The Sight & Insight Podcast

Episode 24: Copying the Masters

Welcome to another edition of the Sight and Insight Podcast. This week, our intrepid trio, David, Connie and Judy, willbe discussing the weighty topic of copying from the masters.

Is it sneaky, as some people think, or cheating; or is it an age old method of learning to paint better by studying closely, and emulating the work of, old masters who have stood the test of time?

During today's episode, Connie relates the tale of how she finally managed to get access to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to copy Monet's Grand Canal. This is her version below. She also made a copy of Antonio Cirino's Peonies from the Rockport Art Association and Museum's Copying the Masters Workshop earlier this year. 

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As Connie says, it is important to see how a past master has designed and created their work of art, especially their color tones and brushwork. Studying these elements can only make your own work better.

While on his Paige Traveling Scholarship in Europe, in 1913, A. T. Hibbard - as a graduate art student from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was admitted to the Museo del Parado in Madrid to copy from Velazquez, including Las Hilanderas (The Weavers) below.

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Of course, the criteria for copying another's creation is that it should not be sight size. In Hibbard's case, he did a large painting of the lower right hand side of the painting. Hibbard's version is now a part of the RAA&M's Permanent Collection. 

There are many reasons for practicing copying from the masters, not least of which is improving your own art. David teaches an annual workshop at the RAA&M, so if you want to try improving your art by this method, keep checking David's website at davidpcurtis.com for more details.

In the meantime, if you would like to view Connie and David's upcoming exhibition, Three With a Brush, with their painting friend, Tom Heinsohn, check out the invitation below. Or view Connie's website at lorwenpaintings.com for further details. 

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And don't forget, David and Connie are teaching a Sight and Insight workshop, October Skies, October 10-12, 2018.

Want to know how to paint better skies with movement and drama? Then check David and Connie's websites for further information on how to sign up. Still a few places available. Don't lose out!

And, last but not least, if you have enjoyed this podcast, don't forget to hit the red follow button, so you don't miss out on another episode. 

Have a great week!

Connie, David and Judy

PS. Next week we will be talking about the current Don Stone: Coming Home Exhibition at the North Shore Arts Association, 11 Pirates Lane, Gloucester, MA 01930 Ph. 978.283.1857 or email: arts@nsarts.org

This is a great exhibition containing over 100 paintings. Judy will also be giving a presentation on Don Stone and his work on Sunday, September 30 at 2 pm. Come along and join the fun.

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Episode 23: Elements of Nature

"Art not only imitates nature, but also completes its deficiencies." — Aristotle

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Willard L. Metcalf, Flying Shadows, 1905, o/c, 26 x 29

Well, if we are already quoting Aristotle, you can tell we are going to be covering some pretty deep thoughts in this week's podcast on 'Elements of Nature!' 

Deep it may be, but the problems or, rather, the challenges of painting nature are not insurmountable. On a basic level, the artist just has to consider all the elements help, or hinder, their painting, and then go from there. And it is perfectly permissable to whip out your artistic licence and brandish it at anyone who dares to complain you moved a tree or moved a rock from one place to another because it composed better. 

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A. T. Hibbard, Lingering Snow, 1917, ocb, 9 1/2 x 11 1/2, Vose Galleries, Boston

Artist A. T. Hibbard was noted for moving elements around to make a better composition. Nature, as beautiful as she is, is not constrained by the size of her canvas and, therefore, occasonally - to create a better a better design - it is necessary for an artist to adjust elements to look good within the parameters of their canvas.

"Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms."  — Milton Avery

If you would like help designing your elements of nature, check out David and Connie's Sight & Insight 'October Skies' workshop, October 10-12, 2018, at davidpcurtis.com or lorwenpaintings.com.  If anyone can help, they can!

And finally, if you have enjoyed this podcast, please 'Follow' us, and then you'll never have to worry about missing an episode!

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Episode 22: Practice, Practice, Practice

Greetings, art lovers; we're back!

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"Learning the art of painting is not an easy task. It takes a great deal of intelligence, keen analysis, study and practice." — Edgar A. Payne

Practice, practice, practice. We’ve all heard this adage from parents, teachers and everyone else who wants to get in on the act. But how much practice do we have to put in before we get anywhere? And will we ever succeed, or will we be students all our lives, trying to put into practice what we’ve learned and get that one perfect picture, essay, novel or piece of music?

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left: John Constable, Landscape with a Double Rainbow, 1812

right: John Constable, Rainstorm Over the Sea, c.1824-28

"There has never been a boy painter, nor can there be. The art requires a long apprenticeship, being mechanical, as well as intellectual." — John Constable

Of course, if you love painting, or writing, or researching history, then working at it doesn’t come across as hard work, or practice; it’s just an opportunity to do something we love and a learning opportunity that makes us better as we go along.

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Lorwen C. Nagle Sketch at Brave Boat Harbor 

"Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know."

— Rembrandt

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David P. Curtis Sketch for Summertime and the Living is Easy

"Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory."

— Leonardo da Vinci

After an illness in 2016, David found himself struggling to get back into painting mode. "In order to motivate myself," he said, "I began painting a whole series of 12 x 16 canvas board sketches, trying to get a fresh look - alla prima - rather than feeling I had to get a perfect painting every time. It turned out to be enjoyable. It lifted the pressure of having to produce a finished canvas while I was still recuperating. Just practicing on 12 x 16's on a regular basis, really helped me get back into top gear."

So there we have it; pratice is a great tool, and can help take us to the next level, not just by improving our technique and skills, but also by taking the pressure off having to produce a masterpiece everytime we pick up a brush, or pen. Wasn’t it the great Italian painter Titian, who said on his deathbed, “I don't want to die now, … I am just beginning to learn to paint.” Which suggests the artist - or any creative individual - should always be a student; always learning, always challenging themselves to achieve something greater.

“I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.” — Ray Bradbury

 

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Episode 21b: Having a wonderful time - wish you were here, too.

With David and Connie still AWOL, it is left to Judy, working hard in a hot studio, to put a few words together and ensure fans that all will be back to normal next week. Judy has been guiding tours around the Rocky Neck Art Trail, and thanking Heaven that when she emigrated from England in 1986, she ended up living in the wonderfully artistic haven of Cape Ann with its tremendously important history that contributes fully to the background of art in America.

In the meantime, David and Connie are painting up a storm, working en plein air amid nature and trying to capture the light and atmospher with color, brush and canvas. And just to prove it, here are few works in progress:

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David P. Curtis, What, me worry?

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Lorwen The Orange Buoy

Practice makes perfect, and a painting a day keeps the doctor away. — Eleanor Blair

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David P. Curtis, Sarah Long's Bridge

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Lorwen, Symphony in Gold

Practice yourself, for heaven's sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater. — Epictetus 

So while David and Connie are out on location sharpening their skills for their upcoming workshop 'October Skies,' Judy is hard at work at the computer, preparing a presentation on the Art of Don Stone at the North Shore Arts Association, East Gloucester on September 30th. The show just opened so if you get chance to check it out, it will be well worth the visit. For more information visit Don Stone: Coming Home.

And so, until next week when hopefully all returns to normal, we wish you happy painting, and a wonderful week.

Judy

I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it. — Ray Bradbury

 

Episode 21: Painting a Better Painting

Greetings, and welcome to all our followers. As you can no doubt see, we have no podcast this week as Connie and David are on a painting trip in Maine with their friend, Tom Heinsohn. Here they are on location. Looks to me like they are having too much fun!

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Meanwhile, back in the studio Judy was busy putting the finishing touches to two articles for the next issue of the American Art Review, guiding a tour of the Rocky Neck Art trail for RoadScholar, and delivering a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Early Artists of Cape Ann’ for the Sandy Bay Historical Society at the Rockport Public Library. Having attended to all that, Judy is now beavering away at the keyboard to put these few words out so that fans of the Dynamic Trio don’t go into a decline during their absence.

What is it that really makes a painting special? Is there such a thing as the perfect location? Perfect weather conditions? Of course not. So, what does an artist have to do to take the ordinary, and turn it into something super special with an effect of light worthy of being captured on canvas? You don’t have to go to the Rockies, oftentimes there is great material in your own backyard. Or, at least, nearby! It’s just a matter of learning to see, and then design, a great composition. Look below at how the great A. T. Hibbard goes about creating a great painting.

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A. T. Hibbard (1886-1972), Sunlit Peak, Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies
Oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 36 1/8, courtesy of Vose Galleries, Boston

Of course, not all of us can get out to the Rockies to capture the grandeur of sunlight hitting the mountains, but Hibbard could always get a terrific painting even if closer to home.

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left: A. T. Hibbard, Clearing, Buzzard's Bay, oc, 32 1/2 x 36 1/2, pc

right: A. T. Hibbard, Rockport Quarry 1920, ROCKBOUND installation, 2017, Cape Ann Museum ©c ryan 20170602_110218

Of course, we are not all A. T. Hibbard's, but even Hibb admitted that painting was more to do with hard work than good luck or talent.

So, do you think you need help? Why not try a Sight and Insight workshop with our very own David and Connie? As practicing artists themselves, they are in a position to teach how to design a better painting based on years of experience.

October 10-13, 2018: October Skies

A Sight and Insight Plein Air Oil Painting Workshop
With Instructors: David P. Curtis and Lorwen ‘Connie’ Nagle

Join David and Connie as they explore the principles of aerial perspective. Learn to design skies, model clouds and paint a fresh plein air landscape in one session!
The Sight and Insight programs are popular, so sign up now. Space is limited.

Tuition $300 pp. Please email via David's contact page at davidpcurtis.com to register. Or visit LorwenPaintings and do the same thing.

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This workshop is suitable for all skill levels and will address the importance of aerial perspective in creating dynamic ‘moving’ alla prima skies. As English painter, John Constable once said, “The sky is the source of light in Nature and it governs everything.”

“Aerial perspective has nothing to do with line, but concerns tone and colors, by the delicate manipulation of which an artist can suggest infinite distance.” — Walter J. Phillips (English-born Canadian painter and printmaker 1884-1963)

Episode 20: Psychology and Art

Join Connie, David and Judy as they consider the question of Psychology and Art. All three have enjoyed reading the works of Carl Jung (1875-1961) the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, although Connie is, of course, the undisputed expert. For instance, why are certain paintings more thought provoking than others? Why are we fascinated by the enigmatic smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa?” Is it more to do with how the artist has expressed himself, or how the viewer reacts? Why do some paintings stay with us, in our memories, to be passed down through centuries, to be appreciated by generation anfter generation. Is it the work of the collective unconscious. Or are other influences at work? 

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Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-06, oil on poplar panel, 30 x 21, Musee du Louvre, Paris

The subject of psychology and art came up during a conversation on how a psychological approach can help an artist paint a better painting; helping us through the roadblocks and obstructions that our own inner psyche throwsup to thwart us. “Getting off autopilot,’ is how Connie phrases it, and ‘Unleashing creative expression.” Mandalas are one way of expressing our inner feelings.

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Chenrezig sand mandala created at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on the occasion of the Dalai Lama's visit in May 2008

Whether we are creating art, or appreciating art, or following other creative endeavors, it is important for us consider all aspects of the process. We may talk of the ‘psychology of building a landscape - including the smaller elements such as trees, rocks and grasses - but that does not mean we have to have a degree in psychoanalysis to be able to progress our work. However. we are all aware in some small way that we are influenced by the colors and textures in a painting, which arouse various feelings and emotions in both the painter and the viewer, including shadow thoughts and projection. As Jung points out, “Color expresses the main psychic functions of man [and woman].”

Ich sage euch: man muß noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können.

  • I tell you: one must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Elihu Vedder, The Fates Gathering in the Stars, 1887, oc, 44.5 x 32.5, Art Institute of Chicago 

The idea of psychology and its influence on our art is not a new subject. One should not be afraid of expanding one's horizon's to encompass a broader range of ideas if it will add an extra dimension to our creativity. There are numerous books out there that will offer food for thought for those who wish to delve a little deeper. For those who might think that Jung is too heavy duty to begin with, why not try Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes - a book that is a must for creative women everywhere - or Shaun McNiff's Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression

"From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious isnot merely conditioned by history, but is the very source of the creative impulse." - Carl Jung

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Episode 19 - Inspiration

What moves those of genius, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough. - Eugene Delacroix

Inspiration -

Did you miss us?! Apologies for the delay in posting the latest episode of the Sight and Insight podcast. We are a day late and all we can say is that the producer was laid low by the heat yesterday. Well, that's her story and she's sticking to it.

However, we are here now, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to share a few thoughts on 'Inspiration.'

Inspiration. What is it, and where does it come from? Can you learn inspiration, or is it one of those things whereby, if you aren't born with it, all is lost? Join Connie, David and Judy as they share their thoughts and opinions. Connie especially, with her psychology background makes some very interesting observations, not least of which is that we have to "get out of autopilot." If you think it applies to you, than take a listen as she tells you how to get out of it.

David talks about how he was inspired by the art of Renaissance painter Paolo Veronse, not to emulate Veronese's subjects, but to be inspired by his sense of design. David then went on to combine what he'd learned about design, with the inspiration of nature, to create his own unique landscapes.

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Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, ca. 1548, o/c, 46 x 64 in. National Gallery, London, Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876

Connie suggests inspiration grows when one challenges onself, as painting outside of your comfort zone can get the creative juices flowing. She also suggests we should work on creative strength training. Sounds good? Stay tuned.

The trio also discuss Ingre's painting of The Source (below) as, perhaps, an explanation of the Muse as a springhead of creativity.

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Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Source(aka The Spring,) ca. 1820 – 1856, o/c, 63 x 30 in. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Bequest of the Countess Duchâtel, 1878.

Meanwhile, Judy remembers how New York artist, and editor of The Masses magazine, John Sloan (1871-1951) came to Rocky Neck, East Gloucester in 1914, at the behest of painter Charles Allan Winter. Generally a painter who waited for inspiration to strike before setting out with his equipment, Sloan produced 90 paintings during that summer of 1914; more than he had accomplished in his career to date. Wherever he looked on Cape Ann, he found something to inspire him, be it an effect of light or the ambiance of an art colony. His own explanation was, “I would set out with my equipment and walk a mile or so until I saw some kind of subject that had exciting plastic rhythms and color textures that could be the starting point of a theme.” What artist could ask for more?

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John Sloan, Helen Taylor Sketching, 1916, oil on canvas, 26 ¼ x 32 ¼ inches, Everson Museum of Art; Gift of Reverend and Mrs. Benjamin Lake, 65.13

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The endless variations of light on dark, dark on light, light against illumination, white on white, black on black, blue on cold, blue on warm and so on, are eternally inspiring.-- Sergei Forostovskii

Until next week, stay cool, and happy painting,

Connie, David and Judy

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Episode 18: Experiencing Painting

"What is art? We ought to very simply let it be what the artist says it is."

—David Smith

Welcome to another podcast in the weekly series ‘Sight and Insight’ with Lorwen ‘Connie’ Nagle and David P. Curtis, both artists and teachers, as well as – in Connie’s case –psychologist, as they talk with writer and Cape Ann art historian, Judith Curtis. This week the trio discuss the topic ‘Experiencing Painting.’

Judith kicks of the discussion with reminiscences of being raised in an English household where, if they did not have original art on the wall, there were at least numerous fine prints by John Constable and A. J. Munnings. Her first art purchase, with an early pay check in her after school career, was a print of The Oyster Gatherers of Cancale by John Singer Sargent.

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John Singer Sargent, Oyster Gatherers of Cancale, Oil on canvas 31 ¼ x 48 ½ in. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

David says that experiencing painting is akin to understanding the history of the world through art, while Connie suggests that it is more a case of identifying with individual subject matter, or the feelings aroused by a particular piece.

The real question is, what do you think?

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"From the artist there is no conscious effort to find universal truth or beauty, no effort to analyze other men's minds in order to speak for them. His act in art is an act of personal conviction and identity."

—David Smith

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Episode 17 - Warm and Cool Colors

Warm and Cool ... and what it means for the artist.

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Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) Oil on canvas

Join David, Connie and Judy as they talk about the use of warm and cool colors and how they can help the artist create a stronger compositionin terms of foreground and distance and also as a tool to emphasize form.

High key color is an important facet of the plein air painting and nowhere is it better demonstrated than by the Spanish painter, Sorolla. What is it about warm high key colors that elevate our moods? How can one not be uplifted by the sight of such glorious tones? As David tells his students, "Remember warm and cool colors will  create form in your paintings, that is, concavity and convexity." And, "White makes light, but color makes bright!"

Warm and cool colors also create atmosphere in a painting. Warm colors tend to come forward and cool colors traditionally recede into the background. Look at this piece by John Singer Sargent of Lake O'Hara.

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left: John Singer Sargent, Lake O'Hara, 1916, o/c, Harvard Art Museums/ Fogg Museum, Louise E. Bettens Fund

right: Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Mending the Sails, 1896, o/c, Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Ca’ Pesaro, Venice, Italy 

And so, next time you are setting out to paint plein air, remember to accentuate your warm and cool colors to create a bolder canvas.

"On the sixth day, God created the artist, realizing no doubt that He had far from exhausted the uses of color."

— Robert Brault

Wishing you a great week of painting, or a great week looking at paintings.

Cheers,

David, Connie and Judy

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Episode 16 - Technique

The painterly painter avoids the how-to approach, suspicious as ever, that technique will obscure his or her vision.

— Charles Movalli

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Having finished breakfast, David and Connie made time to sit down with Judy to talk about Technique, before heading out for David's Boats & Buildings workshop, so we may run shorter than usual. 

Thought for the day: Do all artists have a personal technique? Is it important to have a technique, or is it better for an artist to go out there and just keep painting? After all, technique is just "a way of carrying out a particular task; especially the execution or performance of an artistic work...." In that case, every artist should certainly have technique, but sometimes the word becomes confused with other ideas.

After doing a little research, the Dynamic Trio came up with various lists pertaining to technique, including such things as: underpainting, blocking in, building up texture, dry brush, sgraffito, glazing, painting with mediums; the list is endless. But are we really talking technique here? Never heard of sgraffito? Neither had our own intrepid artists. After further detective work, Judy came up with a definition for sgraffito: "removing paint while it is wet to expose the underpainting." This put her in mind of Emma Fordyce MacRae, the noted Cape Ann artist who had a definite style whereby she would remove flakes of paint from her canvas to let the undertones bleed through, creating something of an aged fresco look.

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Picnic on Half Moon Beach, Cape Ann
by Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974) Private collection

So, what do you think? Is technique important, or is it better to concentrate on just doing a better painting through practice and application?

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left: Diego Velazquez, Mars Resting, c. 1640, o/c, 70x37 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid

right: John F. Carlson, Forest Peace, o/c, 40 1/4 x 52 1/2 in. Private collection

"Art is a thing so much of the imagination, of the soul, that it is difficult to descend to the fundamentals of technique and yet make it plain to the student that these are but the 'means' and not an end in themselves."

— John F. Carlson

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