Part 6 – Parallel Projects
Exercise 1: Pointillism
I found the Pointillist exercise hard on the old knuckles! I enjoyed it more than I thought I would because having done it years ago the result then turned out to be rather an airless method of painting. I think the Impressionists also found this to be the case, as many tried it but reverted to their Impressionist style afterwards. Pissarro painted Woman in an enclosure in 1887 and Apple Trees in Blossom, 1885-1890 but soon reverted to his original style. Seurat, continued to paint in the style, making almost a scientific study of the method, when one thinks of Pointillism it is his work that comes to mind, Paul Signac was a contemporary practicing the same style. I believe Gercault’s Raft of the Medusa uses a similar technique on a bead of water painted red on one side, green on the other and white in the middle. Interestingly, Delacroix was a model for the painting.
The Fauves, which included artists such as Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and George Braque, developed a unique style of painting which explored the use of colour in a way not really seen since Van Gogh. They took his style and that of Pointillism and explored pure colour in a semi-abstract way. Vlaminck's Potato Pickers, enabled the artist to explore the lighter brighter side of his painting style away from the rather dark paintings that he was also known for. Andre Derain's Boats in the Port of Collioure shows the effect of Pointillism. Even Kandinsky in his Autumn Landscape with boats, shows the influence of the technique on his early realistic style, before he moved into Abstraction.
My Spring Hedgerow painting uses a similar technique. I have used pastel inreds and blues to create purple in the shadows, and greens and reds to bring the sparkle out in the trees. The optical effect of this method helps with pastel which can sometimes be rather flat. Using small strokes of contrasting colours brings the light into the picture. The disadvantage is that some areas, branches, for example, really do need to be expressed in line. Foliage would probably be rendered in a similar fashion regardless of “style”. One can add highlights much as Constable added his famous white dots or “snow” to replicate the sparkle of sunlight.
Using this method does enable you to create tone and depth but it is important that the size of the dots are modulated in the distance. I found that one considered colour combinations much more, and had to find intense darker pastels in order to render tone effectively, and from this point of view the range of pastels available with varying degrees of hardness and softness were essential. Regrettably I only have the tiniest piece of a really good soft white which I use for highlights in eyes for portraits and have not been able to find a replacement. Unlike paints in tubes once the wrapper has gone from a pastel, you have no idea who made it and what it is called.
I also did an oil pastel picture of daffodils in a vase. I was frustrated with progress of this painting at the outset, but once it began to materialize I felt happier. This, I found, was one of the problems with Pointillism, as I do not like to include an under-drawing, preferring to draw direct.
Check and Log
- Have you created an effective image using these techniques?
I am satisfied with the picture I have created but probably wouldn’t do something similar by choice as it is a slow process which is not rewarding until the work is finished. It is a bit like filling in the dots.
- How can you use these techniques in your own work?
Whilst I would not wish to embark on a full-scale pointillist work, the method did provide reminders of contrasting colours and the importance of scale in the distance as well as awareness of the hardness/softness qualities of various pastels.
- How can you continue the experimentation with this technique?