It’s the materiality—or, for many, that’s at least part of it. The buttery rich feel of oil paint moving across the surface can be a siren song for a painter.
Bernard Chaet, a notable artist and Yale University professor, took a keen interest in the physicality of oil painting throughout his career. His book An Artist’s Notebook: Techniques and Materials continues to have relevance for readers today.
It has clear and concise explanations of various tools and processes. It also showcases an inherent understanding that painting is physical. In his own work Chaet allowed sensory experience to guide his hand and he created oil paintings that seem to be both about the journey and experience of painting as well as destinations in themselves.
Love of Texture
In Burnt Sienna Sky, there is a heightened level of texture and mutability on the surface of the canvas. The upper-right section and foreground display white and yellow daubs of paint that are crusty and ridged.
They stand in sharp contrast to the smooth and slick surrounding areas where the paint has been thinned out and spread on. The variety of brushstrokes — some visible and some not, some short and concise while others are winding and uneven — conveys the freedom the painter felt as he worked. Maybe that is why the painting is appealing. It is pleasurable to just sit and let the eye roam in, out, and over the painting’s textures and colors. I imagine myself painting them and it fills me with joy! And an itch to pick up a brush.
Atmosphere Not Geology
More than allowing viewers to meander on a visual journey, Chaet creates paintings that may be ostensibly about particular places, but they aren’t dedicated to depicting identifiable landmarks and masses.
Instead, the works are more about the strong sensory responses that a given location can evoke. The expressions of atmosphere in an oil painting such as First Light presumably shows a sun rising just before the night’s fog burns off.
The first indication of the warmth of morning isn’t in the sun itself, but its reflection on the land and water, where bright colors contrast with the murky masses flanking the reflection.
Chaet had a style and approach that was all his own. His interest in materiality, color, and the senses resonate with artists working in all mediums at any stage of their careers. It’s all about visual exploration and self-expression and all I can say is yes, please!
I’m also saying “yes, please” to the creative discoveries featured in the latest Strokes of Genius. Dozens of artists, dozens of works, and the inspirations and stories behind how all the artistry came to life. An inspiration every time you open it. Get Strokes of Genius if you are looking for the same sense of renewal and passion in your art! Enjoy!