Where does your eye go?

The power of the horizon line

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

A few weeks ago, while driving up to Flagstaff, I felt as if I were enveloped in a mass of fluffy grey clouds. It was pleasant, and yet, disconcerting. Something was a little off, and I realized that it was because from my perspective, the horizon was so low. My view was all about the sky and its atmospheric effect.

Landscape #715
50" x 60" oil on canvas
 Albert Scharf 
Painters use horizon placement as a technique to convey their story. It can orient the viewers to where the artist wants them to be. A low horizon, like the “cloudscape” I saw, suggests a deep, open space; whereas a high horizon places the emphasis on the foreground. If the horizon is basically in the middle of the canvas, then the eye will be drawn more to color and shapes.

Landscape 802
54" x 42" oil on canvas
 Albert Scharf 
When I was pondering the low horizon line, I immediately thought about Albert Scharf, a Wilde Meyer artist who lives in Santa Fe. Looking at Albert Scharf’s beautiful cloud paintings, you can really sense the vastness of the sky I was feeling myself. When I spoke with him, he said that he finds that clouds are an interesting subject because of what they do to the light, and since they have abstract shapes, he’s not bound by form or structure.

“Clouds have an amorphic shape that enable me to pursue my interest in the emotional content of color,” he said.  “Also, the manipulation of their hard and soft edges gives great energy to the paintings.”

At first, Albert just painted clouds, but he then decided to add the thin slice of land below as a counter balance which, he noted, makes the sky look even larger. This is the effect of the low horizon that intrigues me. You can see how this happens in Albert’s painting entitled “Landscape 802.” (Yes, he numbers all his paintings.)  In “Landscape 715,” he has increased the size of the ground and textured it with a palette knife, which separates the land and sky and gives the painting a completely different look.

Landscape 852
60" x 48" oil on canvas
Albert Scharf 
Although he has seen many beautiful Santa Fe skies in the 30 years he has lived there, Albert does not use local color; rather he prefers to present his ”skyscapes” in analogous saturated hues that transcend through the conscious into the subconscious. “I want to take my viewers to a place where they feel good,” he said. A great example of this technique can be seen in “Landscape #852,” where the sky bursts with hues of pink, gold and violet.

On the other hand, Larry Taylor’s interest lies in the beautiful gardens he paints, so he purposely keeps his horizon line high. He says that it’s his personal preference, “just the way I look at the scene.”
The Well Traveled Path
 35" x 35" oil on canvas
Lawrence Taylor

Since the 1980s, Larry has made periodic trips to England and Wales, visiting the gardens of the British National Trust. The photographs he takes on site are used for inspiration in his paintings. In his work entitled “A Quiet Place,” Larry leads the viewer’s eye up the steps to the horizon, and along the way, we are treated to a gorgeous display of red tulips, purple irises and mounds of golden hued flowers. I just want to walk right into the scene!

Quiet Place
40" x 44" oil on canvas
Lawrence Taylor

“The Well-Traveled Path” is another example of Larry’s technique of getting the viewer to travel from the foreground to the end of a path near the high horizon. His clusters of blooms vibrate with color. Although our eyes are initially attracted to the brilliant red flowers in front, we still want to go up the path and see what’s going on at the house in the background.

Is horizon line placement always important to create drama? Not necessarily. Judy Choate is more interested in perspective and balance when painting her stylized landscapes. The excitement in her work comes from the brilliant colors and somewhat abstract shapes she uses to convey her impressions of the mountains of the Southwest. Judy has observed their interesting formations for years, while living in Sedona, on driving trips, and, now near her home in Tucson.

Approaching Storm
 48" x 60" acrylic on canvas
Judy Choate 
In her large (48”X60” painting entitled “Approaching Storm,” the horizon is actually in the middle of the scene. She catches our eye in a different way, by painting dark shapes in the foreground as a foundation, describing the mountains in warm pure hues in front and in more opaque colors behind. The slash of deep blue defines the horizon and adds more depth. Then our eye goes up to the whirling shapes of the sky.

Judy often lets the shape of a canvas determine her design. For example, in “Approaching Sunset,” the 20”X60” format dictates a wide-angle view of the mountains. We see a piece of the horizon line behind the golden shapes, where the sky swirls upward.

Approaching Sunset
20" x 60" acrylic on canvas
Judy Choate 
Some artists do away with a horizon line altogether. But, that’s another story, another blog!

You can see more work by Albert ScharfLawrence Taylor, and  Judy Choate at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

Art treasures for the holidays

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

With the holiday season comes the quest for gifts for friends and family. For many people, it’s an overwhelming task, since stores are filled with merchandise, and finding the right present can be difficult. So, how about a gift of art? A hand-crafted glass or ceramic piece, a small painting or sculpture would be a unique way of showing your holiday wishes, and the recipient will enjoy it for a long time.

At this time of year, Wilde Meyer Gallery asks its artists to produce small works that would be appropriate for gifts. It’s a great way to give (or acquire for yourself!) a piece from a favorite artist that you may not have been able to afford in a larger size. It also gives you a chance to get to know most of the artists there, since many small pieces are be displayed at once. This year, the show is called “Treasures,” and it will run in Scottsdale until Christmas, then will open at the Tucson location.

Holiday Nap 12" x 12"
Judy Feldman
Bruno Waiting 14" x 11"
Judy Feldman
I find it fun to do small paintings, since I can work fairly quickly. The two here, “Bruno Waiting” and “Holiday Nap” have an intimate quality that I like. Even though I love details, I tried to keep the images fairly simple.

Sounds Reasonable 10" x 10"
Linda Carter Holman
Crazy Eyes 14" x 11"
Connie Townsend
When I went to the gallery yesterday to look at the wall of small paintings, a few caught my eye. Connie Townsend has a portrait of one of her chickens in her distinctive style called “Crazy Eyes.” Linda Carter Holman has included some of her favorite things in her painting entitled “Sounds Reasonable,” such as the Calla lilies, the goldfish, fruit bowl and a dog with an expression that reminds me of one of her gracious ladies in larger paintings.

Let's Go 12" x 12"
Timothy Chapman

Timothy Capman’s “Let’s Go” painting reflects his whimsical ideas; this time, a blue bird with a saddle is taking flight off a plateau. Great idea for a traveler friend! Trevor Mikula has painted one of his distinctive dogs with a touch of humor, entitled “She’s a Lady.” And, if you like Bill Colt’s cows, you’ll see a few on the wall.

She's a Lady  12" x 12"
Trevor Mikula
So stop by and see the amazing wall of Treasures. There’s really something for everyone’s tastes. The gift of art is a unique and memorable one!

Treasures is on view until January 2, 2016. You can see more work by Judy Feldman, Connie Townsend, Linda Carter Holman, and Trevor Mikula at Wilde Meyer Gallery. 

Artists Make their Mark

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

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.

Divine Bovines are Udderly Wonderful at Wilde Meyer!

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Growing Pains  24″ x 48″
Sarah Webber
Wilde Meyer artists tend to like animals. It’s not at all unusual to see images of dogs, horses and even chimpanzees when you walk into any of their galleries. But, this month, some other animals will be prominently displayed in Scottsdale at the first “Divine Bovine” show.

Here, you’ll see all sorts of bovine art: cows, buffalo, bison and yaks. At least 25 artists are participating in this themed show. Some of the artists, like Bill Colt and Sarah Webber, have favored painting bovines for quite a while.

Onlookers  18″ x 24″
Bill Colt
Lily Fair  24″ x 20″
Bill Colt

How Now Brown Cow  30″ x 30″
Judy Feldman
For some, like me, it’s a first time we’ve painted a bovine. I don’t know why I never thought of it before, because I do think cows are beautiful, especially their expressive, heavily lashed eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed painting “How Now Brown Cow,” and I really did feel a bond with this lovely creature!

Small in a Fuzi Dream 18″ x 18″
Linda Carter Holman
Linda Carter Holman has a personal relationship with the subject of her painting, entitled “Small in a Fuzi Dream.” The yak belongs to her! Linda has incorporated images that recur in her other paintings, such as the goldfish and the charming female figure, along with her typical color palette.

As a matter of fact, you can probably identify the artists of many paintings. Although the subject may be new, our styles still come through! Sherri Belassen’s “Retro Vache” definitely reflects her technique and choice of hues. Connie Townsend’s “Red” has the same crazy expression you see in many of her driving dogs. And, of course, Trevor Mikula has come up with a witty way of showing his cows in “Heads or Tails!”

Retro Vache 60″ x 72″
Sherri Belassen

Red 24″ x 30″
Connie Townsend
Heads or Tails 24″ x 24″
Trevor Mikula

Yak Yak Yak  30″ x 17″ x 16″
Barbara Duzan
Buffalo Past
Adriana Walker
The show is not only about paintings. Adriana Walker has Necklace and earring sets (show Buffalo Past). Kathryn Blackmun has created a turquoise bison ornament and a bison plate, and there are sculptures by Carol Ruff Franza (Prairie Thunder”), Kari Rives (“Sky Cow”) and “Yak Yak Yak” by Barbara Duzan.

So, stop by during October and see this fun show. You never know, you might fall in love with a cow, a buffalo or even a yak!

You can see more art from Divine Bovine at Wilde Meyer.

Planned vs Intuitive (Part Two)

When spontaneity drives the process..

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

In my previous blog, I examined the process of creating art by planning, using reference photos and, sometimes recurring images. Joseph Young and I like to plan, but once on the canvas, we work in a different manner.

But what about the intuitive painters? The ones who pick up a brush and get going? How does that work? Here are two Wilde Meyer artists who enjoy spontaneity when painting.

Greg Dye was a professional illustrator for many years, so he had to plan and produce specific images for his clients. When he took up oil painting several years ago, he did a complete reversal of his process, focusing on loose brush strokes and a more physical style. He told me that he wants to convey his emotion and his passion for the landscape, animals and people of the West.

Indian Summer 30" x 30" oil on canvas (left)
Raven and Roses  24" x 30"  oil on canvas (right)
Greg Dye

Morning Mountain Range
16" x 20"  oil on canvas
Greg Dye 
Greg does plan a bit before launching into his intuitive process. He explained, “I start with about 15 thumbnail sketches of ideas I have, and then I select two or three. Once I’ve chosen the image I like, I do a loose sketch on the canvas with my brush to get the composition right. Then, using a palette knife, I start to apply spontaneous strokes of thick color, one on top of the other. I don’t think about it; I just react to the paint and the emotional energy within myself. After applying many layers of paint, new shapes, colors and images appear and a buffalo or rugged mountain landscape starts to emerge through the paint. I sometimes add two or three colors onto the palette knife, just to see what will happen.”

Fearless 48" x 48 "  oil on canvas
Greg Dye 
This artist is very generous with his paint. You can see his vigorous brush strokes and thick paint application in his painting entitled “Morning Mountain Range.” Here, the mountains have a three-dimensional effect. I think that Greg shows his light source very well, and he skillfully conveys the distance between the grass and tree in the foreground, the mountains behind, and the sky still farther away. That shows a good understanding of color and values.

Greg works on each painting for just two days, using a wet on wet technique. He says that he doesn't have set colors or details in mind, since to him, it's not a matter of looking right, it's a matter of "feeling" right. He says. “Each stroke of color is a journey and I embrace the mistakes to find the beauty and live in the moment of every painting created.”

In his large painting called “Fearless,” it seems like Greg has abandoned himself to his process, and let loose. I can picture him painting frenetically, working fast until the image of the fierce buffalo emerges on the canvas. It’s pretty intense!

See more paintings by Greg at Wilde Meyer Gallery.

XO 6" x 6" acrylic on canvas
Dana Hooper
I spoke with another Wilde Meyer artist who said she’s “in the intuitive camp.” Dana Hooper tries to “get away from the literal” by employing several different techniques. One way to loosen up, she suggests, is to turn your painting upside down. “That can tell you if the composition works, and see the basic shapes,” she explained.

Hens & Coop 7 " x 7" oil on canvas
Dana Hooper
Dana, who lives in Colorado, has a background in biology and physiology. She has lived on a ranch, and is familiar with the animals she paints. Her intention is to paint her subjects simply, with an emphasis on color compatibility and strong brushstrokes.

Golden  12" x 15"  oil on canvas
Dana Hooper

You can appreciate Dana’s loose painting style in her work entitled “Golden.” She’s chosen some beautiful, warm colors for the dog’s body, which really pop against the cooler green/blue background. And, it all looks so fresh because of her bold brushstrokes. She doesn’t blend her colors too much; they just live amicably, side by side. Her painting called “Gung Ho” shows the basic shapes of the cow’s heads with blocks of color, in such interesting hues! I really like the contrast of the gold ochre background with the French ultramarine blue and violet shapes, as well as the bursts of red in selected spots.

Gung Ho  9.5" x 16.75"  acrylic on canvas
Dana Hooper
You can see more art by Dana here.

After speaking with Greg and Dana, I realize that applying paint generously is an important part of their technique. That process enables them to paint fluidly, and their brushstrokes are just as important to them as the composition and color choices. I really enjoying speaking with these wonderful artists. It’s so fascinating that we all have such different approaches and styles. It’s our visual language!