I get excited and a bit chagrined whenever I discover oil painters of the past that I've never heard of. I realize that I'm no walking encyclopedia, yet I like to think I've got sound footing in oil painting. But the history of fine art oil painting is vast, so I'm going to cut myself some slack and just celebrate that I've discovered this batch of artists—early twentieth-century landscape painters who were part of the collective known as the Group of Seven—that are really rocking my world!
J.E.H. MacDonald—Sometimes when I look at an artist's work I get the feeling that he or she just sees differently. I felt that when I saw MacDonald's paintings. His colors are surprisingly varied and sometimes his choices seem out of place—jewel colors that are almost garish mixing with subtler earth tones—and yet they work. I was also really taken with the artist's shapes. The way he handles his brush to create such interesting forms on the canvas really made the works interesting in an abstract sense.
|Lake McArthur, Yoho Park by J.E.H. MacDonald, oil painting, 1924.|
Arthur Lismer—To incorporate artifice into a landscape painting can be off-putting to some, but I found myself quite drawn to Lismer's stylized way of painting. He developed a style that allowed him to turn simple and straightforward elements like cliffs, trees, or the ocean into elements that are highly unique. I'm all for a painting that looks like a painting, and not necessarily a photo-realistic representation meant to trick the eye.
|A September Gale, Georgian Bay by Arthur Lismer, oil painting, 1921.|
F.H. Varley—I'll admit that I kind of gasped when I saw Varley's work. His ability to create an atmospheric sense of space really bowled me over. With the slightest strokes he creates a mountain range, or by building up layers of blues, greens, and grays he creates a vast night sky that seems to soar up and out.
|Landscape No. 1: Mountains, B.C.
by F.H. Varley, oil painting, c. 1934.
|Moonlight at Lynn
by F.H. Varley, oil painting, 1933.
Seeing these works has really injected me with new energy. That coupled with instruction from contemporary artists whose names I do know—very well—has me raring to go, including DVDs like Visual Concepts in Still LIfe with Sherrie McGraw, Painting Light: The Cape School Method from Camille Przewodek, and Alla Prima Portraiture with Rose Frantzen. All of these together are sure to guarantee inspiration and strong technique for a new year! Enjoy!