William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

# 94 - Contrast of Styles




Fellow Art Lovers:

If you’ve been following my work, you’ve surely noticed that I use several different styles or tools for painting: Generally for landscapes in Normandy, I tend to use a palette knife pretty often; and for Philadelphia urban scenes, more often than not I tend to use brushes. Also, in the past few years, I’ve built up my courage and combined the two, because each tool has its own special contributions and there are good reasons to combine them.   

In the last two paintings I produced in Normandy this past summer, I painted one of each – one exclusively with brushes and one exclusively with a palette knife – to see how much impact and emotion I can squeeze out of each method. 



“View from the Castle at Cruelly (above)." The castle of Cruelly is a beautiful structure, and I believe I’ve sketched it several times, although I don’t believe I’ve ever painted the castle itself. But what attracts me a lot is the view of the valley to the west of the castle, with its open fields, the rows of trees, the two smaller structures, the stunning sky and the Norman cows grazing in the field. 

I took the approach of a bit of realism along with some impressionistic freedom.  The three painting sessions of several hours each I spent on the stone veranda attached to the western side of the castle were blessed with sunlight and curious visitors with respect for my work. I love talking with passers-bye while I paint, when they make concise and insightful comments. And, as usual, once I made some decisions about my approach and I felt fully involved in the painting, my right hand didn’t need much instruction. I will admit, however, that I did get a little prissy when I worked on the Norman cows, because I want to make sure they were recognizable in all their glory relaxing in the shade of the nearby trees.    


“Cabins on the Beach at Saint Aubin” (above). I can’t count the number of times I painted the beach at Saint Aubin – certainly more than a dozen. But this time was different. I wanted a different approach that give me the greatest freedom to let me get the most out of my palette knife. (A secret: I have maybe a dozen palette knives, but I have a favorite that I used most of the time.) 

My approach was to simplify the scene, so that I could use the knife to enhance the painting’s surface and make it as interesting as possible. The aspects of the scene on the beach were ideal – with the sky, the rough tide hitting the beach, the jutting slice of land in the fog in the distance, and the white cabin in the foreground. One of the advantages of my palette knife is that I can work over the same section several times to add different colors without their purity blending into the initial paint layer. 

And in some instances, it’s surprising how much detail you can achieve with a palette knife.  But you have to be careful. Once, in a painting-supply store in Paris, I thumbed through a book about painting with palette knives, and the author’s approach was to try to do the kind of painting with a palette knife that you’d do with brushes. That’s not my approach, and I consider her approach wrong. For me, painting with a palette knife is a different experience, and the result you achieve can have a different kind of impact. The strategy is to use the knife for what it is best at.   

I don’t know which painting is the winner, if there is one. Each one should bring out the best possible with the tools I used. So here I’d like to ask for your help. If you have the time, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill 






Friday, August 16, 2019

# 93 - Persistence on Canvas

                                                "Verdant Passage"    

Fellow Art Lovers:

You haven’t heard from me for a while, so, I want to show you some of the works I’ve produced while here in Normandy.  

Before I start giving you a few short explanations about each painting, I just tell you what I discovered while deciding what to write for this blog entry. I’m going to present three paintings, and in all cases, I just kept fiddling with them. Of course, all artists make changes so our paintings are as good as we can get them. And, the old saying says: “The hardest thing for an artist is knowing when to stop.” But this time around, I found my fiddling went on a bit longer than I remember any time in the past. 

I’ll let you decide on looking at the final, maybe, versions of these paintings. 

In “La Digue en Lumiere Douce" (below),” I wanted to simplify the people and the place, and I wanted to offer a new perspective. Why pink? On many evenings the sunset is actually a bright pink. I just carried the theme one step further. In this case, the changes I made were not outrageous. 

                                                      "La Digue en Lumiere Douce"

But with “La Mue a Reviers,” (Below), I not only made numerous changes, but the changes were fundamental. I’ve painted in the village of Reviers numerous times, but I had never realized the beauty of this scene – the colors and reflections of the Mue River, the stonework of the wall and the house, the foliage, the sky. My first version felt wonderful, but I realized the composition was all wring, and I scraped the paint off the canvas. The composition of the second version was perfect, but I didn’t like the surface. More scraping. On the third version, I took my time, and it was a lot better. Of course, I had to come back to maybe five or six times for this or that. What you see is the best I’m capable of. 

                                                       "La Mue a Reviers"

In “Verdant Passage" (Top of page), I wanted to play with the light coming through the trees onto the ground, with the strongest light coming through the opening around the woman, I wanted to show the different colors of the trees and the beauty of their leaves, and I wanted to have a strong focus on the woman. I did spend a good amount of time on the painting, but it was not unreasonable because I knew what I wanted to accomplish. 

I’d like to hear your reactions to the paintings. 

Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

# 92 - A Must Paint Scene at Penn's Landing



                               "Penn's Landing" -This is the finished product.

Fellow Art Lovers:

What could be more of a dream for an artist than a scene that cries out – almost literally raises its voice: “You have to paint me”?  Such a scene raised its voice to me on Penn’s Landing, right between the four-masted sailing ship , the Moshulu, and the Cruiser Olympia. It’s a scene I’ve often walked by along the western bank of the Delaware River. But I hadn’t noticed the beauty of the ensemble - the reflections off the water, the line of yachts moored near the shore, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the far bank across the river. 

I tackled this scene several weeks ago. I set up my portable easel along with all of my painting gear, and I worked for about three and a half hours. Frankly, it was fun. It was sunny, but not too hot (oil paints melt in high temperatures), and a steady stream of art lovers stopped by to give me moral support. 

Then, in my studio, I worked for maybe another four of five sessions to finish the work. To be frank, I believe I could have completed the work a lot more rapidly, but I wanted to be loyal to my rule, which now seems obvious: “Never declare a painting finished until it is absolutely the very best it can be with all of the skill and talent I possess at that moment.”  

I want to show you major steps in the painting’s completion as I pushed forward with it.  Each step is labeled. By the way, the title of the painting is “Penn’s Landing,” and its size is 30 inches by 30 inches. 




1. Here you can see that I've sketched things out with the right proportions and composition, but I haven't decided on the surfaces and not many details are added yet.


2. I've added some details but I can see that the sky is wrong and doesn't add to the drama of the scene. One important thing: I'm feeling very good about the painting, and this good feeling is giving me a confident brush stroke.


3. I've added the reflections off the water, but the clouds are still not right. Also, the surfaces of the objects don't reflect the source of light, and I'm missing opportunities to add drama to a lot of the objects. 


 4. Here the sky is getting better, but a lot of little things need adjustment. Compare this to the final version, and you'll see a lot of small changes I made.


I hope this was interesting for you. Frankly, every painting session took a good measure of thought and just a little bit of bravery. 

Please feel free to offer me your comments. I always appreciate them. 

Thanks for your time and loyalty. 

Best, 

Bill 


Monday, February 18, 2019

# 91 - Good Street Vibes Really Helped "Best Friends"



The painting you’re looking at, entitled “Best Friends,” took a while to bring to life. While the first phases of the painting were – frankly – a wonderful experience, the completion was a little bit drawn out because I was distracted some other issues, one of which I’ll tell you about in just a few minutes. 

I began the painting at the south-east corner of Allegheny Avenue and Tulip Street, in between Interstate 95 and the Allegheny El station. I was facing east, and I could view the church steeples, the telephone poles, the traffic, the people on the sidewalk and a hidden sun breaking through the cloud layer. It was a beautiful scene, and as soon as I laid out the main elements, the act of painting was a true pleasure. (Please remember to click on the image to expand it.) 

But the surprise for me during my four sessions on the street was the interest and the respect of the people who stopped by to glance at my work and chat briefly with me. Without exception, they were friendly, interested in my work, supportive and helpful. When I asked several people to retrace their steps so I could sketch them into the painting and get their proportions right, or snap a few photos for later reference, not one person hesitated. And when I wanted to chat a few minutes longer, they were welcoming and responsive. One gentleman whose home is nearby just happened to have studied art and shared some helpful opinions with me.  

So, what does all of this this mean? Interacting with the people, experiencing their positive spirit – it all transferred positive emotion to me and helped my painting. Of course, this is no new revelation. But I’m just signaling it to you, and it was important to me at that moment. Picking up the right vibes must sink into my painter’s soul and send the right messages to my subconscious and pump out the right hormones, and voilathere you have “Best Friends.”     

The one element that was brimming with an especially positive aura and a visible love of life was the young woman in the foreground on the left. Honestly, she flowed off my brush, and I believe she adds a lot to the painting. 

Now some news: After spending about three years in Northeast Philly, I am returning to 915 Spring Garden. For those of you who have followed my painting for some time, and may have visited me at 915 Arts, you will notice that this was the location of my studio up until just a little over three years ago. And if you visit me at my new studio, which I hope, you’ll notice that the location has benefitted from an extensive renovation.  

Thus, the distraction was and still is for a while the preparation for my move. I should be fully installed toward the end of March. 

My studio at the Loom Annex on Amber Street in North East Philly was humble and provided a place for reflection and serious painting. Very important, the surrounding area was and is an inspiration, because I literally loved painting the people on the streets nearby. I want to thank the Loom organization for their help in assisting my move. 

And I want to thank the people of Arts & Crafts Holdings, owners of 915 Spring Garden, because of their welcome, their efficiency, and the improvements on a historically important site. Now, I will be returning to my old – but much improved - home. 

Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

# 90 - Interview for "Hope for the Homeless" Exhibit & More Paintings from France




                                         "Fishermen Cast off at Courseulles"

Fellow Art Lovers:

As you probably already know, my exhibit "Hope for the Homeless" in support for the Bethesda Project (www.bethesdaproject.org) begins Oct. 7 at the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center (www.mrartcenter.org).

Here are some details on that exhibit:

The exhibit will be up at the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center (MRAC) located at 419 Green Lane (rear), Philadelphia, PA 19128. The opening reception is on Sunday, Oct. 7 from 12pm to 3pm. The gallery will then be open Saturday and Sunday Oct. 13 and 14 from 11am to 3pm.  In November, the exhibit will move to the RoxArt Gallery, located at 6111 Ridge Avenue, with an opening reception on Nov. 2 from 5pm to 7pm and weekday hours from 10am to 6pm. 

For the exhibit, Esther Griffin interviewed me for the MRAC's blog. Esther has a website called Creative Questions (www.creative-questions.com), which she describes as "a no-nonsense online art gallery and blog for emerging artists." (She can be contacted at esther@creative-questions.com.). She asked some probing questions, and I thought I'd share my responses with you. Also, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few more of my paintings from France.  

1. Question: How would you describe your art? 

Answer: In one way, I live in two worlds when I practice my art of oil painting. In one world, I paint urban scenes in Philadelphia, and I try to show brave people on the streets of the city, confronting life and trying to build a home and a good life for their families in often difficult circumstances. In the other world, I paint landscapes of the beauties of France’s Normandy region – the fields of various crops shifting in the wind, the stands of trees, the historic villages (almost all with a church steeple rising above the skyline) the beaches, the complex colors of the sea, and the wonderful Normandy skies. 

I love just letting myself go, letting my right hand take over, and then only guiding my brush when it comes to careful details, like those of  the human face.  

But in the last few years, things have been changing. Most important, I find my groove more easily. Real often, I achieve a painter’s high, and the forms, the colors and the mixes on the canvas seem to happen in the most natural way. Of course, this comes after some years of painting, when I’ve achieved a certain level of confidence and I feel that I’ve internalized many of the painting techniques I use. 

And then there’s content. More and more I want to get certain ideas across. In Normandy, I remain so struck by the beauty of the landscapes that I tell myself I just want viewers to feel the same emotion I feel in painting when they look at one of my paintings. And in Philadelphia, I want viewers to feel the same emotion I feel when I see Philadelphians and new immigrants, of different cultures and colors, trying so hard to keep it all together. 

Now, I see these two worlds converge. This past summer, in France, I’ve starting putting more and more people in my paintings - people working or enjoying themselves on vacation. The shift just seemed so natural. And while painting these people, my painting style has remained consistent. That is, I want to represent the people in a kind of rough-hewn, free style, getting beyond the niceties of their facades to their essences. 


                                "Vineyards at Gigondas" 

2.  Q: You take the lead in October with your exhibit titled "Hope for the Homeless," your art in support of the Bethesda Project. What's that project about and what make that project special to you? 

A: How many times do we walk down the street in Philadelphia, and we see homeless people, sometimes with a backpack at their feet or a shopping cart at their side full of their possessions? And how many times do they hold a hand out and ask for money for a meal?  Sometimes as we rush by, we don’t really pay attention to them. Sometimes we realize, ”There, but for the grace of God go I,” and give them money and tell them we hope our small offering helps. But all of the time, we know that a small contribution will make little difference in their lives and in the lives of so many other homeless people. 

The programs of the Bethesda Project are making a difference. Of course, one of the best places to learn about the project’s programs is on its website – www.bethesdaproject.org. As far as I’m concerned, what I find important is that the project’s programs are part of a unified strategy that includes meals, emergency shelter, but also help in finding and keeping long-term housing through rental and purchasing help, and also assistance repairing a home and paying utilities. And this help begins with individual counseling to identify underlying problems and find the best tactics to solve them. 

Of course, I believe that the Bethesda Project deserves our support. That’s the entire reason for my exhibit “Hope for the Homeless” at the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center kicking off on Oct. 7. So, I definitely believe in the project’s efforts. I know that this exhibit on its own is but a small contribution. But we have to keep trying. We, as a society, have to find ways to solve the problems that continue to deprive so many people of rewarding and useful lives.  


                                 "Trees Near Reviers" 

3. Q:  You paint both in Philadelphia and in France. Can you explain your connection to France?

A: In painting, I believe that real artists have to work hard and consistently to achieve a technical level where they can express their ideas and emotions. And the same consistent effort is necessary to achieve a level of confidence, so that when I take my brush or palette knife, I can add a strong stroke of color, without dabbing it little by little and – thereby – ruining its impact. 

But sometimes serendipity takes over. And that was my case a long time ago. If you were to ask me:  What’s this thing about you painting nine months in the year in Philadelphia, and then the tree months of summer in France? I have to credit serendipity.  It just so happens that, while in Paris a long time ago, lightening struck, and I became the husband of a French wife, my wife Catherine. From that moment on, my life became worlds more rewarding and also bi-cultural. While working in the States, we usually vacation with our children in Normandy. And during the seven years I was a reporter in Paris, we usually spent some time during the summer in my hometown of San Francisco. 

This connection to Normandy was a big break for my painting. I’ve been painting most of my life, earlier as a hobby and now as a profession. And while I worked as a journalist and later as a marketing executive, I often painted landscapes in Normandy. Frankly, my painting was okay for an amateur, but not impressive. Then, one day almost twenty years ago, Catherine suggested I try painting with a palette knife. Frankly, it was a miracle. Yes, I’m not the first artist to use a palette knife, but it transformed my painting. I mixed paint on my palette, and then I applied it directly on the canvas, most often mixing and blending it on the canvas itself. The experience was liberating. I felt a new freedom that I knew I would be able to apply to my painting in the future. I felt an ease and confidence. And, looking at the rich surface I was able to produce, I believed the palette knife was a method I could use to express the beauty in saw in Normandy.  

That summer, I painted about ten small paintings of specific landscape scenes, and took them back to Philadelphia. On my return, I showed them to the two partners – John and Paul – of the gallery on Philadelphia’s Pine Street, Show of Hands. They loved them, and my first gallery exhibit was a success. 

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I hope all of this is interesting to you. Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill 





Sunday, August 19, 2018

# 89 - Painting in the South of France




                                                "Gigondas - Les Vacances"

Fellow art Lovers:

Yes, this is an artist’s blog, not a travelogue. But I just want to let you know that we’ve made a couple of short trips here in France. The one I want to tell you about now was to the south of France, the area called the Midi. Frankly, France has so many beautiful regions that you tell yourself it’s too bad you’ll never be able to spend much time in most of them. 

But as fellow art lovers, I have to tell you about one place in the south of France, Albi, that we visited that’s important from an artistic point of view. First of all, I’ve always wanted to visit Albi, mainly because it’s the site of the museum devoted to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 

The museum itself is beautiful, with a garden that will take your breath away. Inside, the collection of paintings and other works of art, like posters and sculpture, is so extensive that you see so many of the works that that you’ve only seen in books and online. And seeing the works themselves lets you learn a lot about Lautrec’s style and his painting process. 

The other place I want to tell you about, where we spent a week, is the village of Gigondas, where our friends Barbara and Jean Marguin live during the summer. Of course, because the countryside, the vineyards and the village are so beautiful, Jean and I had to spend some time painting. And this brings up the two paintings I want to show you. 

The first one is of the village square in Gigondas, which is a gathering place and is circled by restaurants, stores, some art galleries and the city hall. The centerpiece of the square is a metal sculpture, by our friend, the French sculptor Jean Marguin. The sculpture includes fountains and a model of a wine bottle, representing the area’s major industry. As you see here, with a boy named Selim, kids often try to touch the bottle as it swings. The painting is entitled “Gigondas – Les Vacances.” 


                                                       "View from the Village"

The other painting I want to show you, “View from the Village,” is what you see from the edge of the village square – some rooftops of the village and the valley, mountains and sky beyond.  Frankly, the scene struck me as so beautiful that I just threw myself into it, and I felt great painting it. Of course, that’s the way – I believe – painting is supposed to be. 

Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

# 88 - Getting Going in Normandy



                           "Morning Light at Douvres"

Fellow Art Lovers:

It's always the same story. If I haven't lifted a brush or palette knife for a while, my first attempts are sure to be clumsy. Well, recently I got tied up - in some great travel and some administration. So, sure enough - back at my easel - it took a while to find my groove, or anything close to it.

Here are some examples of my latest works here in Normandy. And that long text?

Well, a while ago a friend who puts on gatherings to discuss important ideas asked me to write something about art. I decided to write about some of my personal struggles, and that text seemed to apply to what I've been going through lately.

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                             "The Sailing Club at Saint Aubin-Sur-Mer"

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The Other Side of Art 

By William Kosman 

When most people think about art, they take the approach of thinking about it as a viewer or spectator of art. Art is something to experience and enjoy. That is, they are touched by the emotion they feel when they look at a fine painting or when they read a novel or when they watch a powerful movie. They are thrilled by the beauty and skill of dancers when they view a ballet. Or they can feel music within their mind or in the beating of their heart when they are swept up by the power of an orchestra or the tenderness of a violin or the singing of a human voice.  

But there’s, of course, another side, the side of the creator of the art in its many forms. Why does the creator create the art? And how does he or she go about it? 

I feel qualified to discuss this subject, because I’ve created several forms of art, and I’ve gone through the process of completing works of these disciplines. I’m a painter; I’ve painted most of my life, and ever since I declared myself a professional painter, I’ve spent long hours in front of my easel, or thinking and writing about my work and art. I’m a writer. As a former journalist and marketing executive, and also a writer of novels, I have a constant monologue running through my mind of the ideas I want to express. And I’ve written and produced three rap videos, which I like to think are more poetry than hard rap. From all of this, I believe I have valid ideas to express. 


                                    "The Beach at Saint Aubin-Sur-Mer"

We, as human beings, need some form of ego input. Yes, we all know that the universe is infinite, and our existence is less important than a grain of sand on a beach (Thank you to the French singer Michel Fugain.), and our time on this bit of dust called the earth is nothing when compared to the billions of years the universe has existed and will exist into the future. Still, most of us want to feel some bit of importance. We want the admiration of those around us. We want recognition or validation for what we are and what we create. 

Why? I can’t give you an answer. Is it some animal need to prove that we are superior to the other human beings who scratch out their existence on this bit of mud whirling through the universe? Or is it sexual, so that – through our art - we can impress or conquer potential mates? Or is it an intellectual pursuit, and we view it as a learning experience we go through to elevate ourselves up several notches to reach true human potential? 

I don’t know. But I’ve read and thought and written about this a lot. All I know is that when I want to create something – a painting, a novel or a rap video, anything – I become obsessed by it, and I can’t rest until it is completed, and even beyond. No matter what I’m doing, I’m constantly asking myself, is this the best I can do? Have I pushed the limit, gone so far so that I will touch people’s emotions, express my ideas, shock my audience into taking my work seriously. Until I have no doubt that the work is the best it can be.



                                            "The Seulles River at Amblie" 

It is this obsession that has forced me, when I had viral hepatitis long ago and was lying on my back in bed, to create a novel and memorize portions of it. Until I could write them down in several notebooks. To work all day to earn a living, and then late a night, scribble sentences in notebooks on a plank of wood on moving cartons in the basement of our home. To paint portraits over numerous times until the subject’s features express the emotions I want to capture. To stumble through my Mac’s imovie program until my rap videos expressed an idea and wouldn’t be a total embarrassment. 

While I stumble around or keep pushing myself to create something, what is the process? Here is where the true magic comes in, and here is where we can draw a few drops of optimism about human beings from this jungle on earth.  I believe that every human being, if he or she really wants to and his or her circumstances in life allow it, has the capacity for true creativity. That power is in us all, if we can open our souls and delve deep into ourselves. It is there, if we keep trying and working and butting our head against that brick wall of difficulty. 


                                           "The Mue River Crossing Reviers" 

For me, I believe that that power is in my subconscious, more than in my conscious mind. In writing a novel, I just keep trying, even when I see that the words and the phrasing are clumsy. In painting, I keep thinking how I can get my brush or palette knife to produce certain surfaces or certain forms and colors, even when the clumsy strokes on the canvas cry out amateur.  And then, at some point, the dam is broken, and my hand or fingers move on their own, and the right words or the right strokes of a brush or palette knife appear, and I take confidence, and the right gestures and the right ideas flow, and I feel the emotion, and I produce a small part of a valid work. Until I hit another brick wall, and I have to keep banging my head against it, until the magic takes over again. 

And here, in writing this text, I think I have learned something, for I have an explanation that was within me, but I was not ready to articulate it.  In so many ways, the act of creation is the proof that we – all human beings – have this creative power in us, and when we can produce something – a work of art – we prove that we human beings are capable of inching up and reaching ever higher levels to show we possess the finest and most sensitive nature of human beings. And I hope that is why I feel driven.     

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Thanks for listening. 

Best, 

Bill