Sunday, July 8, 2012

Part 3: Foliage / Super Soft

Yesterday we looked at highly detailed, leaf-by-leaf renderings of foliage.

At the other extreme is the super-soft approach, as exemplified here by Camille Corot (1796-1875). Each big area of the picture blends into its neighbor. The hard edges are reserved for a few branches, the figures and the distant house.

George Inness (1825-1894) uses softness to convey a spiritual, otherworldly feeling, as well as a sense of atmosphere. To Inness, this softness and simplification was not a technical trick or a gimmick. It was a genuine expression of his own mystical relationship with the natural world. He said, "The poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature...Poetry is the vision of reality."

Emilio Sanchez-Perrier (1855-1907) keeps his masses soft as well, but adds just enough edge detail so that it feels like a complete statement. Perrier is always very careful not to let his extreme darks near the edge of the foliage mass, but instead reserves the dark values for the lower core of the tree.

Tyrus Wong (born 1910, and still alive at age 101) was one of the designers of the Disney animated film Bambi. His luminous pastels helped give the film a soft, dreamy look. When he joined the production, Mr. Wong looked at what had been done so far and said, "Too much detail! I tried to keep the thing very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest."

It would have been a very different film had they followed some of the more detailed conceptions. This one is attributed to Gustaf Tenngren (1896-1970).
Book: Walt Disney's Bambi: The Story and the Film


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this--I wish you could do some more video demos on this--I struggle all the time with trees and foliage

Christopher Madden said...

Blakelock is another Artist who blended his philosophy with his pigments. Check out the book on Blakelock that deals with his genius and his madness.

Mark Heng said...

Great post. Interesting to compare "Bambi"'s soft, simplified backgrounds with those of "Sleeping Beauty" in which the obsessive detail overwhelms and distracts from the action and mood.

Keith Parker said...

Kinda makes me feel a little better about the first painting I ever did. It was a long time ago. For whatever reason I ended up in a class with a "teacher" that wanted me to paint landscapes. Things is, I had never in my life even drawn a landscape, so needless to say the foliage was less than impressive.

It's good to know this is a tricky topic even for the pros.

Great info, on all the posts in this series btw!

Anonymous said...

What is interesting about both approaches is that the color is not very "realistic" or true to what really goes on in nature. All the bright greens and hot yellow and chartreuses have been suppressed and replaced with softer ochres and gray greens. Even the detailed Shishkin does not show any bright green! It's been discussed at great length by landscape painters. Greens are easy to look at in nature but difficult to look at in pigment. I wonder why that is?

Keith Parker said...

Perhaps the greens look wrong because we are getting other colors wrong so it throws them out of context.