Friday, 18 February 2011

Van Gogh Style

Parallel Project 6 - Spring

As part of Parallel Project 6, I decided to paint a picture in Van Gogh's style.  He falls neither in Expressionism, Symbolism nor Impressionism, his style is unique, although I tend to think of his style as closer to the Fauves, merely because of his great understanding of colour.  I am lucky enough to have inherited an old Phaidon publication with beautiful illustrations of his work including drawings and have always been very impressed by his work.  Despite the unhappiness and mental trauma he experienced his work is vibrant and joyous, it is also produced at a rapid rate, which is why the sponteneity is so evident.

The Merzbacher Collection, founded by Bernhard Mayer, is concerned with colour with its emphasis on Impressionism, Fauvism, German Expressionism and the early Russian Constructivists, and Van Gogh's work is naturally included in the Collection.

The painting I had beside me as inspiration was The Plain of La Crau with an Orchard, painted in 1889.  It is remarkable that his houses are presented in minimal fashion and are mostly outlined with dark lines yet they do not become boxy or rigid but remain fluid.  The fluidity of his expressionistic style is what marks Van Gogh out.  His use of colour is never strident or garish because it is always carefully modulated with either a contrasting or related colour, depending on the tonal effect he wants to create.  His brother Theo whilst supporting his older brother financially and emotionally, did not always have confidence in Van Gogh's work. It was such a departure even from the Impressionists, who struggled enough to become accepted, that it is not surprising that the general public did not know what to make of his work.  For me, his most skillful portrait (next to his own self-portrait  of 1889)  is that of Camille Roulin painted in 1888 whilst the artist was at Arles.

 I tend to fiddle when painting and am fairly bogged down in representational work, which is why I decided to come on this course as I want to loosen up and feel the unfettered joy when liberated from the traditional school of painting.  I felt when I painted this, crumbs can it be regarded as a finished work, being so hastily created.  The result I felt was much freer than my usual work and I think it shows.

I used the vibrant pthalo blue for the sky with broken brush marks and explored the use of various mixed greens as well as some used straight from the tube, hints of viridian, cadmium yellow mixed with cerulian, ultramarine or pthalo blue, yellow ochre, olive green.  Van Gogh appears to use viridian and cerulian or viridian with a little white and ultramarine quite a lot in his work, he always contrasts it with orange, red or yellow.  The composition I chose was of the cottages at Shelley in Suffolk, where it is slightly hilly.  The lane is very narrow so it was difficult to park, but I did a quick sketch in a passing space and took photos. Because I wanted to emulate Van Gogh's trees, they developed foliage so the scene probably looks more like summer than spring. However he didn't allow reality to interfere with his compositions and it didn't with my own.  I was pleased with the light effect of the painting, there is air to breathe.

In addition to the above I did an A2 drawing in pastel on paper, but found it a bit unwealdy.  I used a canvas board to clip the paper to but it wasn't terribly satisfactory. I don't think pastel was the best medium to use for this project as Van Gogh was very exuberant with his paint.  I tried to be so with the pastels but I am not sure it comes across.

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