of freedom in painting without having to pursue commercial success. But obviously, not everyone is able to do this. Russell was born into a wealthy family so he did not need to sell his paintings.
  • The commentary between Russell and the other master artists indicates that they were humble in their abilities and were always trying to improve. They wrote to each other as if they were comrades on the same mission, rather than competitors.
  • Location seems to be of key importance, especially for landscape painting. If you live in a scenic area, then inspiration will be easier to find.
John Russell, In the Afternoon, 1891
Relevant Links
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide and read my about page if you want to learn more about my story.

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

The post John Russell – The Great Australian Impressionist appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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Expressionism originated in Germany in the early 20th century. It is a difficult movement to define as it seems to overlap with many of other movements (Cubism, Surrealism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism). No wonder art history can be so confusing to an outsider with the vast number of “isms”.

As its name suggests, Expressionism is characterized by the use of paint to depict and exaggerate emotions and feelings. Prior to this, artists were more focused on capturing what is physically in front of us, rather than what goes on in our minds.

In this article I summarize the key aspects of the movement and what you can learn from it.

Defining Characteristics Of Expressionism
  • Focused on capturing emotions and feelings, rather than what the subject actually looks like.
  • Vivid colors and bold strokes were often used to exaggerate these emotions and feelings.
  • Showed influences from Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Symbolism.
The Beginnings Of Expressionism

The Expressionist art movement can be traced to artists like Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch and Henri Matisse who each started to show signs of a departure from realistic depiction in favor of capturing subjective thoughts and outlooks. Expressionism took it to the next level and made those subjective thoughts a defining feature of the movement.

In Vincent van Gogh's painting below, notice how the vivid colors and bold brushwork are used to exaggerate the man in a state of melancholy. The weak oranges of the subject's face make him look weak and defeated, especially in contrast with the strong blues and reds in the rest of the painting.

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890

Edvard Munch was part of the Symbolism movement and had a great influence on the Expressionists. His most renowned painting is "The Scream" below. As you can see, very little attention was paid to the realistic depiction of the subject and the landscape. Swirling lines and sharp contrasts in color were used to convey the deep pain of the ghoulish subject.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Henri Matisse, a member of the Fauvist movement, is well known for his exploration of color to convey meaning rather than reality. He often used wildly inaccurate colors, loosely held together by the value structure. These developments in color appear to have influenced the Expressionists.

Henri Matisse, Les toits de Collioure, 1905
Development Of German Expressionism

Expressionism seems to have loose beginnings. The actual term "Expressionism" was rarely, if ever, used by the Expressionist artists themselves. But the term was frequently used to describe characteristics of other movements like Post-Impressionism and Fauvism.

The origins of Expressionism are often associated with two German groups of artists known as Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).

Die Brücke formed in 1905 in Dresden and was led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Other artists of the group included Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel and Fritz Bleyl. The group often went by the name “The Bridge” because they saw themselves as bridging the gap between the old world and the new.

Kirchner and other members of the group were particularly concerned with the emergence of industrialization and its effect on society. Their view was that communities were becoming more divided and disconnected in conjunction with the emergence of industry and corporate capitalism. The group’s work often depicted urban street scenes and city life to convey their feelings about the changing society.

In Kirchner's painting below, you can see the influence of van Gogh's directional brushwork and Matisse's adventurous use of color. The figure’s expression hints at a feeling of loneliness and despair. Kirchner’s brushwork would later evolve to feature less impasto and more flat planes of color.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Girl On A Divan, 1906

Below is another painting by Kirchner which is representative of both the aesthetic style and the subject matter favored by the Expressionists. The scene depicts the busy and hectic nature of navigating the streets of Dresden in the early 20th century.

For me, the painting is unsettling to look at, with distorted perspective and unnatural colors. I assume the idea was to depict the anxieties of urban life. None of the subjects in the scene appear to be interacting. Also, notice the colors used for the faces of the subjects - vivid reds and dull yellows. Far from realistic, but that is of course the intention of the painting.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, 1908

The second group associated with Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), formed in Munich in 1911 by artists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. This name was selected because of the founders’ interests in horses and the color blue. Kandinsky believed the rider symbolized a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds and he aimed for his artwork to do the same.

Wassily Kandinsky, The Blue Rider, 1903

Kandinsky was one of the first artists of the movement to experiment with complete abstraction, like in his painting below. In his publication, "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" he discussed how he sought to encourage spirituality through his art. He believed this would lead to an enlightened and liberated society.

Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 26, 1912

Kandinsky’s partner in Der Blaue Reiter, Franz Marc was not optimistic about the course of humanity. He sought to create a new system of assigning color to emotions and ideas. For example, Marc believed blue represents masculine qualities and yellow represented feminine qualities.

Many of his works depict animals, as he believed they were purer than humans. His painting below depicts numerous animals in a visually fragmented composition filled with bright colors and sharp angular forms. After the beginning of World War I, Marc wrote to his wife that this particular painting “is like a premonition of this war—horrible and shattering.”

Franz Marc, The Fate of the Animals, 1913

From Germany, the Expressionist movement spread throughout Europe but began to lose favor after World War I. However, it paved the way for the later movements of Abstract Expressionism and Neo-Expressionism.

What You Can Learn From Expressionism
  • Brushwork can be a defining feature of your art. Use bold strokes to direct people through your painting and to reinforce the form of the subject.
  • We all attach meanings to different colors. Red indicates the warmth of fire and blue indicates the cool of snow. You can take advantage of this in your paintings. But be aware that how we perceive color and the meanings we attach are subjective by nature. For example, just because you associate green with nature, does not mean everyone else does.
  • You can communicate feelings and emotions through your painting, rather than just what is physically there.
Key Expressionist Artists
  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Franz Marc
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
  • Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
  • Erich Heckel
  • Fritz Bleyl
  • Paul Klee
  • Auguste Macke
  • Egon Schiele
Top Expressionist Quotes

"The German artist creates out of his imagination, inner vision, the forms of visible nature are to him only a symbol." Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

"With faith in progress and in a new generation of creators and spectators we call together all youth. As youth, we carry the future and want to create for ourselves freedom of life and of movement against the long-established older forces. Everyone who reproduces that which drives him to creation with directness and authenticity belongs to us." Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

"My real motive for choosing my subjects almost exclusively from the life of the workers was that only such subjects gave me in a simple and unqualified way what I felt to be beautiful..." Käthe Kollwitz

"Art is nothing but the expression of our dream; the more we surrender to it the closer we get to the inner truth of things, our dream-life, the true life that scorns questions and does not see them." Franz Marc

"True dreams and visions should be as visible to the artist as the phenomena of the objective." Oskar Kokoschka

"Incomprehensible ideas express themselves incomprehensible forms... Form is a mystery to us for it is the expression of mysterious powers...Our senses are our bridge between the incomprehensible and the comprehensible." August Macke

Useful Resources


Expressionism by Norbert Wolf

Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky by Timothy Benson


The Art Story - Expressionism - Detailed information on Expressionism.

Wiki Art - Expressionism - Features many paintings of Expressionist artists.

Wikipedia - Expressionism - General information on the movement.

Affiliate disclosure: There may be affiliate links to recommended products in this post. If you purchase through any affiliate links I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. These funds are used to help grow this website and spread art education to people around the world. Thanks!

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide and read my about page if you want to learn more about my story.

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

The post What You Can Learn From The Expressionist Art Movement appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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Color studies are perfect for exploring different arrangements of color without having to worry about other aspects of painting like accuracy and composition.

In this post I will walk you through how to go about doing color studies and what you can learn from them.

What Is A Color Study?

A color study is usually a small painting or drawing which focuses almost entirely on color arrangements. The goal of a color study is not to create a beautiful painting, but rather to explore and test different arrangements of color. It is often done as a lead-up to a more serious painting.

The idea is to simplify all the other elements so that only the most dominant arrangement of colors is revealed. This means simplifying all the “noise” such as edges, intricate drawing, brushwork, value and so on.

The end result will appear primitive and rough, but it will give you a clear indication of what the arrangement of colors will look like in a more serious painting. You can then make an assessment of whether to proceed with that color arrangement, make an adjustment or paint something else.

Multiple color studies are often done of the same subject to explore different arrangements. Sometimes it may be to test slight variations of the initial color study. For example, you might want to test high-key and low-key variations of a color study.

Other times you might want to test completely different color arrangements against each other. For example, you could do one color study of a subject using the colors of a bright, sunny day. Then another color study of the same subject but this time using colors of a warm sunset. The same subject is painted, but the colors used are dramatically different.

The level of detail used in a color study often varies from a basic arrangement of color shapes, to a more sophisticated color study which captures the subtle changes in tone. In any case, you should simplify most of the detail so that color is in fact the main focus.

Tips For Creating A Color Study

Here are some tips for creating a color study:

  • The first step is to see and identify the colors you want to paint. Ask yourself... What is the darkest color? What is the lightest color? What is the strongest (most intense or vivid) color? What are the most prominent hues (pick 3-4)?
  • Once you have identified the colors, you should simplify the group down to the most important colors. What colors are important to your vision? What colors will work in the context of the painting and what colors can be left out?
  • Try to ignore the edges, details, textures and elements other than color. This is easier said than done.
  • Use a large brush as it makes simplification much easier.
  • The medium is not important, as long as it has color. You could use colored pencils, oils, acrylics, watercolors or gouache.
  • If you are painting on-location, then a fast-drying medium is preferable.
  • This is the perfect time to experiment with colors you are not familiar with. Experiment and push your colors as far as you can. With more serious artworks, we tend to fall into routines with our colors. Use color studies to break out of these routines so that you keep expanding your knowledge of color. I am always amazed by what some artists are able to achieve with just a simple arrangement of colors on a canvas. It reminds me that I have so much to learn in terms of color, so there is no room for a routine.
  • Although color is of course the focus, you can also use color studies to experiment with your brushwork.
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes. Color studies are meant to be quick and playful, not laborsome tasks.
Exercise - Same Subject Under Different Assumptions

A great color study exercise is to create multiple color studies of the same subject under different assumptions about the light and environment.

For example, you could paint a color study of a simple landscape scene in clear weather under the midday sun. Then create other color studies of the same subject but under different assumptions about the weather (overcast, stormy, dark, bright, warm, cool, etc).

There are two ways you could do this.

First, you could keep returning to the same location under different weather conditions.

The second option is to paint one color study, then just assume what the colors would look like under different weather conditions. This is the more challenging option because you cannot rely on observation. I will run you through an example of a set of color studies I did using this approach based on a scene at New Farm Park, Queensland, Australia.

Below is the reference photo from which I painted and the first color study. It was clear weather and the sun was strong and direct. The contrast between light and dark was sharp, with tinted lights and deep darks.

Here are some notes about this color study:

  • I did not use any highly-saturated colors. This is often the case when painting under direct light from the midday sun. The contrast is so sharp that the colors get lost into lightness or darkness.
  • I painted with warm lights and cool shadows. If you want to learn more about color temperature, read this post.
  • I incorporated a bit of playful brushwork, but nothing serious.

I then went on to paint the same subject but under different assumptions. In the second color study, I assumed it was overcast with lots of cloud cover. Notice how all the colors are much softer and the contrast between light and dark is not as sharp compared to the first color study.

In the third, I assumed it was at sunset with a strong, warm light. I used a sharp contrast of dark blues against saturated oranges to try and faithfully capture the intensity of the light.

In the final color study I assumed it was late in the afternoon and the light was fading. Like the second color study, I used soft colors for this, but with more saturation.

I suggest you try this exercise for yourself. It is an exciting and challenging way to expand your knowledge of color.

This is an excerpt of my Landscape Painting Masterclass. Come join me if you enjoyed this information.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide and read my about page if you want to learn more about my story.

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

The post Using Color Studies To Explore And Test Different Color Arrangements appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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In this article I provide you with an overview of the Impressionist art movement and some of the key takeaways from the movement which you can apply to your own paintings.

The top Impressionists have had a tremendous influence on my personal development as an artist. They tested the boundaries of what is possible with color and demonstrated that subject matter is not the be-all and end-all in painting. You can paint something just because it is pretty, without any deep underlying meaning.

John Singer Sargent explains Impressionism well:

"Impressionism was the name given to a certain form of observation when Monet, not content with using his eyes to see what things were or what they looked like as everybody had done before him, turned his attention to noting what took place on his own retina (as an oculist would test his own vision)." John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood
The Beginning Of Impressionism

The Impressionist art movement was established in the 1860s, France and represented a radical shift from the realistic academic painting that had dominated the era. Depictions of religious themes and historical subject matter, painted with precise brush strokes and restrained colors were highly valued among the art critics of the time.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830

The movement was led by artists Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frederic Bazille who took their canvases outside and established the practice of plein air painting. Their work coincided with the development of portable paint tubes and box easels.

Unlike other artists, who only made sketches outdoors and then continued to work on them in the comfort of their studios, these four artists painted plein air from start to finish, depicting vibrant landscapes and capturing the scenes of everyday life. They painted the world as they saw it - imperfect and in constant change. As a result, their paintings seemed messy and unfinished to other artists at the time.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Monet Painting In His Garden At Argenteuil, 1873

The movement caught public attention in 1874 when Impressionist's artworks were exhibited at now-famous Salon des Refusés, which is French for "exhibition of rejects". This was a group show composed of artworks that were submitted for the annual state-sponsored exhibition the Salon, but were rejected by the jury.

The official Salon was a prestigious art exhibition held by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. After many artists were rejected from the Salon, they protested and this reached French Emperor Napoleon III. The Emporer ordered that the rejected pieces should be displayed at a separate show nearby. The Emporer's office issued the following statement:

"Numerous complaints have come to the Emperor on the subject of the works of art which were refused by the jury of the Exposition. His Majesty, wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints, has decided that the works of art which were refused should be displayed in another part of the Palace of Industry." (Published in Le Moniteur on 24 April 1863)

The exhibition attracted numerous visitors, art critics and public alike, but the artworks were mostly ridiculed. In a rather harsh review by art critic Louis Leroy, he mockingly referred to the movement as impressionist, the name coined after the title of Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise. Little did he know that the word he used as an insult would mark the whole art movement.

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Defining Characteristics of Impressionism

The Impressionist movement was marked by a set of distinctive characteristics that represented a radical change in the way art is made and understood.

Conspicuous Brushstrokes

Before Impressionism, painters used precise, almost invisible brushstrokes often blended together with golden varnish. The Impressionists, on the other hand, used thick, conspicuous strokes to depict the ephemeral nature of light and the passing of time.

Using loose brushstrokes enabled them to paint quickly on the spot and capture the essence of the subject matter before the light changed or the subject moved. This kind of brushwork resulted in energetic paintings which portrayed the fleeting nature of the environment.

Claude Monet, The Atelier Boat, 1875-1876
Bright and Bold Color Palette

The Impressionists were revolutionary with their approach to color. Instead of mixing several paints together to achieve the desired tone, the Impressionists often used clean, unmixed colors and grouped them together in an array of small brushstrokes to achieve the desired tones. These various colors optically blend together when viewed from afar. Although the Impressionists did not create this technique, they appear to be the first artists who used it as a key feature. As John Singer Sargent explained:

"The habit of breaking up one's color to make it brilliant dates from further back than Impressionism - Couture advocates it in a little book called 'Causeries d'Atelier' written about 1860 - it is part of the technique of Impressionism but used for quite a different reason." John Singer Sargent

As we can see in this gloomy depiction of a train station in Saint-Lazare, Monet combined emerald green, ultramarine, cobalt blue and even shades of yellow to create a vibration of color:

Claude Monet, Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877

The Impressionists also started to introduce more color when painting shadows. Instead of using blacks and browns, the Impressionists started incorporating blues, greens, purples and other colors with a distinct color tree. This may be due to most of the Impressionist paintings being created outside, where there is much more light and therefore more visible color. Or maybe it was due to a great understanding of how light and color work.

The Fleeting Nature of Light

Plein air painting allowed the Impressionists to closely study natural light and the way it influences the colors we use. Faithfully painting the light was a primary goal of the Impressionists. That was more important than the subject itself in most cases. Back then, light and color were still a bit of a mystery (and still are).

In doing so, many artists painted the same subject matter over and over again under different light and weather conditions. Claude Monet did this on many occasions with haystacks, water lilies and the Rouen Cathedral.

Claude Monet, Haystacks, 1891
Depictions of Ordinary Subjects

The rise of plein air painting in many ways determined the subjects which the Impressionists painted. Instead of grandiose historical or mythological themes, the Impressionists portrayed things they could see outside - typically an array of vivid landscapes, still lifes and scenes of everyday leisure activities (e.g. picnics, boat rides...).

As Pierre-Auguste Renoir said:

“What seems most significant to me about our movement [Impressionism] is that we have freed painting from the importance of the subject. I am at liberty to paint flowers and call them flowers, without their needing to tell a story.” Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881
Asymmetrical Compositions

Inspired by the then newly developed medium of photography, the Impressionists produced paintings with unusual visual angles that resembled images of moments in time. This is why many Impressionist paintings feature asymmetrical compositions resembling candid photographs taken without the knowledge of their subjects.

This is particularly visible in the works of Edgar Degas who, inspired by Japanese prints, painted ballerinas from intimate viewpoints, bringing the viewers into the close proximity of the dancers.

Edgar Degas, Stage Rehearsal, 1878–1879
Figureheads Of The Impressionist Art Movement
Claude Monet

The most prominent artist of the Impressionist art movement was undoubtedly Claude Monet, most famous for his depictions of water lilies.

By using unmixed paint and scattered brushstrokes, Monet sought to capture nature as he saw and experienced it. He often used the wet-on-wet method which involved painting one layer of paint over the other, without waiting for the first layer to dry. This method allowed him to complete paintings relatively quickly compared to the wet-on-dry method which was popular at the time.

The technique resulted in softer edges and blurred lines that merely implied three-dimensional planes without realistically depicting them. As mentioned earlier, his innovative approach to art included painting the same scene over and over again, at different times of the day and various weather conditions to show how light and atmosphere influence our perception.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1905
Camille Pissarro

Monet’s friend and contemporary, Camille Pissarro, was a pivotal figure in the Impressionist movement and is known for depicting vibrant landscapes and scenes from the everyday life of French peasants. He often blended the peasant figures into the surroundings instead of having the figures stand out. That way he managed to get the viewers to experience the painting as a whole, instead of focusing on the subjects of the artwork.

Much like Monet, Pissarro also created numerous studies of color and light by painting various rural objects under different weather conditions and changing light. 

Camille Pissarro, Peasant Woman Digging, the Jardin de Maubuisson, Pontoise, 1881
Edgar Degas

Unlike most Impressionists who preferred painting in plein air, Edgar Degas was more interested in depicting indoor scenes of people’s daily activities. This is why cafes, musicians and most notably ballet dancers are commonly featured in his works. Inspired by the aesthetics of Japanese prints, Degas frequently experimented with unusual viewpoints and compositions. The artist, who was also a prolific sculptor, often used pastels to give his figures almost a sculptural quality.

Edgar Degas, Stage Rehearsal, 1878–1879
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Celebrated for his vivid depictions of Parisian modernity and leisure activities in the late 19th century, he masterfully played with light and shadow to create dynamic artworks. Renoir's broken brushwork and bright colors portrayed pleasant, lighthearted topics, like gatherings of friends and female nudes.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le moulin de la Galette, 1876
Berthe Morisot & Mary Cassatt

Berthe Morisot, the first woman to exhibit with the Impressionists, rose to prominence by painting rich compositions that highlighted the domestic lives of women of the time. Her paintings often included nudes, still lifes and portraits of her daughter Julie who was the artist’s favorite model.

Following an invitation by her friend and mentor Edgar Degas, American painter Mary Cassatt joined the Impressionists around 1877. The artist is renowned for her vibrant depictions of mothers taking care of their children and other everyday scenes of domestic life at the time (knitting, reading, drinking tea, etc).

Berthe Morisot, The Artist's Sister at a Window, 1969

Cassatt combined Impressionism with the influence of Japanese prints and traditional techniques of old masters to create works that articulated the complex relationship between women and children. But unlike the old masters who represented the female form in a very flattering manner, Cassatt depicted women for who they were, without adornment or beautification.

Mary Cassatt, Children Playing With A Cat, 1908
What You Can Learn From The Impressionists

There are many things you can learn from the Impressionists, even if you do not favor the style:

  • You do not need to paint subjects with deep underlying meanings. You can paint flowers merely because you think they are pretty. This places a focus on painting technique over subject matter.
  • You can create a vibration of color by using the broken color technique. This also allows you to blend subjects with the background like Camille Pissarro did in many of his paintings.
  • You do not need to resort to blacks and browns for shadows. You can use blues, purples, greens and so on. This is a much more flexible approach to color and results in more colorful displays.
  • Your impression of the subject is important and unique. This is the reason why two artists can paint the same subject, but end up with completely different paintings.
Relivant Readings
Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide and read my about page if you want to learn more about my story.

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

The post Impressionist Art Movement – Masters Of Light And Color appeared first on Draw Paint..

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Virtuoso brushwork is a defining feature of many of the great artists. They wielded their brush like it was an extension of their arm and paint flowed effortlessly onto the canvas.

They knew when to paint thick and when to paint smooth. When to paint with delicate attention and when to simplify the detail. When to blend and when to paint direct.

When you start painting, brushwork almost seems like an afterthought. You focus on how to identify a color, mix that color and place it in the right place on the canvas. But how you place that color is also critically important.

If you become skilled with your brushwork, then it can become a key feature of your paintings by itself. People will be in awe of the way you move paint around the canvas, rather than just how well you painted the colors and details.

In this article I discuss how you can use brushwork more effectively in your paintings.

The Different Types Of Brushwork

Below are some of the different types of brushwork you can use in painting. You will notice that there are always two sides to each type. What is thick, cannot be smooth. What is delicate, cannot be simplified, and so on.

It can be highly effective to contrast these opposing types against each other in a painting. You can also use a variety of the following types throughout your painting to create a dynamic effect.

Your options are only limited by your imagination. Most people only ever stick to one kind of brushwork which they get familiar with early on. But if you can learn a variety of different types then you will have an advantage over many other artists.

Thick: The build-up of a significant amount of paint on the surface of a painting. To do this you need to fully load your brush with paint or use a palette knife.

Smooth: Utilizes thinned paint and blended brushwork. Useful for painting background areas.

Delicate: Highly-rendered brushwork.

Simplified: Generalized brushwork which ignores most of the detail.

Long: Long, waving strokes which are useful for painting distant plains, water or sky.

Short: Short, chopping strokes which can signify heightened activity (picture the turbulent waves as they crash against rocks).

Broken: Varied colors and brushstrokes. Useful for creating the illusion of nature (grass, trees, rocks, etc).

Solid: Solid blocks of color with little variance. Useful for dominant objects which command attention.

Linear: Straight brushwork. Useful or painting rigid objects.

Organic: Free-flowing brushwork which does not seem to follow a predetermined path.

Brushwork To Match The Subject

A tip I find useful is to try and match the type of brushwork to the subject I am painting. For example, if I am painting the glassy water of a still lake, then I would use long, smooth brushwork.

Arthur Streeton, The River, 1896

If I am painting waves crashing against rocks, I would use short, chopping strokes of varied colors.

Joaquín Sorolla, Sea And Rocks - Javea, 1900

If I am painting the dry, Australian grass, I would use scattered brushwork with varied texture, color and a build-up of broken color.

Sir Arthur Streeton, Near Heidelberg, 1890

If I am painting fluffy white clouds, I would use thick, white (or more accurately, very light gray) with gentle, curving strokes.

Isaac Levitan, Clouds, 1895

If I am painting an arctic wolf in the landscape (not sure when I would ever do this, but you never know), I would use delicate brushwork, with short and precise strokes.

Making Sure Your Brushwork "Fits"

I had an email from a reader the other day who said they are struggling with painting straight lines and if there is any style of painting which would be forgiving of this.

My advice was to check out some of the Russian Impressionists, who often paint rigid subjects like buildings and chairs in a very loose manner. The "straight lines" are often far from straight. But it seems to work in the context of the painting.

That is why context is so important in painting. You can make anything work depending on the context.

The Russian Impressionists are able to get away with loose brushwork for rigid objects because they paint everything else with even more looseness. So the relationship between the rigid and organic objects remains intact.

Below is a painting by Korovin Konstantin. If you look closely, you will notice that he does not appear to have worried about getting all the lines straight, or the drawing completely accurate. In anything, you could accuse him of almost being clumsy with his painting. But that would be a short-sighted view. As a whole, the painting seems to blend well together. Nothing seems out of place or awkward. Had he painted the table, chair and window with more delicate attention, it may actually look out of place in the context of the rest of the painting.

Korovin Konstantin, Portrait Of Chaliapin, 1911

If you ever look over my shoulder whilst painting, you will notice at the later stages that most of the work I do is adjusting edges and fixing brushwork. This is all about making sure all the brushwork "fits" together. I want the brushwork to appear natural and appealing. Some of the usual problem areas are:

  • Rigid brushwork which should be loose, and vice versa.
  • Overly repetitive brushwork.
  • A lack of fluency from one area to another.
  • Brushwork which does not seem to match the subject.
Artists Who Demonstrated Fantastic Brushwork

Most of the great artists demonstrate fantastic brushwork, but there are some artists in particular who come to mind:

John Singer Sargent

Sir Arthur Streeton

Joaquín Sorolla

Konstantin Korovin

Isaac Levitan

If you know of any other artists who demonstrate fantastic brushwork, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide and read my about page if you want to learn more about my story.

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

The post How To Effectively Use Brushwork In Your Paintings appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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Painting is all about taking an idea and communicating that idea to other people using paint and brush. Most people only talk about the physical process of how to apply paint to the canvas. But it is also important to consider what happens before you pick up your brush - the process of taking that initial idea and turning it into something worth painting.

In this post I walk you through my process and provide commentary on an idea which I am exploring for my next project.

It All Starts With A Spark Of Inspiration

You never know when inspiration might strike. But rest assured it will strike as long as you keep busy. As Pablo Picasso once said...

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."

But inspiration is fleeting. You need to make sure that you capture those brief moments so that can nurture them into something more.

I keep a record of all the painting ideas I come up with and any reference photos I want to paint. When it is time for my next project I can go through this record to see what inspires me.

I find if you do not record your ideas they quickly fade from memory, no matter how great they seem.

The initial spark of inspiration could be anything - a painting you love, the way light is bouncing of the water, or an interesting composition. For example, I had a spark of inspiration when I first saw the painting by Claude Monet pictured below. I was in awe of that stunning contrast between the dark foreground and the high key background.

Claude Monet, Juan-Les-Pins, 1888

Then I came across the following scene on a trip to Mount Barney in Queensland. It reminded me of Monet's painting and I made sure to take reference photos to assess later on. I love the way the high key colors are framed by shadowed foreground.

At the time, I was not yet convinced this would turn into a finished painting. But, it looked promising.

Nurturing The Idea

Once you have the idea, unless it is a really good one, I would sit on it for a while. Sometimes an idea may seem great, but it becomes less interesting the more you think about it.

You need to consider how you would go about turning the idea into a finished painting, the problems you may encounter and what the finished painting may look like. This is all about working out if the idea is worth pursuing.

If you cannot see a finished painting at the end of the tunnel, then don't paint it. 

With the photo from Mount Barney, I did not paint it straight away. In fact, I took it over a year ago and it has been on my computer ever since. It was only recently that I looked at the photo and could see myself painting it.

Many people think you must grab your brush and start slinging paint onto the canvas as soon as inspiration strikes. But there is nothing wrong with taking your time.

If you think the idea is worth pursing, then you can take it to the next step - exploring the idea and possible variations.

Exploring The Idea And Possible Variations

By this stage you have a great idea for a new painting and you can see a finished painting at the end of the tunnel. Now is the perfect time to see if you can improve on the idea at all.

There is always a better way to do something. Maybe you could improve on the composition by cutting out some unnecessary areas which are detracting from the focal point? Or maybe you could come up with a better harmony of colors?

Think about if there are any easy wins for improving your idea. You do not need to change the foundation of the idea, just explore variations.

In practice, this could involve doing quick studies to explore and test how the idea translates to the canvas before making a more serious commitment. For example, you could do a few color studies to test different color combinations, or notan studies to test different compositions.

By putting in a bit of work here, you could save yourself the frustration of working on an idea which does not translate as well as you had initially though into a painting.

Below, I will run you through a study I did based on the Mount Barney reference photo and provide some commentary on how I explored and tested my initial idea.

Part 1 - The Sharp Contrast

In the first part of the study I wanted to see if I could replicate the sharp contrast I saw in life. To do this I used a dark mix of viridian green, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. This was not intended to be the final color. I just wanted a dark value to judge the contrast.

The light grass was a difficult color to mix, especially without the context of all the other areas painted in. I had to trust my instinct and color mixing, as the light yellows and greens shown below appeared lifeless and dull without the other light colors in the background.

Part 2 - High Key Colors In The Mountain And Sky

Here I wanted to experiment with what colors to use for the mountain and sky. I also wanted to get a feel for what shapes and detail to use for the mountain. This is a tricky area to paint - I need to paint with enough detail to give a sense of the mountain's form, but not so much detail that the mountain seems to come forward in perspective.

I also picked up a problem with the reference photo being that the apex of the mountain aligns with the large tree to the left. In the study, I decided to move the apex of the mountain slightly to fix this composition mishap.

Part 3 - Brushwork For The Clouds

This part was all about using playful brushwork to create the illusion of the clouds in the sky and getting all the high key colors to work together.

Part 3 - Fixing The Color Temperature

Here I needed to fix the color temperature throughout the painting. The foreground was too warm compared to the background.

My assumption is that the direct light from the sun was slightly warm and the ambient light from the blue sky was slightly cool. So I painted with warm lights and cool shadows.

In addition to that, I needed to also paint with a sense of atmospheric perspective. So objects in the distance need to be cooler than the same objects in the foreground.

Part 4 - Highlights In The Foreground

This part is all about testing the kind of brushwork I should use for the highlights hitting the foreground. I want to use thick paint for these highlights to stick within the theme of the rest of the painting - thick paint for highlights and thin paint for darks.

Part 5 - Finishing The Study

Here is the finished study. It is not perfect but it did reveal some important things about my initial idea:

  • The background is simple but difficult to paint as it is interwoven with the trees in the foreground.
  • The mountain in the reference photo needs to be moved slightly so that the apex does not align with the tree in the foreground.
  • It is important to try and keep the integrity of the dark and light areas. In the finished study, I lost some of that integrity as I blended too much.
  • I need to use cooler colors for the dark base at the start. In the study I started too warm and I had to adjust this later.

All in all, I think this idea is worth taking to the next step - a larger studio piece.

Mt Barney Study, Oil, 10x12 Inches, Oct 2018

Note About Studies: I recommend you do not take studies too seriously. You want them to be quick and playful. The main benefit of doing studies is that you can paint without the worry of making mistakes. This benefit gets negated if you take the studies too seriously.

I also recommend that you focus on one or two elements when doing studies. For example, if you are doing a color study, then just focus on color and overlook the other elements. In my study from above, I completely overlooked delicate brushwork and accuracy. I was focused mostly on color and composition to some extent.

Committing To The Idea

By now, you should be ready to fully commit to the idea and turn it into a finished painting. If you followed the previous steps, then there is a good chance your painting will turn out well.

Now you need to focus on executing the idea and translating it to the canvas. I have found that the execution is much easier when you have thoroughly planned the painting and explored the idea.

I have walked you through my process using the Mount Barney reference. I will be committing to that idea and will turn it into a more serious painting. I will let you know how it goes.

Hopefully, this gives you some insight on what goes on before brush hits the canvas. It is worth noting that this is just my process and what works for me, may not work for you. Also, I do not go to these lengths for every painting I create. Sometimes, I prefer to just jump straight into it once inspiration strikes.

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you learned something new! If you found the post useful, please share. Also, don't forget to subscribe and get my free Painting For Beginners Guide

If you are new to painting, I suggest you check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways To Improve Your Paintings.

Happy painting!

Draw Paint Academy

The post Planning A Painting – Turning A Simple Idea Into Something Worth Painting appeared first on Draw Paint Academy.

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