Here we are, another week gone, another blog coming to you, the end of July, and I can’t help but say, “Where is the summer going so fast?”!
Last week we talked about my creative process, obtaining the images, and composing them for the poster painting. This week I would like to discuss “Style”, with a capital “S”! I could just paint the posters in the same style each season, but I would like to experiment with throwing at least a hint of a past master’s style into the mix. For example, for the Marriage of Figaro poster, I wanted something very rich, and colorful. Mozart is a complex composer, so I thought about ‘what would a pointillist like Seurat, Signac, or even a more modern extreme, like Bonnard do’? Now I had to take in account the time constraints, as Seurat would take close to a year, and make the piece on a huge canvas. It was a good experiment, and I ended up very happy with the results, however, I realized it was not very practical for the time allowed, and making tiny dabs of paint can be tedious for a piece that large.
This year, I wanted to do La Boheme with a French style, which reflected the period and mood. Since we had jumped the time forward a trifle, some of the styles originally under consideration were not on the table any longer. Actually I was happy about that, because it moved me into a much more interesting set of painters. This was the height of the impressionists and the beginning of the post-impressionists popularity. And so naturally, I ran to Henri Toulouse Lautrec! He had a great style to emulate, and even worked within the artist’s realm where we were to call home for this production. I did many little studies in color, using his approach, but it just wasn’t a look I thought the art director would like, so I turned to look again at the master’s master. Of course! Edgar Degas, the man Lautrec emulated! And here is where I found the perfect inspiration! About this time in history, Degas was almost blind, and so his paintings were even more vibrant with color, but his subject’s features were almost non-existent. I had to do some backtracking to about ten to twenty years earlier in his career, but still the style was there. That is a hint of what I am using in the Boheme poster for this season. I read as much as I could find on Degas’s actual painting process, looked at as many photographs as I could find, and paid a visit to the De Young Museum of San Francisco, to see the impressionist show currently on view. Some 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to spend many days at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, where there is a vast collection of Degas and Lautrec originals. I am not trying to create a duplication of his work, maybe in another 30 years of trying I could succeed at that endeavor, but just give a flavor of his work to my own style. As my own style is still evolving, I know the influence of many artists resides there already, some which I can identify, and some a little harder to find. I am just adding a little extra Degas for this one poster!
Oddly enough, the impressionists were greatly influenced by the simple compositions, and graphic like treatments of master Japanese printmakers like Hokusai, which brings us back to The Mikado. I didn’t want to use an impressionist style on this poster, it wouldn’t have made any sense, but the composition is along the same thinking lines of graphic treatment that were very popular in that time period. I have only to keep it simple to make it work. And that reminds me, I must also point out that although the two posters will never be up around town at the same time, they will be side by side in the advertising and subscription brochures for the coming season. They must have some aspects that tie the two shows together. This year, color will play a large part of unification, and of course the graphic use of composition.
I am coming down to the wire on the paintings, they are far from finished, and my deadline was just moved closer by a few days. I will have to spend more time painting and less time contemplating if I want to make my deadline. I’ve never missed one yet, but next week’s blog will know better where I am. I have ordered and received extra sable filbert brushes to accomplish the style, and I have some more paint ordered and on the way, just in case.
Next week I will talk about the “honeymoon” vs. the Slogging through stages of the painting, and painting choices. I’ll also throw in another compositional lesson, which is so important, on value. You will know where to find me this week!