These are paintings that touch me, push my inner-painter. The visual sense I’ve developed over the decades stems from observing favorite paintings over time. Like a cherished song, or a favorite book, where we discover new things each time we revisit the work and find reflections of ourselves within, whether it’s something we’re sure we know or perhaps something we strive to know, certain paintings grow along with us. Even though we’re the ones doing the growing, some works seem to capture and hold us for a lifetime.
King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1, Edwin Austin Abbey (above)
I love the soft north light that slides over this piece, only illuminating the pieces of chracters Abbey wants you to spend time on. I’m always fascinated by the bright values countered by the foundation of medium values: the gold of the crown, bright flesh, and the reflected light of the armor scales, against the deeper flesh tones as they recede. The original painting hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY and I make a visit to it nearly every time I’m there. At over 10 feet in length, it’s an experience.
Adventurers, Norman Rockwell
What a lesson in color temperature. I’m struck by the fantastic reddish fez and the pasty reflections catching the light of its conical shape. The alternating warm and cool shadows create a sculpture of his right hand. The reflection on the globe not only bounces back the light source, but gives a hint of its slightly lumpy surface.
Witching Hour, Andrew Wyeth
The candles steal the show, animated at different angles. But the way the light reflects in this empty room is everlasting. I know. I’ve seen this…or have I? Not quite like this, that’s certain. So much human character in a room without humans, found in the chairs. Must be a doorway open or an off-stage window…
Mindwarpers, John Berkey
Besides the composition element of the planet accenting the huge tailfin by contrast, this painting bleeds light everywhere, a white-on-white theme. Surely we are next to some anomaly that radiates so intensely as to wash out the dark of outer space. I love that Berkey took advantage of it to design this brilliant moment. How to paint space without making it dark.
Pirate Freedom, David Grove
You know what? Forgot anything I might’ve said about the moonlight here. The light hitting the subject from some off-camera lantern is just fantastic. The depth he achieves with this juxtaposition is flat-out wonderful. (Yes, it’s full of wonder: check out the excellent value shifts and blends from the hands, up the arms to the face. That’s control.) The dashes of red are perfection.
Seeing these through your eyes (so to speak) is a treat! Love that intro paragraph too – really well put. Thanks for sharing, Greg!
I have loved John Berkey’s art ever since I saw it on the cover of a National Geographic book about space. His fantastic detailed and brilliant spaceships have been my personal touchstones for decades!
Funnily, when I first saw that pirate painting, I thought it was yours.
Wow, I’d never seen that Berkey piece before! White-on-white…in SPACE? It’s brilliant. Masterfully done. That and the Wyeth pieces are what really struck me. The Wyeth piece is incredibly haunting. Love simple pieces that evoke an overwhelming mood or emotion. Thank you for sharing, Greg!
Funny but painters of illustration tend to focus on similar moments in art or events, visually sublime moments, that we acknowledge to be wondrous feats of craft and insight. Berkey, Grove and Abbey and Wyeth all have something important to espy in their ways of seeing.
The Brandywine River Museum did a nifty exhibition years ago featuring all three Wyeths and Howard Pyle. It was titled “Wondrous Strange”. Splendid compositions of other worldly things in the real world.