M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Landscape Paintings by F.E. Church

The Icebergs (originally The Union), by Frederic E. Church, on display
at the Dallas Museum of Art

The Icebergs, by Frederic Edwin Church, 1861. Collection the
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas.

Oil Sketchs for The Icebergs

Sunset from Olana, by Frederic Edwin Church, July 2, 1870, oil, 11 1/6 x 15 1/8. Reproduced in the book Glories of the Hudson. Frederic Edwin Church's Views From Olana
(Cornell University Press, 2009).
I've always considered the 19th Century artist Frederic Edwin Church to be one of the greatest landscape painters, in part because I live along the Hudson River that he painted so often, and in part because his technique was so efficient and effective. His oil sketches show how much information can be recorded quickly if one is skilled at handling a bristle brush and various combinations of oil colors. In addition, his skills as a painter were matched by his cleverness in creating dramatic pictures and marketing them expertly. He made a point of painting exotic, unknown locations and exhibiting them in tents set up to make the massive canvases available to the general public.
Take for example, his painting of The Icebergs, one of the jewels in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. I had a chance to see the painting during a recent press trip sponsored by the Dallas Sheraton Hotel, and I bought a book on the painting that details its fascinating history. Church first titled the painting was The Union because he wanted to appeal to northern collectors during the Civil War, but he later changed the title when it seemed likely a British collector sympathetic to the Confederacy would purchase the painting.
Church's home in Hudson, New York has become a mecca for landscape painters who admire the 19th century artist as I do, and there is a new book reproducing a number of the oil sketches Church painted from his mountain-top home. Most were done quickly to capture the fleeting colors and light of dawn and dusk, and very few were ever developed into larger studio paintings. The founders of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York acquired a large collection of Church's sketches because they believed they would be instructive to art students. I totally agree with the women who bought the sketches from the artist's estate.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pigment Sticks and Encaustics

Cynthia Winika applies melted encaustic paint to an Encausticbord panel.

Cynthia using a heat gun to fuse RandF encaustics to the panel

Cynthia demonstrating a range of techniques possible with encaustics, including scraping into the wax and pigment, adding collage elements, and building up thick textures.

I recently participated in a one-day workshop in encaustic painting at the offices of RandF Handmade Paints (http://www.rdpaints.com/) in Kingston, New York. Artist Cynthia Winika gave me a tour of the plant where RandF Pigment Sticks and RandF Encaustic Paints are made, and then she demonstrated a range of techniques using the sticks made from wax, pigment, and damar crystals. Cynthia also introduced a new board made specifically for encaustic by Ampersand that is called Encausticbord.
Encaustic is one of the oldest painting materials and is usually associated with Egyptian mummy portraits painted on wood and wrapped with the bodies of noble persons; but there are a number of contemporary artists like Jasper Johns, Nancy Graves, Linda Benglis, and Richard Serra who use the medium to create paintings that can have either a matte finish, textured surface or a jewel -like polished finish. RandF makes their sticks by combining bees wax with pigment and a small amount of damar so they can be melted, applied to a rigid support, fused with heat, and then polished. The company provides literature to explain the process and also offers workshops in their offices and at other locations.
RandF Handmade Paints also manufactures Pigment Sticks, a solid form of oil color that can be used with tube colors to create paintings. I plan to use the sticks during the initial drawing stage of my painting process because they allow me to translate the direct action of my hand and arm to the initial lines on a canvas or panel, and I can then dissolve the paint to establish the big shapes within a landscape or figure painting.
I'll be introducing RandF Pigment Sticks to the students who participate in my upcoming workshop in Hawaii, and I'll be posting the results on this blog.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Drawing & Painting With Other Artists

Wendy Walworth painting the landscape en plein air.

Patricia Watwood painting on a chilly Friday afternoon.

John Dowd painting the spring landscape
My charcoal portrait drawing of Roland Szegi

Over the weekend of April 9-11, 2010, Christopher ("Kip") Forbes hosted a group of 11 artists at his estate, Timberfield, in New Jersey. Roland Szegi and Chase Keller posed in the living room of one of the cottage and in a walled garden, and a number of artists painted landscape on the grounds. There will be a short article about the gather in the summer issue of Workshop magazine (http://www.artistdaily.com/), and an exhibition of the artists' work will be held in the fall at the Forbes Galleries at 60 Fifth Avenue in New York.

This was the sixth collaboration between Forbes,Inc and American Artist. Three were held at the Forbes Trinchera Ranch in Colorado (1996, 1999, and 2006), one at the Forbes Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy, France (1997), and one at Old Battersea House in London (2004). Following in the tradition of previous gatherings, the artists and hosts had an enjoyable time together, and the artists created great artwork.