Sunday, July 25, 2010

Forgeries and The Magic in Paintings

“A painter who wants to involve viewers emotionally needs to leave us some work to do ourselves.  Once having collaborated, we find ourselves hooked.  A painstaking, seemingly perfect depiction of reality has its charms… but a painting that contains less hard information may nonetheless seem more real and compelling.  Consider a Manet oil of horses thundering down the track, all blur and commotion and energy.”  The quote is from The Forger’s Spell, a book  about VerMeer forgeries.  I thought it was a very good book, interesting in that I learned a lot about art forgeries and what well may have been the first acrylic paint. 

As for the art forgeries, now that I’ve read this I believe I have seen at least one Degas forgery.  At the time I saw the painting my first thought was that Degas was probably turning over in his grave thinking surely he should have destroyed this one.  Now that I’ve seen photos of some of the VerMeer forgeries I wonder how anyone could have thought they were VerMeer. Then I had another thought about art and art snobbery but that’s a whole different topic.

What I’ve been thinking about recently is the thing this was so hard for me to learn to do in my paintings.  I wonder if other artists struggle with it too.  I’m thinking of the quote above and two I have on my easel … “If it becomes too real it loses the magic,”  Claude Monet and “Don’t draw the object, design the page,” Alex Powers.  And from another book I just finished, The Swan Thieves, “That little bit of mystery every painting needs to be successful…”

I still struggle with it; that’s one of the reasons I was so pleased when I finally figured out a way to lose some of those edges in my painting and still do a very detailed , no magic about it, drawing.  Once the drawing is done, transfer it to the watercolor paper and begin a process of masking and pouring.  I haven’t done a painting in awhile because I have my grandson here a couple days a week.  That prompted me to start doing more sketching which is always loose. 

hearthstone 6 17 birch 7 23


Dean H. said...

Helen, A big 'Amen' to your thoughts here on keeping the magic alive! My goal is to invite the viewer in...have a look around...and enjoy interpreting many areas of a painting. Though I'm not always successful, it's still a challenging goal.

Love your three watercolors!!

Beth Parker said...

Great post, Helen! I struggle with realism. (okay.... you can stop laughing) I enjoy designing the page, as you so aptly put it. When I am trying to paint the realistic stuff, I am too hard on myself, too. I want all the details to be perfect and it takes the joy out of it. Creating a "Beth" painting is way more fun!

Your loose watercolors are gorgeous, by the way!!