Showing posts with label Melissa Johnson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melissa Johnson. Show all posts

What Catches Your Eye?

By Judy Feldman |

What makes you stop and look at a painting? Is it the subject, the colors, the textures? We are all drawn to art for different reasons, and often, it’s on a subconscious level. However, a skilled artist makes conscious decisions about how to attract a viewer’s attention. There are techniques such as composition, color manipulation, brushstrokes, and even canvas shapes that can influence our reaction to a particular work of art. Of course, the best paintings look effortless, but don’t be fooled!

Late for Supper, Peggy McGivern
16" x 20" mixed media on canvas

Peggy McGivern has an interesting way to begin a painting. She sketches with a blind contour line, which means she looks at her subject, not her sketchbook or canvas, and draws continuously without lifting her pencil. “With this technique, I can get interesting, exaggerated shapes from which to start my painting,” she said. “If I’m working plein air, I look at the scene, and what attracted me to it in the first place. I think that my viewers will respond to that initial impression.”
Come in Out of the Rain, Peggy McGivern
72" x 48" (diptych) oil on canvas

Peggy told me that when she’s considering a painting idea, she first looks at big shapes. In her painting entitled “Late for Supper,” about two-thirds of her canvas is the large area of land. The two figures’ vertical paths lead us up the painting towards the village, where she wants our eyes to rest. Peggy also said that she likes to avoid typical horizon lines. Here, the paths create bold geometric shapes that contrast with the distant buildings, and they give us the sense that the figures are quite far away from their homes, in a hurry to get there.

Color choices and brushstrokes convey the message in Peggy’s painting entitled “Come in Out of the Rain.” In this work, she wanted the viewer’s eye to go to where the rain is coming down on the cattle, so she chose beautiful iridescent paints and energetic brushstrokes to focus on that area of her work. The dark sky and purple hills in the background add weight to the scene, augmenting the feeling of an imminent downpour. Although it might look spontaneous, these decisions are thoughtful. “I’m always looking for weird, wonderful combinations for people to enjoy,” she said.

Split Rock, Melissa Johnson
48" x 60" Oil, Cold Wax, and Silver Leaf
Texture and paint application are other ways to call attention to a painting. Melissa Johnson mixes in cold wax to give her oil paints more body. Working with her palette knife, she can adjust the fluidity of the paint. She also uses the wax to adhere the different types of metal leaf she applies to parts of her canvas. Melissa doesn’t use a paint brush too often. “I use all sorts of tools to build up my layers: palette knives, credit cards (expired, I hope), dough scrapers, and any tools I might find at the local Dollar Store.”

Manville Road, Melissa Johnson
48" x 48" oil & cold wax metal leaf
Although Melissa’s paintings look three-dimensional, they don’t really have thick texture. It’s her skillful technique of applying multiple layers of wax-mixed paint that makes her images jump out, as you can see in her painting entitled “Split Rock.” The different tones and shapes of the cliff surface, along with the beautifully rendered crevices and light areas really pull the viewer into the painting and direct us to the lighthouse on the bluff.

Melissa explained that cold wax also speeds up drying time and adds transparency to the color. With this product, she can keep working on her painting by scraping off and applying more paint and wax until she is satisfied.

Mailboxes are the subject in her 48X48” painting entitled “Manville Road.” I really like this composition – even though the mountains in the background catch our eye with their gorgeous colors and 3-D presentation, the five mailboxes command our attention, as the applied metal leaf conveys strong reflected light.

Two Horned Cows, Joseph E. Young
36" x 24" acrylic on canvas
If you pass by one of Joseph Young’s paintings at Wilde Meyer, changes are, you’ll stop and look. Joseph is all about patterns, and there are so many! “I’ve always been a decorative painter,” he says Trained as an art historian, Joseph is influenced by many art movements, such as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and modernism. “Even abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollack were decorative artists in their own way,” he commented.

Joseph likes to paint flat, and uses pattern to give the illusion of three dimensions. He juxtaposes colors that vibrate off each other. “If there’s no vibration, I add another contrasting color, until I get the desired effect. I want the colors to either work with or against each other to create excitement in the painting.”

Five Doves and Flowers, Joseph E. Young
36" x 36" acrylic on canvas
To achieve patterns such as these requires considerable patience. As you can see in his painting entitled “Two Horned Cows,” there are many different elements, and each has its own pattern. There are so many varieties of butterflies, flowers and fish; yet they are grouped in an organized, thoughtful way. You can tell that Joseph has a very strong sense of design (and an amazing ability to stay focused!).

“Five Doves and Flowers” is another example of this artist’s unique style. At first glance, we see the white doves, then the tulips, but on closer inspection, those small orange shapes are flowers and, wait, are those little eyes peeking out here and there among the flowers? Maybe they’re butterfly patterns, but they sure caught my attention!

So, the next time you’re drawn to a work of art, consider what made you stop and look. What emotions did it elicit? What do you admire about the artist’s style, and if it really excites you, consider adding it to your collection!

See more art by Peggy McGivern,  Melissa Johnson , and Joseph Young at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Artists Make their Mark

By Judy Feldman |

Close Red and Yellow Bands 72" x 48"
Ron Russon 
When we look at two-dimensional art, the overall image strikes us first. But then, our eye is usually drawn to the distinctive marks that define an artist’s work. By marks, I mean the brushstrokes, the textures and whether the image is done in a loose, gestural style, or a more controlled, structured way (see my last blogs about the latter).

Artists’ mark making is so personal; it may be deliberately planned at first, but then it becomes part of the flow of creating, an intimate part of their artistic process.

When I interviewed some Wilde Meyer artists about the way they work, quite a few told me that they like to use many layers when they’re painting. Melissa Johnson said that the process of layering “shows the history of the painting.” Melissa’s unique marks are related to the variety of tools she employs – never a paintbrush because she hates cleaning them! Instead, she uses old plastic gift cards; her husband’s old driver’s license, chopsticks and crushed paper, to name a few. “Each tool has a different flexibility, which gives different textures,” she said. If Melissa wants to pull paint away from the canvas, she uses tin foil, waxed paper or tissue paper to achieve different results.

20 " x 20" oil, cold wax & metal leaf
Melissa Johnson 
“It’s not a predictable method, but I’ve learned over time the steps I need to take,” Melissa said. She noted that she begins with a realistic image, and as she builds up layers or takes away paint, the painting gets more abstract. Melissa’s marks are also a product of a medium she uses: cold wax. “By mixing in the wax with my paint, I get a beautiful translucency, even with opaque colors. Plus, I can also carve marks into it, using ceramic and sculptural techniques. When I’m finished, I give the painting a light coat of the wax, polished with a soft cloth.”

You can see an example of Melissa’s strongly textured painting in her work entitled “Structure.” Here, her abstract shapes take the form of a house, and you can decide if she began with a more detailed house, or if that image evolved along with the other geometric shapes.

20" x 40" oil, cold wax & metal leaf
Melissa Johnson 

8" x 10"
oil, cold wax & metal leaf
Melissa Johnson
8" x 8"
oil, cold wax & metal leaf
Melissa Johnson
Melissa said that her art often has a Native American influence. Her painting entitled “Ancestral” is part of a series that reference reservation life. The texture in this painting and many others is also enhanced by the addition of metal leaf. The black and white checks are a recurring element in this series, which includes “Digs” and “Village.”

Brenda Brevik describes her work as “representational, but not highly rendered.” There is definitely recognizable imagery in her paintings, but she is more interested in the physicality of the painting process. “I want to show evidence of the trip,” she said. “I use layering to add depth, and give the viewer some eye candy to explore the painting.”

2 Nudes 
60" x 48"
Brenda Bredvik
Brenda has an array of mark making techniques. In her painting entitled “2 Nudes,” she purposely includes evidence of her line drawing of the two figures, especially the one on the right. For the background, she uses another mark – rough brushwork layered over what appears to be horizontal lines. To me, the figures are very appealing, but it’s the different marks Brenda makes that are so interesting.
Breaking Free
65" x 57"
Brenda Bredvik

Brenda’s layering often takes her painting from one subject to another. She said that “Breaking Free” started out as a painting of Mt. Whitney, then became an abstract, and then she added the horse. Her brushstrokes give the painting great energy, especially the flying mane, and the pop of orange squiggles on either side of the horse and the fuchsia one under its foot. This painting also shows another of Brenda’s marks: areas of dripped paint. “I like the pattern that’s created when I let paint with medium drip from the brush,” she said.

50" x 40"
Brenda Bredvik
“Poetry” also began as an abstract. To add interest and contrast, she painted the vase of flowers in a more realistic, elegant style, using much smaller brushes, and a palette knife, to make the flowers look “yummy.” The paint drips under the slash of white and the dark shadow conform to her mark-making style.

Green Left Foot  
16" x 20"
Ron Russon

Ron Russon has a degree in illustrative design, which is reflected in his stylized depiction of animals. “I used to paint traditionally, but I got bored,” he said. “So, I started to use non-traditional colors. That opened up a whole new world, in which I could make my own rules.”

In addition to his color choices, Ron’s marks also include thinned paint dripping, along with a mix of flat and three-dimensional rendering, all in the same artwork. You can see this technique in his painting entitled “Green Left Foot.” Ron said that he likes playing with planes, crossing back and forth between realism and his imagination.

Like the other artists mentioned above, Ron doesn’t use a paintbrush very much. He’ll use one to draw in the shapes, but then takes up his palette knife to add blocks of color, scrape away areas, and create textures. “Charolais Bull” is a good example of his mark-making process: the horizontal lines are both applied paint, and paint scraped away. Ron explained, “I started with drips of oil paint and turpentine, then I drew in the bull vaguely, then I moved back and forth, like a dance, between realism and abstraction. It’s like a dance: I lead and the painting follows!”

Charolais Bull
48" x 48"
 Ron Russon 

Most of all, Ron said that his style is always evolving, and that he strives to provide his viewers with something interesting to look at and reflect on. I think that his marks, and those of Brenda and Melissa, are successful in doing just that.

See more work by Melissa JohnsonBrenda Bredvik, and Ron Russon at Wilde Meyer Gallery.