Sunday, March 21, 2010

John Constable: Looking at Texture in Dedham Lock

I absolutely love going to the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven. I visited there on Saturday which was an absolutely gorgeous spring day. After viewing the beautiful English landscapes on the fourth floor, we ate at Claire's Corner Copia and then headed over to the Yale University Art Gallery.

Over the next few days I'm going to share my trip with you!

The very first painting which captured my attention on this trip was John Constable's Flatford Mill...

Aside from the brilliant, clear colors it was the composition that I noticed. Don't you just love the way the tree branches form an arch over the red roofed buildings.

Whenever I go to a museum I take plenty of notes, photos (if allowed) and make sketches as a way to further enjoy and more intimately explore a work.

The next painting, Constable's Dedham Lock really fascinated me! Take a look.....

The gallery was very, very quiet with only a handful of people enjoying the art. I guess everyone was outside on such a gorgeous spring day! Since I didn't want to disturb the silence I'm speaking rather softly in the video, so you may want to turn up your volume.

Here are two details of the amazing texture in this painting...

This amazing painting got me thinking about the tyranny of subject which often plagues painters, especially plein air painters. It's the nagging feeling your inner critic gives you that you need to carefully and accurately portray your subject. I think we do this mostly because it's safe. It proves to everyone that we have talent, that we really do know how to paint. If done well the subject is unmistakable. Everyone will recognize every detail of what you've painted. It might even look as good as *gasp* a photograph.

But being shackled to an exact representation of your subject is the fastest way to squash creativity and expression and to muffle your authentic visual voice. Take a look again at the details of Dedham Lock and really let it sink in. See how abstract and expressive the paint application is, that is authentic, unique creative expression. That's what I'm striving for in my own work.

Below are a couple of beautiful cloud studies by Constable....There is an amazing book called Constable's Clouds which is out of print now. sells it used through the marketplace unfortunately the cheapest copy goes for a whopping $525.00

"I have done a good deal of skying. I am determined to conquer all difficulties and that most arduous one among the rest...The sky is the source of light in nature and governs everything" John Constable Oct. 23, 1821


AutumnLeaves said...

A fabulous post, Jan! I think you are so very interesting! Does anyone go along with you on your jaunts? I have to say that I like your rendering of the first painting in your sketchbook better than the original! I am not sure what I find off in the composition, but admittedly it looks better when you click on it. I think the arching trees maybe...I love the idea of them, but the execution reminds me of something I would do (and that just isn't a good thing! LOLOL)!! Love the rest of the paintings you've posted here though. The texture on the second (Dedham Lock) is gorgeous. There is a mood to the piece, a heaviness, but it is a good feel, oddly enough. The sky/clouds? Simply gorgeous and stand alone - not something I usually see in sky paintings!

Jan Blencowe said...

Lots of times I go by myself for what Julia Cameron calls an "Artist Date" in her books The Artist's Way and Vein of Gold. She recommends you go by yourself as a way to really nurture & fill your creative well, it's meant to be a very personal time. This trip however my husband & I went together since we were celebrating our 22 anniversary over the week end.

It's interesting about that first painting, the arch of branches isn't really that noticable when you first see the paintign in person, but ince you notice it it's all you see!

Dedham Lock does indeed have a heaviness of atmosphere about it, moody, turbulent like the weather is about to change for the worse. I think that's part of what makes it so compelling!

Roy The Artist said...

Hi Jan, So enjoy your posts and your videos. I have placed the Turner and Constable ones on 'paint my photo' It is a social site where we share our photos for others to paint from. So your blog about the tyranny of subject strikes a chord. I try to find my own interpretation. I have been lucky enough to see the Turner collection in London many times. I made a video at Flatford looking across the flood meadows to Dedham church. Also I live very close to Hadleigh, and the view you sketched in your note is one I know well. You can see our social site here.