John Salminen and a Close Look at 4 Architectural Watercolor Paintings

Wherever you are in your day I think you’ll find it easy to let your eyes and mind linger for a moment with today’s featured art. It spotlights the watercolor paintings of John Salminen: Master of the Urban Landscape (From Realism to Abstractions in Watercolor). Each painting in this book invites you to look into the daily, easily forgotten moments; maybe even hear the sounds that accompany each scene. A celebration of the artist’s work, this book is a collection of more than 150 watercolor paintings, accompanied by John’s own reflections and several essays, such as one by Mary Whyte, which I’ve included here. Scroll down to read Mary’s touching tribute and get a sneak peek inside John Salminen: Master of the Urban Landscape. ~Cherie

Watercolor paintings by John Salminen | ArtistsNetwork.com

Autumn High Line (watercolor on cold-pressed Arches paper, 36×24); All featured art by John Salminen

A View of the World

by Mary Whyte

John Salminen is widely recognized as one of the most accomplished watercolor artists working today. And rightly so. His paintings exhibit masterful skill in drawing and composition, and his technical virtuosity for accomplishing ambitious works of luminous washes, glazes and texturing has few equals. John’s name recognition and impressive roster of awards speak not only of the admiration and respect of his peers but of the art world in general.

Viewing a Salminen watercolor allows us to see the world in a broadly universal way, as well as in the intricate components of the details. His subjects range from gritty urban night scenes, shocked with neon signage, to sunlit parks frothy with trees in spring bloom. In every case, we view the scene first as if from afar, then we are drawn in closely to delight in the unexpected nuances. From images of Hong Kong to his Midwest homeland, John shows us his personal experiences of the world and his obvious delight in what he has discovered. Never sentimental or hackneyed in his portrayals, John dishes up contemporary images of cars, buildings, pedestrians and busy streets. In colorful mosaic-like arrangements, the artist’s simplified, flattened shapes are sprinkled across the paper like confetti.

As a teacher, John is at the top of the leaderboard. He conducts his classes with thoughtful logic, nudging his students to think in more abstract terms while leading them through the concepts of value, color, shape and design. John adroitly teaches the timeless elements of sound painting, often punctuating lessons with his dry and self-deprecating sense of humor. Through the artist’s dedication to his craft and to his students, a rich and inspired tradition is being passed on. John has assured not only the future of watercolor in the art world but his own signature as well.~Mary

A Look at 4 Architectural Watercolor Paintings

by John Salminen 

Architectural forms are predominantly geometric, angular and hard-edged. They are ubiquitous in urban scenes, and I was drawn to them initially because they are a natural and logical result of using the square brushes I learned to employ in my early abstractions and California-style work. Square brushes make hard-edged geometric shapes, and those shapes are the building blocks of architectural subjects. My comfort level with this tool combined with a fascination for the logical patterns within architectural shapes were a perfect amalgam of style and subject choice. Many other elements are inherent in my urban paintings, but architectural forms initially appealed to me and presented me with the challenge of capturing the feel and look of urban street scenes.

Watercolor paintings by John Salminen | ArtistsNetwork.com

Above: December in Paris (watercolor on cold-pressed Arches paper, 24.5×31)

Nothing speaks to our picture of Paris more emphatically than the Eiffel Tower. It has come to symbolize the city and, as a result, has been photographed and painted repeatedly. I wanted to portray it in a unique manner that avoided the clichéd imagery with which we are all too familiar. The tower itself is a worthy subject, so I explored the surrounding neighborhood, looking for a vantage point that would provide an interesting perspective. The solid structure of the buildings from this view enhanced the delicate lace-like ironwork of the tower, and the two disparate elements complemented and strengthened each other. The figure in the window came from a photo I took in San Miguel de Allende. Imagine her surprise when she stepped out onto a Parisian balcony!

Watercolor paintings by John Salminen | ArtistsNetwork.com

Morning Fog (watercolor on cold-pressed Arches paper, 35×36.5) was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor in the American Watercolor Society International Exhibition in 2010.

I ventured into San Francisco’s Chinatown early in the morning, hoping to experience the streets before the daily hustle and bustle. When I arrived, I found not only nearly empty streets but also fog drifting through the temporarily quiet neighborhood. The diffused light quality added atmosphere and mood to the scene, and just as I took the photograph, a lone pedestrian ventured across the intersection, creating a focal point and adding balance to the painting.

Watercolor paintings by John Salminen | ArtistsNetwork.com

Cozy Bar (watercolor on cold-pressed Arches paper, 15×22) by John Salminen

For many years, the Cozy Bar was regarded as a notorious landmark in Duluth, Minnesota. It has a colorful history, and I have always liked the gritty look and feel of it–enough that I first chose to paint it almost forty years ago. Although the building is now vacant and abandoned, it still appeals to me as a subject.

In my initial painting, above, I was drawn to the visual character of the building, and in my recent painting, below, I was more concerned with the broader implication of urban decay and neglect. I like the fact that when I look at these two versions of the same subject, they are a visual reminder of my evolution as a painter. ~John

Watercolor paintings by John Salminen | ArtistsNetwork.com

Cozy Fini (watercolor on cold-pressed Arches paper, 34×24.5)

Continue reading when you get this
Master the Urban Landscape in Watercolor With John Salminen
Digital Bundle (including a video workshop)!

Click here to read “The Stories Behind John Salminen’s Travel Paintings”

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