Impressionist Painting and Why It’s a Great Time to Be An Artist

Impressionist artist George Gallo wants you to learn not how to paint like him, but how to “paint like you.” Because Gallo has so much painting advice to offer, I’ve invited him to share his thoughts on Impressionist painting and art in general. It’s my pleasure to welcome him here.

Impressionist landscape painting by George Gallo

Lambertville in February (oil, 38×50) by George Gallo. Hard edges, extreme values and heavier paint application create energy and excitement. “Pin” this to your art board on Pinterest.

Impressionist Painting and Why It’s a Great Time to Be An Artist by George Gallo

Some people ask if representational work is still relevant. I think a better question would be this: is telling a story or sharing universal truths still relevant? If the answer is yes, then representational painting is still relevant and will be as long as there are human beings who are interested in the idea of sharing their feelings. The Impressionists, along with the Modernists and post-Modernists, left the door wide open for us to have more freedom so that we, as representational painters, can put down what we are seeing and feeling. It’s a great time to be a painter because there are so many different ways that we can attack our subjects. We can synthesize romantic realism with both Impressionist and modernist conceits, if we so desire. Instead of dividing all of these different schools of thought into categories, we would be wise to draw from the principles of these schools and use that knowledge to our advantage.

The act of painting hasn’t changed in centuries because generally we are all using the same materials and applying them in the same manner. The difference is the way we can now think for having been so liberated to pursue our own visions.

I am somewhat of a traditionalist in that I like to paint landscape paintings. Although I do studio work, my favorite way to paint is outdoors, trying to capture not only what I see, but the impact my subject matter has on my senses. In many ways, all painting is a self-portrait since what we are doing is as much about what we are feeling as what we are seeing. Our personal ability to express it is what separates us from other artists and makes us unique. Many times students want to know the answers to technical questions such as what type of brush or color can be used to create certain effects. This is thinking backwards. If you figure out what you want to say clearly, and break it down into abstract bits of paint in your imagination, a variety of technical ideas will come to you naturally.

Ask Yourself, Why?
When seeing something that moves you to paint, always ask yourself, “why?” If you don’t know, you will not be starting from a very strong place. Yes, there are artists out there who say that they will merely paint what they find beautiful or know what will make a beautiful painting. But trust me, if they were asked to articulate what they like about a specific image, they would certainly be able to do so. It could be the interplay of colors or the juxtaposition of edges. The possibilities are endless and if you can tell yourself clearly why you find something worthy of painting, you’re on your way to capturing it faithfully.

Impressionist oil painting by George Gallo

Pennsylvania Farm, Evening (oil, 38×50) by George Gallo. Keeping values close and soft edges creates mood and mystery.

I often ask students why they pick a subject. If a student says that he or she likes something because it feels “dreamy,” that would already suggest to me several ways to achieve that emotional effect. Certainly one would consider using closer values and softer edges. If a student says he or she likes the visual energy of a subject, that would suggest a different approach. More lively colors and a more rich impasto approach would be a consideration here. These are of course generalities, but I hope you see my point. Technique should always be forged by what you want to say, not the other way around. ~G.G.

This is quite a bit to consider, and if you’re like me, you’re probably wanting to devour even more. Gallo is the author of Impressionist Painting for the Landscape, which is part of an exclusive kit at North Light Shop (pre-order it here and get the book, linen panels, paper palettes, and a set of oil paints). With this set, complete with Gallo’s book, you’ll be able to express your own visions for and feelings–in a style that may be like Gallo’s but is still completely your own.

With warm regards,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor
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