Winter Orchard, Gouache on Arches Hot Pressed Board, 8x10
Just recently the Rockport Art Association held a retrospective exhibit of Aldro Hibbard's work. It was a once in a life time opportunity to see a stunning collection of his work gathered from all over the country, from private collections and museums alike. Everyone raved about it and thanks to Hurricane Sandy I missed it. Yes, the day I was planning on going we were in a shambles and without power. Fortunately, I had purchased the beautiful hardcover book that went along with the exhibit from the RAA on line , and so I was able to read up on Hibbard's life and pour over his wonderfully crafted paintings. Not quite the same as seeing them in person, but the internet also provided me with good resolution images and further commentary on his life and work.
All the biographical information is certainly interesting but the thing that struck me the most were the strong interlocking compositions so often found in his paintings. Triangles, diamonds and zig-zags punctuated by strong verticals feature in many of his paintings.
Hibbard loved to paint the mountains, often from a high vantage point looking down into the land. I found that scenario so satisfying for a composition that I decided to look through my reference materials to see if I could find something similar. I did. This charming farm and orchard nestled in the snow cover Berkshire mountains.
Here's how I broke up the land mass following Hibbard's lead....
Notice all the zig-zag lines, flattened diamond in the center, and the triangles. Also notice that the buildings are mere details, and fit within larger compositional shapes.
Below are three of Hibbard's mountain snow scenes, and graphics that show the break of of large shapes that lock together to create the composition.
Aldro Hibbard, Snow Scene #2, 9x12, il on board, circa 1930's
Notice how important that small triangle in the middle ground, left beside the pine tree is in holding together all the other shapes on that side of the composition, which is the most active. Take a look also, at the diagonal lead in lines in the foreground and see how they are accomplished with just a slight shadow on the snow. Again buildings and smaller trees are mere details fit within larger more important shapes.
Aldro Hibbard, Up The Valley, oil on artist board; 18 x 24, Circa 1940.
Again notice how all the shapes are large and strong and very easy to pick out. The lines of movement throughout the composition are emphasized and encourage the viewer's eye to move about in the scene.
The blue line shows the large sweeping zig-zag movement in the composition.
It's this focus on large, strong, simple shapes and movements that give Hibbard's work its underlying strength. The scenes may be charming, but all the charming details are subordinated to the larger design elements. That's what keeps the work from becoming sentimental or saccharine.
Focusing on the two dimensional design of a painting throughout the painting process ensures that your work will stay strong and make a statement even when viewed at a distance and won't be lost under unimportant, non-essential details. Food for thought!
See more of Hibbard's work HERE