William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Monday, December 22, 2014

# 53 - Simplify for Power

                                                   Fall Afternoon in Queen Village

                                             First Sketch for Fall Afternoon in Queen Village

                                     Our "Alternative Berlin Guide" Matthew Dylan

Fellow Art Lovers:

A long time ago, I was studying painting at the Conservatoire des Arts Plastique in the city of Fresnes, which is a suburb just south of Paris. The conservatoire had instruction in numerous arts, including drama, dance and painting. It was led by Jean-Marie Creuseau, who had been an instructor at the famous Beaux Arts, in Paris, and is a renowned painter in his own right. My course was painting, and I took classes every Saturday with one of my sons, a French friend and several of his children. During the class, Jean-Marie Creuseau would visit with students individually at their easels, examine their work, and make some constructive comments. If you asked me to tell you what advice he gave most often, the answer would be simple: “Simplify, simplify.”

And, of course, he was so right. I understand that today so much better than way back then. Now, I’m the one who constantly repeats “Simplify, simplify” to myself as I paint. And the reason is: When a painting is simple and direct, it has more power.  

Just a while ago, I made an entry on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WilliamKosman58) about simplicity and Prof. Creuseau, and I showed a painting I was working on. That painting soon became two paintings. The reason was that I didn’t like the painting I was working on; it began looking crowded because there was too much detail. So I decided to do a second, larger painting, and paint it in a simpler style. Then, I went back to the first, smaller painting and simplified it. It was a lot better. (The painting you see above is the larger painting.)

As a side note, I often sketch scenes with pencil and pen as studies for a future painting. The act of drawing helps me work out the composition, decide which elements to include in the painting and where to place them, and even make some decisions about colors. This same method is or was used by more painters than I could shake a stick at.

In any case, I’m showing you the sketch of the scene that I sketched for the painting. By the way, the scene shows a calm afternoon at the corner of 4th and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia. Most of all, I was struck by the perfect placement of the elements in the scene, and by the strong contrasts in light between the foreground, the middle ground and the background.

But back to simplicity. One area where artists have to paint simply, and very fast, is in graffiti. Now, numerous American cities – like New York and Philadelphia – are blessed with a lot of graffiti, but I happened to learn a lot about it in Berlin, where my wife and I spent a week last summer. Berlin is a city with a very active graffiti culture, sometimes to pleasure of inhabitants and visitors, and often to the distress of property owners. One of the things we did was take a tour called “Alternative Berlin,” which included visits to sites of graffiti all over Berlin’s buildings, bridges and most notably some remaining portions of The Berlin Wall. The graffiti show things like stark-looking faces, slogans (often against the gentrification trend in some neighborhoods, and a great variety of very, very simple designs).  

Our tour guide was an American by the name of Matthew Dylan (matthewdylan@gmail.com), a freelance writer who not only explained the different methods used by graffiti artists, but also told us about the different factors promoting the evolution of graffiti in Berlin. (Above also is a photo of Matt explaining something important to our group of perhaps 20 tourists.) I couldn’t begin to relate these factors myself, but I’d like to tell you one thing that fascinated me: graffiti artists often do their best work with a friend because they sometimes paint hanging over roof ledges while their friend holds onto their feet. Okay, here the most important word might be trust.

But hanging over a roof ledge maybe four stories up means that you have to find the simple form that gets your idea across. Fast.

By the way, you can also keep up with me by looking at my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/WilliamKosman58

Thanks for listening, thanks for your time, and thanks for your support.

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.