Wednesday, September 1, 2010

discord, tone, George Inness and a question

12x12 oil on panel

This is a painting that I have struggled with for months and continue to struggle. It is a studio painting.  I have painted in this particular location on the C and O canal, so many times, for so many years, that I decided to use it as my muse for this painting. I felt that it's was simply inside of me. No need to be there, no need for photos of plein air paintings as reference.  The painting has gone through many metamorphoses. I question...would the water look better if it were lighter in front? What do you think?

I keep thinking about George Inness.
I  read George Inness over and over again. This particular part is streaming through my head.

Once after asking his son (a painter himself), "How does it look?" George Inness Jr. (the son) says, "Fine Pop, all right beautiful. Fine tone." The senior and master George Inness answers, "Yes, it has things in it, but it's stupid. Confound it! it's too good: it's all tone. That's what's the matter with it.  I've got too much detail in the foreground. That's the thing we are all running up against  to tickle the buyer- to make a few dollars.  Those weeds don't mean a thing. Let's take them out; they are not the picture. The picture is very good but it is all tone."  
The son replies," Yes Pop, but that's what I like about it, it's beautiful in tone.." Senior George Inness replies, " Perhaps , but that is what makes it stupid. Why in thunder can't I put something in it that's out of tone? You see there's no interest in this picture.  It's well drawn, yes, well constructed , well painted, and perfectly tonal;  but there's no passion in it. A picture without passion has no meaning, and it would be far better it had never been painted.  Imitation is worthless.  Photography does it much better than you or I could. In a bar-room in New York is a painting of a barn door with hinges on it and a key-hole. It is painted so well that you would swear that the hinges were real and that you could put your finger in the key hole; but it is not real! It is not what it represents. It is a lie. Clever, yes, but it gives you no sensation of truth, before you look at it you are told that it is a lie. The only charm in this picture is deceiving you into the belief that it is a real barn door.  Now in  art, true art, we are not seeking to deceive. We do not pretend  that  this is a real tree, a real river; but we use the tree or river as a means to give you the feeling or impression that under a certain effect is being produced upon us."

His words sit firmly in the front of my mind. As I look at this one now, after writing that, I it too "in tone" and is need a certain amount of discord? It needs changes... but what?


Donna T said...

This is such a beautiful painting, Loriann, so soft and quiet. I looked through all the river paintings on your website (totally enjoyable task) and noticed that in some you made the foreground lighter while in others you made it darker. Maybe it's just me, but my impression was that the ones with the lighter foreground had an overall brighter mood while those with the deep, dark foregrounds were somehow quieter or more subdued. If you had one word to describe the feeling of this one what would it be? A few horizontal strokes of the sky color might make the water look more real but to me, your work is much more about the feel. Maybe others will have thoughts that make more sense or are more helpful!

susan hong-sammons said...

I think your struggles have paid off. This is wonderful. I prefer the water as is because I think if the light value of the water was at the bottom the perspective would tip towards you.

Double "D" said...

Good Morning B,
Nice painting but you're right, it needs something.
For one, I don't hear any singing ... the diva is hiding somewhere. To me it's always about the darkest dark against the lightest light to create that focal point.
There is nothing leading the eye to where the river disappears. If you go back to August 22nd when you were looking for opinions on which painting to enter.
The painting on the left has a perfect diva. The road curves close to the darkest trees on the left, this is where your brightest light is. Beautiful diva/focal point. Looking at todays painting it seems that has the trees disappear on the left are a little closer than the ones on the right. Maybe the light area of the canal could be even brighter/lighter to help create some interest for the eye to be lead there. Possibly the trees on the left could be a bit more layered with the distant layer being slightly darker to create more interest at that point. Possibly the closest trees on the right could be slightly darker closer the to water to create a little definition to move the eye back along the water line. I might suggest the same to the trees in the left foreground. With these suggestions I would not make the water lighter in the foreground. Just a little more definition in the tree's and a lighter river in the distance. Those are my thoughts and I wish you good luck on your decisions. I know you'll do the right thing ... right? Have a great day Miss B!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

It looks like your painting is waiting for your to decide to nail down the "certain effect" that is being produced on you (to quote your Inness quote).

Flat water, with no current or wind disturbing its surface, will look darker as it comes toward you, unless it is very shallow and the light is such that you can peer through the water to the lightened floor below the water's surface.

If you decided to go darker with the foreground water, the trees on the left and their reflection would need to be a bit lighter. Or broken up with a single horizontal ripple line.

What effect are you expressing in this piece? The answer to that question will guide your decisions for what comes next.

Lisa said...

A few humble thoughts....
I would make the water darker at the front with something floating on it so I could introduce that warm green to highlight them. They could also help with leading the eye through to the light on the bend. The treeline on the left could be extended to the right it ends very nearly central on the horizon.
This painting is like visual meditation. I can't wait to see it completed.

Nika said...

You're right, it's well painted, but...I feel it doesn't make me want to participate in it. There's nowhere for the eye to travel, no conflict to resolve. Remember how Wolf Kahn says that every painting "is a problem that needs to be solved". Well, here it seems there's no problem, and that's the main problem:)
As soon as you find out what "the problem" is the ways of resolving it will become obvious to you.

SamArtDog said...

I think Nika is right; not enough conflict, nary a ripple. Isn't there a hurricane headed your way? That ought to stir things up!

loriann said...

Hi Donna, Susan, PB, Katherine, Lisa, Nika, and Sam,

Thank you so much for all your insights and for taking the time to write them. I have taken in all the ideas and will need some time to think before answering to my next direction. I really appreciate having so many wonderful "studio mates" to bounce ideas off of. I have to make it through this week then I can really hunker down to making it work. When obstacles appear in the road it's best to reflect.
Thank you, thank you thank you!!!

cheers, Loriann

Susannah said...

All I can tell you is when I clicked on display images and first saw this painting, it caught my breath. Then it captured my eyes and wouldn't let go. I would hope you wouldn't change a thing and let it be as it is, as it so beautifully IS.

Lisa McShane said...

Hah! I LOVE that long quote. And I think I understand it. Painting is a struggle.

loriann said...

Hi Susannah! Thank you so much for your kind words! I am still not sure what to do..stay tuned:-)

Hi Lisa,
George Inness was a such thing as a short quote. Glad you like ti!