Brush Strokes of Genius: Looking Back Again

Brush strokes. The absolute poetry of painting. Why not show the poetry in motion? That’s what I love so much about Impressionism. It’s a movement born of deft quickness. Painting so fast there’s no time to smooth out the strokes. Ah the beauty. Depending on the shape of the brush, the stroke can look rectangular, or maybe more of a line, or a blob. But it’s a stroke in time. It’s the recording of the action the artist took in that very moment, a recording of an artist’s brain. I love it.

 

If you’ve been following me you already know that I have a thing for the Impressionists. Those rebels refusing to take “no” from the French Academy and setting up their own way of doing things. The French Academy (started about 1648 and lasting into the early 1900s) was a group of well trained, excellent artists of their day, but they had their own traditions and ways of doing things and they didn’t want to accept the new ways. In came the Impressionists. The Impressionists, the new artists tired of getting kicked out of the Academy shows called Salons, didn’t even know yet that they would be branded one day as Impressionists. They were just tired of the French Academy telling them no, you’re not good enough to join our club. Get outta here. Every artist experiences the “no’s.” It’s so hard. But what’s an artist to do?

 

Using loose brush strokes is a hallmark of Impressionism (1870-1910). A loose brush stroke shows a painter in action, a fast painter. A loose brush stroke, not overly worked makes a softer edge and is able to show the play of light and color to a greater degree. A loose brush stroke can show the buildup of texture. Say you have a glob of paint on your brush and you lay it down on the canvas and leave it there untouched. Beauty. A glob of color waiting to catch the light. Light that brings color to life. A blob can catch a ray of light much more than an absolutely flat surface of smoothed out paint.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) self portrait. A perfect example of brush strokes at their finest. All color and vibrancy with no smoothing yet the image comes through loud and clear. I like loud, clear, color. Van Gogh's got it all.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) self portrait. A perfect example of brush strokes at their finest. All color and vibrancy with no smoothing yet the image comes through loud and clear. I like loud, clear, color. Van Gogh’s got it all.

 

I’ve chosen a Van Gogh painting to show you the utter delight of the brush stroke. He’s technically called a Post-Impressionist but still hangs into the very end of the Impressionistic art history movement. Look at the way he shows the subject, brutally. No smoothing out. Every touch of the brush is evident. Ah painting.

Impression Cougar by Dede Farrar created April 2014. The foliage is painted with brush strokes in complimentary colors. No leaves are actually depicted, only the impression of leaves using the stroke of a brush, fully loaded with color with no smoothing of the edges. The passion and poetic language of painting.

Impression Cougar by Dede Farrar created April 2014. The foliage is painted with brush strokes in complimentary colors. No leaves are actually depicted, only the impression of leaves using the stroke of a brush, fully loaded with color with no smoothing of the edges. The passion and poetic language of painting.

 

I do not dare to compare myself to Van Gogh other than I love the brush stroke. I do not aim to smooth out every detail. The essence of color and movement of the brush is key in my art work. The Impressionist artists are one of the influences that matter in my creative endeavors. I believe that if you don’t have at least a decent grasp of history and where you’re coming from your work will probably lack in some profound way. Take a look back folks, and let it help guide you into the future.

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Monet Plants Seeds for Impressionism to Flourish into the Future

I bill myself as Dede Farrar, Impressionist Painter of Animals. It’s got me thinking. Is that accurate? My latest work, as yet untitled, has me thinking, yes. And I look back into the works I’ve created in the past few months and I say yes, again. Why? Because of the use of color, expressive, choppy brush strokes, and the use of the photograph.

 

Impressionism. A style of art loved by many of people of today, NOW. But what did they say back THEN? Claude Monet is credited with really starting the label Impressionism. And it wasn’t him that made that label. It was a journalist dissing his work. Guess we’ve got the last laugh, ey?

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet created 1872 is the first painting to have the label Impressionism stuck onto to it, a dismissive, negatively critical comment by a journalist of the time.

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet created 1872 is the first painting to have the label Impressionism stuck onto to it, a dismissive, negatively critical comment by a journalist of the time.

 

Impressionists of the mid 19th Century made a new way of painting using choppy brushstrokes that people could see. It was “fast” painting. Impressionism had to do with light and color. Light is fleeting. If you watch the moon or sun rise you see how fast the light changes. You had to be fast to capture that. Or maybe there was another way. Maybe there was a photo to look at.

 

Back in the late 1860s and early 1870s photography was becoming a new technology more people had access to. Very baaaad news for artists. You see, artists, up to that time period, had earned their living rendering a realistic likeness on what they saw, and what the patron who was paying for it wanted. Who could afford a portrait? Or a girlie girl painting to hang on their private castle bedroom wall? Not people like you and me, regular folk. Rich, nobles and wealthy tradesmen. Yes, I said men.

 

When the camera came along, the lens captured a real likeness. It wasn’t always a pretty likeness. It was what the camera lens saw and nothing more. Real life. That’s what artists had been for—to capture that likeness. Well, not really, because artists are creative and they could make people better looking and more glamorous than in real life. But it took a lot of sittings.

 

The invention of photography could capture a moment. A moment in action. A moment captured forever. Then the artist could take that image and do whatever he pleased with it. Yes I said “he.” There were a few wonderful female Impressionists, like Mary Cassatt, for example. Back to the subject at hand. Stay focused, Farrar.

F Ewe by Dede Farrar created January, 2014. Clearly visible brushstrokes, bright coloring, based on photograph and impression of the moment makes this painting an example of a modern Impressionism. The bighorn sheep wears a tracking collar. Real life moment is shown and the image is not glamorized yet interpreted with the feelings of the artist, another hallmark of Impressionism.

F Ewe by Dede Farrar created January, 2014. Clearly visible brushstrokes, bright coloring, based on photograph and impression of the moment makes this painting an example of a modern Impressionism. The bighorn sheep wears a tracking collar. Real life moment is shown and the image is not glamorized yet interpreted with the feelings of the artist, another hallmark of Impressionism.

 

Some artists just love breaking rules. In the mid 19th century art academies taught “real” artists what was expected of them. But when the camera broke out into wide knowledge, some artists wanted to paint what was actually happening—a snapshot in time, plus they were sick of being kicked out of Academy shows. Japanese printmaking also had a big impact on the Impressionists as the Eastern way of composition was totally different than the European thought about composition. Japanese prints were used as packing materials in many ships bringing spices, tea, other tradable goods from the far East to Europe in the mid 19th century. Eastern composition was “weird,” more like a camera might capture. Major subjects cut off at the borders of the image, diagonal views, skewed perspectives. New idea! To Europeans anyway.

 

Some of the artists in France, including Monet, got sick of being excluded from French Academy shows and therefore, having no way to show anyone their paintings. They started their own art group and started having their own shows. Claude Monets’s Impression Sunrise was the first painting stuck with label Impressionism. We have him to thank for that. Thank you, you rebel Monet.

 

The Egg Sunny Side Up and Hard Boiled

The egg. If we eat the egg the energy contained inside the egg is transferred into our body. If we crack open the egg and let the contents drain out, the energy in the egg is transferred into the soil—or the landfill, its potential wasted, or maybe fertilizing the soil. If the egg is incubated, the energy contained inside grows into another being. No wonder the egg is seen as mystical.

 

In the Christian tradition the egg is seen as a metaphor for resurrection, the act of rising from the dead or returning to life. Resurrection also means the act of bringing back to practice, notice, use or revival.

 

In my most recent painting titled, “Allegory of the Artist,” I used symbols of Easter to tell my story of resurrecting my practice of art. I started this work in March with the promise of spring approaching. It’s been a long, cold winter in South Dakota and the thoughts of a warm spring time with Easter approaching were on my mind. I’m a Christian who doesn’t attend church but believes in the principles of Christianity. I believe in talents as being God given. After giving up practicing art for almost a decade, resurrection of a talent with a lot of hope added is on my mind constantly.

Allegory of the Artist by Dede Farrar, March of 2014. The egg is a hopeful symbol and a point of focus for positive light.

Allegory of the Artist by Dede Farrar, March of 2014. The egg is a hopeful symbol and a point of focus for positive light.

 

 

In “Allegory of the Artist” the fingers in the sky hold an egg, the promise of life, of returning spring, hope for the future. Energy, rays of light intersect on the highlight of the egg.  Light, sun, hope, positivity spread forth from the choppy spring sky with the cross nestled into the clouds. Rays of light shoot from the eyes of the American Jack Rabbit and the Rhode Island Red rooster. Rabbit and chicken are both common in the commercialized presentation of the Easter holiday but with their roots in far deeper meaning beginning with pagan symbols of fertility, and Christian symbols of vigilance against evil and ability to flee from evil. Rabbits also stand for fertility—lots of life to come.

 

The other painting I feature here is titled “Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man” created by Salvador Dali in 1943 as he visited the United States. Of course, 1943 was the height of the struggle of World War II. I admire Dali for his great skill as painter. He is a man, and therefore this painting looks very masculine in my opinion. Dali is known as being a Surrealist painter. Surrealism is an artist’s presentation of realistic images in a way that could not possibly happen in real life and often looks dreamlike or totally irrational. Surrealism didn’t come about until the 20th Century, probably as a reaction to more study of mind and thought processes, like psychotherapy and psychology really coming into their own as a recognized discipline in the earlier parts of the 20th century.

Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man by Salvador Dali, 1943. An ominous egg picture with symbolism depicting thoughts about World War II.

Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man by Salvador Dali, 1943. An ominous egg picture with symbolism depicting thoughts about World War II.

 

In “Geopoliticus Child…” Dali uses the egg to show North America emerging as the preeminent world power during the struggle of World War II with England in its grip. Blood flows from inside of the egg onto the ground showing loss of life that North Americans sacrificed to the world war effort. Really in 1943 no one knew what the outcome of the war would be, so the grip of the figure’s hand over England could be seen as potential rescue or perhaps devastating. Now we know that North America, and the United States in particular, was crucial in assisting England and Europe to save itself from the despotism of Hitler and the Nazis. The color scheme in this painting is not as bright and does not bring forth thoughts of happiness. To me, it is a rather ominous work, as many of Dali’s paintings are. To me Dali is full of rather nightmarish images, but to each his own, just as many people love watching horror flicks.

 

So here we have two presentations of the egg. One as very hopeful and with more of a Christian spiritual slant, the other egg as containing a struggle that no one at the time knew how it would end up being resolved. I wonder how this artist’s struggle will be resolved?

A Few Words About the Symbolism Art Movement 1886-1916

The Sphinx by Fernand Khnopff, 1896. The solitary artist with his muse imagination depicted as a female Sphinx. She caresses him. He looks troubled and melancholy. Beauty has not died. But modernity is creeping into art.

The Sphinx by Fernand Khnopff, 1896. The solitary artist with his muse imagination depicted as a female Sphinx. She caresses him. He looks troubled and melancholy. Beauty has not died. But modernity is creeping into art.

Symbolism is not a well-known movement in art history but one worth mentioning. I was thinking about it due to my current work in progress tentatively titled Passion for Life. My painting contains symbols, images full of deeper meaning. I have a book titled Symbolism by Michael Gibson that I browsed through again this morning. I was reminded that that actual Symbolist movement was rather melancholy, not what I’m depicting in my current painting. Symbolist paintings are full of images of women as evil temptresses, some supernatural imagery, and ideas about death and sexuality. Not a lot of happy stuff.

Symbolism, a state of mind, appeared toward the end of the 19th century as a reaction to increasing industrialism combined with a predominantly Catholic population. Modernism was creeping into art but ideals of beauty and realism still predominated. By the time the First World War began in 1917 many intellectuals and artists believed the ideal of beauty was dead.

War by Arnold Bocklin, 1896. A supernatural image inspired by biblical text. Death and destruction. Not uncommon in the history of Europe. Again, supernatural imagery is a hallmark of the Symbolist art movement 1886-1916.

War by Arnold Bocklin, 1896. A supernatural image inspired by biblical text. Death and destruction. Not uncommon in the history of Europe. Again, supernatural imagery is a hallmark of the Symbolist art movement 1886-1916.

Symbols communicate feelings. In Fernand Khnopff’s painting known by three different names: Art, or The Sphinx, or the The Caresses, created in 1896, the artist shows the idea of a solitary artist combined with his imagination depicted as the Sphinx. In Arnold Bocklin’s painting War, created in 1896, the image is inspired by St. John’s vision of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Both paintings create an image of supernaturalism.

In my painting I am going for a feeling of something supernatural occurring. I’m not finished yet so I don’t know how it’s going to look really. But I wanted to convey a feeling of God, man, animal and world connected in relationship somehow, even magically, or metaphysically. Rabbit and rooster are symbolic for religious ideas, not just as creatures. Roosters stand for vigilance against evil. Rabbits stand for fertility, spring, rebirth. The hand in the sky holding the egg—that a great maker, God, a higher power, has created us to be stewards of the Earth and the animal kingdom.

This work in progress by Dede Farrar is tentatively titled Passion for Life. Metaphysical happenings and symbolic meaning of egg, human hand, rabbit and rooster can be interpreted as God's hand in creation, life, hope, and rebirth. Or maybe its just a pretty picture.

This work in progress by Dede Farrar is tentatively titled Passion for Life. Metaphysical happenings and symbolic meaning of egg, human hand, rabbit and rooster can be interpreted as God’s hand in creation, life, hope, and rebirth. Or maybe its just a pretty picture.

Really, every piece of art can be thought of as a symbol. When a human makes a piece of art, the art is a symbol of his thought process. The end work of art conveys thoughts originating in the brain and then flowing out through the eyes and hands—or whatever body part—to create the symbol—conveying more meaning than just simply an artifact or image.

Rabbits Split Hares Both Positive and Negative

Rabbits have been symbolically hopping around with humans for thousands of years. In the past two thousand years of Christian art, rabbits have flip flopped as both negative and positive symbols. Today we see the rabbit as more positive. During medieval times, the rabbit was associated with witchcraft and shape shifting. Rabbits were seen as symbols of wanton, unbridled sexuality which used to be considered a no no. Rabbits do very weird things under the moonlight during their spring mating rituals and humans want to explain everything, so what else but the devil could have been involved during the Dark Ages? Demonic rabbit gargoyles carrying off virtuous maidens exist on some Christian cathedrals prior to 1500.

Demon Rabbit of Chartres Cathedral created c. 1200 (Dark Ages). This sculpture is part of one of the most famous Christian churches still in existence today located in France. The demon rabbit reminds people to be fearful and to follow Gods teachings, or else!

Demon Rabbit of Chartres Cathedral created c. 1200 (Dark Ages). This sculpture is part of one of the most famous Christian churches still in existence today located in France. The demon rabbit reminds people to be fearful and to follow Gods teachings, or else!

Strangely, or maybe predictably, the rabbit then became more positive during the Renaissance (1500s and onward) as the rabbit was viewed as a symbol of virtue and rebirth. How? It was believed that the female rabbit could conceive and give birth without contact with a male rabbit. I guess someone wasn’t paying very close attention! White rabbits as symbols of virginal birth of Christ appeared in paintings. Even the name Renaissance means “rebirth.” The Renaissance brought a more positive world view as the Dark Ages waned into history.

Today we think of rabbits as the Easter bunny. Today’s Easter bunny evolved from the pagan, medieval, and Christian ideas of the past. Nothing we do today appears out of a vacuum. It is all descended of past ideas. Past ideas get blended with current ideas. Rabbits today still have connotations of sexuality and good luck. But now it seems rabbits are more loved for the superficial facts that they are cute, furry, and playful. Don’t let that stop you from looking deeper into the meaning of the hare.

Madonna with Rabbit created by Titian c. 1530. Here the rabbit is a symbol of purity, and virgin birth. The time of the Renaissance was a positive rebirth for the Western world, a time of new knowledge and discovery. A rabbit as a symbol of immaculate conception was stretching it though!

Madonna with Rabbit created by Titian c. 1530. Here the rabbit is a symbol of purity, and virgin birth. The time of the Renaissance was a positive rebirth for the Western world, a time of new knowledge and discovery. A rabbit as a symbol of immaculate conception was stretching it though!