Showing posts with label artists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label artists. Show all posts

The Art of a Smile

By Judy Feldman |

Since visual art is a means of personal expression, it’s not surprising that some paintings or sculptures convey a sense of humor. Those of us who see the world in a lighthearted way tend to have that vision when creating art. And, today, we have much more freedom to “tell” a story the way we want to, than say, Rembrandt or Vermeer who were pretty constrained by the artistic styles that were in vogue at that time. (Do you think Rembrandt had a sense of humor??)

The Wilde Meyer artists who embrace humor in art seem to have one thing in common: they frequently portray animals. Let’s see why…

BFFs 24"x30" oil on canvas
by Connie Townsend
Connie Townsend translates the humor she sees in life to her paintings. Even though most of her work focuses on dogs, the joy and hilarity she conveys could certainly apply to humans. But it’s so much funnier with dogs! For example, in her painting entitled “BFFs,” the two dogs riding a motorcycle – one in the side car – are having a blast together, tongues hanging out, ears flying and totally focused on their exhilarating ride. You can’t help but smile at a scene like that.

Labra Duo 24"x30" oil on canvas
by Connie Townsend
New Yorkie 24"x16"
by Connie Townsend
Her titles capture her sense of humor as well. In “Labra Duo,” two Labradors are hanging out the windows of an old Cadillac. Look closely, and you’ll see their white and black tails crossing each other. “New Yorkie” is another one of Connie’s funny takes on dogs-who-could-be-humans. The Yorkie is all dolled up with a bow in her hair – she could be a New York City dog, or maybe a New Yorker…

Despite her humorous approach, Connie has a very painterly technique, and her vigorous brush strokes and bright colors give the works the energy needed for her lighthearted style.
Strong color is another way of expressing upbeat emotions. Sue Goldsand produces fused glass sculptures of animals in a whimsical style. The bright hues and funny expressions on her characters’ faces definitely evoke a smile, if not a laugh.
Tweets, fused glass scultpure
by Sue Goldsand

“Blue Standing Dog” is another example of Sue’s humor, with its cool glasses, wagging tongue and bright red heart (in a strange place).
Blue Standing Dog, fused glass sculpture
by Sue Goldsand

Bailey, cast bronze scultpure
by Jim Budish 
Jim Budish’s bronze sculptures don’t have color for expression, but his stylized animals with their elongated legs bring a sense of humor to his work. Jim says "I try to create a smile through my sculpture by reaching into my subject, attempting to capture the ‘Joie De Vivre’ that I believe is somewhere inside all of us.”

Jim captures the essence of his subject’s spirit, emotion, attitude and personality. His rabbits’ long necks and large ears represent a species that we know, but are just a little funnier than they are in life. He references relatives and friends when he names his sculptures. “Abbey” is named for his granddaughter, and “Bailey” represents a friend’s dog.
Abby, cast bronze scultpure
by Jim Budish 
Like Your Hair 24"x24" acrylic on canvas
by Trevor Mikula
Hula Hoop Takes the Stage 12"x12"
by Trevor Mikula
Humor is the essence of Trevor Mikula’s paintings. Sometimes, it’s just the title: “Like Your Hair,” referring to a leafy plant, or the “Argyle Chicken” strutting on a diamond-patterned floor. Trevor says he gets his ideas from friends, who suggest a quirky take on something they see. Using his own imagination, vibrant colors and textured paint application with a palette knife, Trevor creates whimsical characters that are joyful and funny. “Hula Hoop Takes the Stage” is a great example of Trevor-style humor.

Argyle Chicken 24"x24" acrylic on canvas
by Trevor Mikula
We enjoy looking at art for many reasons, some more intellectual than others. But getting a smile or even a good laugh is certainly one we can all appreciate!

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The Style of Style

By Judy Feldman |

We often talk about an artist’s style – the way he or she paints that’s easily identifiable. That can apply to realism, abstraction and anything in between. There’s also stylized painting – a technique whereby the artist depicts an image in a unique way – presenting subject matter, forms and color choices that are very distinctive.

The Wilde Meyer artists I spoke to all said that they want to take the viewer beyond the subject by eliminating certain details and adding their own artistic marks.

Loire Valley 35.5" x 35.5" oil on canvas
by Rena Vandewater
Pear Tree 19" x 25" oil on canvas 
by Rena Vandewater
For example, Rena Vandewater, an artist from Idaho, paints scenes from places she has visited, and although some of the elements are identifiable, much of the paintings are about her artistry. As you can see in “Loire Valley,” the chateaux are there, but the orange hills and vibrant green trees are definitely Rena’s invention.

“I work very intuitively,” she explains. “The painting talks to me the whole time I’m working on it. The patterns and shapes evolve in the process, and although I see the image as a whole, each space has a life of its own.”

Rena discovered that the lines and dots of her patterned areas give the paintings a 3-D effect. “By using this technique and vibrant colors I can add movement to the painting.” This 3-D aspect is evident in “Pear Tree,” which also reflects her love of quilts and textiles.

Jaime Ellsworth and companions
Sometimes, stylized painting removes details, focusing more on shapes and color. The work of artists Jaime Ellsworth and Robert Burt fall into this approach. Jaime calls herself a “shape artist” who likes to keep her art “on the lighter side.” She doesn’t work from photos – just “what comes out of my head” – but I think she’s inspired by her family of 4-legged pets, including dogs, a goat and miniature horses. As you can see in her painting entitled “Scent,” she knows just what dogs do when they get together! (Jaime probably gets a lot of laughs from her animals. I just can’t resist including this photo she sent me of a typical car ride for her.)

Scent 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas
by Jaime Ellsworth
 “Waterbowl” is a great example of Jaime’s skill with shape and color. There are basically three shapes in this 30X40 painting – all the details are distilled away, and we can just enjoy the beautiful hues and forms.

Waterbowl 30" x 40" acrylic on canvas
by Jaime Ellsworth
Robert Burt also eliminates most particulars in his lushly colored paintings. He paints what he sees around his home in Mexico, where he lives for part of the year, and in his travels.

Bell Tower 12" x 12" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
“I don’t want to distract the viewer with details, since I think that can be stressful,” he says. “Colors and shapes are more important to me.  I’m trying to tell a story and bring the viewer into my painting. Sometimes, you don’t need a door or a window to know it’s a building.”

She Hears Something 30" x 24" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
You can see Robert’s beautiful simplicity in “Bell Tower.” His use of basic shapes and complimentary colors gives us all the facts we need, and we can just enjoy looking at the small church. Shadow and light also are important elements in his stylized work, as in “She Hears Something” and “Fast Friends.”

Fast Friends 12" x 12" acrylic on canvas
by Robert Burt
Sushe Felix is interested in the natural world of plants and animals. Her stylized work reflects her interest in the American Abstract painters from the 1930’s and 40’s, and modernist painting. She strives to achieve a balance between detail and simplification and uses areas of layered vibrant color.

Quiet Waters 28" x 27.5" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix
At first, I thought her work had a folk art quality, but on further inspection, I think it’s much more sophisticated. “Quiet Waters” has all the elements of a southwestern landscape, but its brilliant hues and abstracted shapes (the clouds are so art deco!) make this painting much more interesting.

Cloudburst 21" x 28" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix
Other examples of her unique style include “Cloudburst” and “Yellow Headed Blackbird.” In her artist’s statement, Sushe says “I strive to create an orderly composition of both geometric and organic form. Movement is achieved by repeating forms, shapes, and differing directions of line. In essence, I am striving to find new and different ways in which to depict the natural rhythms of life and nature.”

The next time you see a painting that looks “stylized,” just remember that it’s the artist’s unique way of communicating his or her vision of the world!

Yellow Headed Blackbird 21" x 15" acrylic on panel
by Sushe Felix

Exploring Artistic Influences

Recently, I was lucky enough to see some wonderful art at museums in Paris and Amsterdam. I started thinking about how many of the master artists were influenced by other artists. Some, like Cezanne and Pissaro actually painted together. They were both influenced by the Impressionists, but Cezanne, like Van Gogh, went in a different direction, which, in turn, influenced many other artists after them.
Chloe and the Red Chair 36"x36"
Judy Feldman
 Almost all artists have their muses, and I think it’s so interesting to see how an artist can take inspiration from art they admire, and then incorporate certain elements into their own unique work. I believe that inspiration also comes from the subconscious, from experiences we’ve have had and places we’ve been during our lives.

For me, it’s always been the post-Impressionists – especially Matisse! I admire his amazing use of color, his disregard for the rules of perspective, and his emphasis on his reactions to what he saw, and how he transmitted those feelings in his paintings. Can you see his influence in "Chloe and the Red Chair"? Other painters, such as Bonnard and Gabrielle Munter also have inspired me. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France, and I think that this, too, shows up in my paintings.
Following this theme of influences, I phoned a few Wilde Meyer artists to see who their muses were. Here are their responses:

Karen Bezuidenhout:

Three Horses 48"x48"
by Karen Bezuidenhout
Karen Bezuidenhout came to California from South Africa. She started painting in Santa Barbara and bought her first piece of original art from an artist named Billy Woolway. He became her muse and her mentor. Karen grew up around horses and knew that she wanted to paint them, but in her own way. Soon, she found her style and went from small paintings to works as big as 8’X12’. Karen also mentioned that she’s influenced by the painter Milton Avrey.

"Someone once said that my paintings reminded them of Avery, so I got a book about him, and became so inspired by his work," she said.
Elephant Family 48x48
by Karen Bezuidenhout

 Her painterly technique, simple shapes and use of earthy color reflect her influences, as does her South African background and affinity for horses. You can see this in her paintings, "Three Horses," and "Elephant Family."

Desert Valley 41"x55"
by Sushe Felix
Sushe Felix lives in Colorado. Her southwest landscapes have a distinctive style, which she claims is derived from her interest in American abstract painters from the 1930’s and 40s, as well as the modernist movement.

Vista 24"x33"
by Sushe Felix
“In particular, I’ve been influenced by Raymond Jonson, who led the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe,” Sushe explained. 

I looked up the group on Google, and found that the aim of the Transcendental Painting Group was "to defend, validate and promote abstract art. They sought to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new expressions of space, color, light and design."   Thomas Hart Benton, who was at the forefront of the Regionalist movement, also influenced Sushe, as did the southwest regionalist painters, who took the local landscape and abstracted it. Sushe has her own spin on this inspiration, with a strong focus on forms, shapes and color. You can see her unique style in these paintings, entitled "Desert Valley" and "Vista."

Ka Fisher:

Sneak Preview 60"x72"
by Ka Fisher
 Ka Fisher has some conscious and some subconscious influences on her art. She has studied with Marjorie Portnow and followed the work of Ron Pokrasso – both printmakers. She’s a big fan of Joan Mitchell, who she admires for her energy and mark makings. Other painters who have contributed to her style include Eric Fischl, Susan Rothenberg, Caravaggio and Renoir (in particular his iconic painting entitled “The Luncheon of the Boating Party”).

Spiritual Ritual 36"x48"
by Ka Fisher
I asked Ka why she frequently uses Native Americans in her paintings – such as “Spiritual Ritual” and “Sneak Preview.” Then, I learned of her subconscious influence: she believes that her mother, who grew up in South Dakota, was a Native American. According to Ka, her mother never actually said as much, but she talked all the time about her heroes, who included Maria Tallchief, Crazy Horse and the Olympian Jim Thorpe. Her mother was a great storyteller, and that, too affects Ka’s narrative style. Native American artists, such as Fritz Scholder and Melanie Yazzie are also in her “muse library.” But Ka says she’s influenced by “everything,” and has photos all over her studio to provide the “information” that fuels her painting process.

Barbara Gurwitz:

The Mission at Tucamcori 40"x60"
by Barbara Gurwitz

Barbara Gurwitz’s first artistic influences were some prints that were on the inside and back cover of the dictionary she used as a child.

"They were primitive American paintings of the four seasons in a rural setting," she said. "I couldn’t stop looking at them."

Barbara went to school in Boston and frequented the Fine Arts Museum there. She likes the Impressionists, as well as Modigliani, but her main muse is Van Gogh because "he was willing to go outside the box.
Looking Northwest Across the Rio Grande 34"x44"
by Barbara Gurwitz
"With Van Gogh, the paint itself is part of the subject. I love how he painted wet on wet. Van Gogh said that it’s the artist’s responsibility to help people see the joy of creation within the world." 

Barbara lives outside of Tucson, and likes to paint the small villages in southern Arizona and New Mexico, particularly those with a mission church surrounded by the town. She has painted the same village seven or eight times, from various directions and in different seasons, so that no one is ever the same. "The Mission at Tumacacori" and "Looking Northwest Across the Rio Grande" are examples of her colorful, expressive landscapes.

You can view more art by each of these artists at Wilde Meyer Gallery's website: