William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

# 56 Two Paths Meet at a Milestone

                                                           "Going Home at 5 - III"

                                                         "Going Home at 5 - II"

Fellow Art Lovers:

Up until now, my paintings have lived in two separate worlds. And, until now, these two worlds have never met, at least with me.

In one world, I’ve painted with a palette knife, and I’ve generally reserved that tool for my landscapes in Normandy. Yes, I’ve painted some Philadelphia street scenes with a palette knife. But that technique seemed so well suited to landscapes because I felt the need to paint rapidly, to commit myself without hesitation, while laying down thick strokes of oil paint, and the resulting canvases had a very pleasing texture. The paintings transmitted a certain spontaneity, and – frankly – people like them.

In the other world, I’ve used brushes, and with them I’ve sometimes painted landscapes, but generally I’ve painted urban scenes and, especially, portraits, because brushes can give an artist more precision. Therefore, for me, brushwork takes more care and time, usually does not have the same spontaneity, and doesn’t give me the same feeling of freedom.  Although, my brushwork has loosened up a great deal in the last few years.  And, of course, I hope people like these paintings also.

In the painting you see at the top of this blog posting, "Going Home at 5 III," those two worlds have met and joined.  For the first time for me. Actually, joining these two techniques on the same canvas felt good. There was no “When Worlds Collide” moment, for those of you who like old movies. Actually, joining those two techniques produced no explosion or big bang. It seemed a natural extension of what I’ve been doing and the direction I’ve been moving in.   

And, if you were to visit my studio, you’d see that I’ve painted this same scene numerous times. So, maybe repeating the same subject is what it takes to make real progress - keeping the subject constant, so I feel greater freedom to adapt my technique.

Now, if you have a few more minutes, please take another look at both of the paintings - "Going Home at 5 III," and "Going Home at 5 II." You see how both of the paintings have large spaces of dark and light colors and a few selected objects. There’s no pretention to try and make the scene or the people look realistic. The idea was to show the beauty of life, the unity of the mother and daughter.  

But the version painted with a palette knife interprets the scene with less detail, less specificity, drawing more of your attention to the mother and daughter and the gaze between them. I know that I’ve shown enough, so you know what this and that are. So, now the version with the palette knife just tries to present an engaging surface. Why confuse the issue?

And this painting raises another issue. It points to what a lot of artists are doing today, and how we differ from artists who paint with an unbelievable level of realism. That is, the painters who achieve such high levels of precision and accuracy that, in one way, they approach photography. In some ways, these painters are like the Dutch Masters and the painters of the Italian Renaissance, who surely expressed ideas, like beauty and faith. And to emphasize their ideas, they used realism of the highest order, unbelievable precision and accuracy, and all of it even though they did not have all of the advantages we do today, like colors from a tube, a whole range of electronic tools, and every medium you could imagine just the turn of a bottle-cap away, just to mention a few obvious examples.

Let me say here that, in general, all styles are valid. Of course this is true, and it’s obvious. But I want to make sure that you don’t think that I’m passing judgment on anyone else’s style.

But the school I want to belong to are the painters who believe they are not bound by accurate realism, but jump beyond strict representation in their paintings to greater freedom to express their ideas. Sure, I’ve talked so often about my struggle to gain greater freedom that there’s no doubt that this is the group I feel closest to. And, with this latest painting, using a combination of tools, I believe I’ve moved a little closer to them.  

Thanks for your time.



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