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08/05/2009

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It is, of course, just beautiful.

It's coming along swimmingly, Tim! Thanks for showing off its stages; always something I love to see an artist do.

If you wouldn't mind addressing something about your aesthetic and style, especially with still-life paintings, that's always puzzled me, which it looks like you lean to here as well (though we won't know for sure til it's done) -- it's your corners. The painting doesn't seem to work all the way out there in a lot of your work. In fact, we often see the very ground poking through all the corners where you leave the paint thin. Even in this unfinished piece your brush strokes move in a circular direction around the still life objects, thinning to the corners leaving a vignetted effect.

This is actually a major distraction for me though I don't begrudge you it. I would appreciate what thought you have that leads to such an approach. Personally, I'm always thinking as much about how things relate to the canvas edge as much as to how they relate internally, and vignetting is an approach that reads to me as basically ignoring the edges, which pulls me out of the overall ability to be completely absorbed into the piece.

There are really two aspects to your critique, Adam; the vignette and the directional brush marks.

The vignette is a common convention in traditional still life painting, utilized somewhat by many painters from Caravaggio to Rembrandt, so I'm sure I picked it up from exposure to sources like that. In art school vignetting was roundly derided as a crutch, but I wonder how much of that was really due to it's being associated with traditional (old fashioned)techniques and subjects. Vignetting is one way to relate to the edge... partucularly in straight-on tabletop still lifes where the front edge of the table is in view. Without a *little* softening of that line as it moves toward the outer edge, it could easily lead the eye right out of the picture, as well as create a very defined rectangle at the bottom of the piece that might be problematic.

There are other ways to deal with those issues, but I will argue that the vignette is one legitimate approach. The objects in this particular still life are all basically curvelinear, so I think the presence of an unrelieved straight edge spanning the width of the painting might have been somewhat jarring in contrast.

I am, however thinking along the lines of taking my still lifes in a more contemporary direction in terms of point of view, arrangement, composition, and so forth, and that will involve more direct interaction with the edges, objects passing out of the picture plane, etc...

I confess the directional brush marks are a habit that I picked up without thinking much about it. From time to time I have used a bunched rag to texture a wet toned ground (just dabbing, not wiping) and this gives a nice textural effect without the directional marks. Anyway, I will think more about the pros and cons of the swirling effect in the future. Sorry you found it a distraction! I haven't heard that particular criticism before, but I'm sure your response is not unique.

I'd be surprised if you heard it much as a criticism ... I'm pretty confident that the way it distracts myself is a personal idiosyncrasy. Your paintings are really stellar and your work is definitely an inspiration to me to keep painting, especially to revisit still life work which I haven't done in years.

Thanks for sharing so much with this painting, I'm looking forward to seeing its completion.

I like the vignette approach myself. On a kind of similar note, my favorite portrait paintings by Frans Hals are the ones that leave much of the clothing and background loose and just blocked in, with the face in greater detail. It's a method that brings the eye in.

"I'd be surprised if you heard it much as a criticism ..."

I make a distinction between a critique and a criticism, Adam. An honest response is always welcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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