Monday, December 31, 2007

Water Reflections, Part 3

This is the last of a three-part series on water reflections. Reflections appear spontaneous and gestural, but they also follow definite laws.

Here’s a detail from a recent painting (page 31 of the new Dinotopia book), showing how an image is broken up by the wavelets. Edges with strong contrasts, like the brightly lit wall against the sky, or the dark boat hull, break up in a loose—but controlled—painterly way.

But subordinate edges, like the metal railings or the edge of the column, are blended and lost in the reflection. They might show up in a high-speed photo of the reflections (assuming the scene were real), but I don’t think the human eye would perceive them in real life.

In this plein-air painting in Mamaronek Harbor, I started with a warm underpainting and then laid down a light tone for the color of the reflected sky. Over this thinly painted but wet oil layer I added the calligraphic strokes of the reflections of the boat hulls.

This is a detail of the painting of Chandara from the new Dinotopia book. For a reflection like this, which follows the architecture very exactly, the perspective must be carefully constructed, even though the final reflections are painted quickly and gesturally.


The architectural forms in the reflection are drawn to the same vanishing points as the real forms in the scene. It’s not the same 2-D image inverted. That’s why the slope of the eves on the real projecting bay window (1) are different from the slope of the same forms in the reflection (2).

Perhaps there’s a broader lesson here about the artistic state of mind. I believe that the act of painting often consists of this strange combination of precision and freedom, accuracy and looseness. We need to think about physics and geometry, but at the same time, we have to surrender to an irrational impulse.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

About the artistic state of mind. I believe that the act of painting often consists of this strange combination of precision and freedom, accuracy and looseness. We need to think about physics and the geometry, but at the same time, we have to surrender to an irrational impulse. Says JAMES...

yes, the irrational impulse : if you allow seems to come from deep level of CONCENTRATION... The artist feels then this " loseness" that allows something else ( the spirit ? the brain ? who knows ? ) to start action...probably the same " level " as actors when they ARE their parts...

Anonymous said...

About the artistic state of mind. I believe that the act of painting often consists of this strange combination of precision and freedom, accuracy and looseness. We need to think about physics and the geometry, but at the same time, we have to surrender to an irrational impulse. Says JAMES...

yes, the irrational impulse : if you allow seems to come from deep level of CONCENTRATION... The artist feels then this " loseness" that allows something else ( the spirit ? the brain ? who knows ? ) to start action...probably the same " level " as actors when they ARE their parts...

Anonymous said...

oops, forgive me for double posting...

have a nice day,
sylvia,
arimathee.blogspot.com

Ezra Suko said...

Great posts James - I love the images! I always have struggled with getting too sloppy and careless on the one hand, and getting too tight and rigid on the other.

Do you have a certain brush you recommend for painting those broken reflections?

christy said...

"I believe that the act of painting often consists of this strange combination of precision and freedom, accuracy and looseness. We need to think about physics and the geometry, but at the same time, we have to surrender to an irrational impulse."

this is a great quote! so true! it seems once you understand well the technicalities of the craft then you gain freedom to do what your heart wants without having to think (consciously) so much about the technical aspects.

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Thank you, Jim, for another thought provoking post! I've been thinking, off and on, about these words all day:

"this strange combination of precision and freedom, accuracy and looseness."

I think you're describing what some have called "being in the flow." I don't paint or draw enough to get in the flow, but I often experience it while teaching, especially while engaged in the art of storytelling.

Like a painter who's got physics and geometry in mind, a storyteller knows the characters, conflict, setting, and so forth, but the fun of story telling (for me, at least) is finding that "flow" when the story begins to tell itself. Often new story elements show up unexpectedly. It feel more like the story comes through the story teller as opposed to out of his or her imagination, per se.

Sylvia mentioned actors, and I'm sure dancers, musicians, athletes and other artists enjoy playing in magical zone that we call "in the flow."

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan, thanks for answering, great to hear from you....yes dancers too, allow me quote this incredible " pas de deux " danced by russians in this Masterpiece from choregrapher William Forsythe ( grat " music " too)....In the middle somewhat elevated....
The two people dance and they just start to " fly " as the shape they perform resemble the Moon kites from Malaysia....you find it on Utube....

sylvia
arimathee.blogspot.com

Marcos Mateu said...

Fantastic blog, artwork and articles included

gayle said...

is there any difference to approaching reflections in metals, rather than water? A student of mine wants to paint a still life of shiny metal objects and while I can do this myself, intuitively, I want to have some concrete guidelines to offer her. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

i think the irrational part is how the artist instinctively think that
or under stand or feel what is right as de vinchi said dont be a slave to your model he said
i do truly believe art is instinctive or maybe just follows rhythm or maybe its what that kemon dude said we shouldn't be soo cold and heartless to our imagination like or maybe that its more fun that way

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William Johnston said...

So glad I rediscovered Dinotopia after almost 19 years :)