Monday, April 4, 2016

Movies and More

Blue Heron 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" watercolour on paper
Went looking for a specific photo yesterday and spent the day looking through my entire archive, picking and choosing what I could use for reference for painting. I had just got done telling everyone how hard it is to photograph the herons and then found a treasure trove of heron photos I took a few years back. I lucked out really, the river had flooded and this particular heron was fishing in someone's front yard, which is why it's so green and how I managed to capture as many photos as I did. They're great for practicing mixing greys. Last week I was working on buildings and trying to put some in shadow and some in light. After being reminded of the warm light=cool shadows I think I got it. Then I painted this bird and laughed at myself as it has both cool greys and warm greys and it was like the buildings were haunting me.
Now for your weekly movie recommendation. I decided that in order to better keep myself organised I'd post movies and book recommendations on Mondays. So every Monday you can look forward to that, or not.
The movie this week is, Lust for Life starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn.  It was just Van Gogh's birthday the other day so it's only fitting to choose a movie about him.  Douglas plays Vincent and Quinn plays Gauguin. Van Gogh is one of the more interesting painters I've ever read about.  I've seen many exhibits with his work and one of my favourites was at the Art Institute in Chicago where they displayed numerous letters he had written to his brother. While his style may not be everyone's cuppa tea it's hard not to admit he wasn't persistent.  Many books and art historians claim he only sold one painting in his lifetime, the exact painting differs depending on who's talking. Despite this he didn't quit.
This movie is an interpretation of the many stories told about Van Gogh.  How he cut off his ear and mailed it to a woman and all of the other greatly exaggerated drama that is synonymous with Van Gogh.  I love it when historians bring up the, he ate his paint, story.  Anyone who's ever painted knows it can get a bit out of control and the paint ends up everywhere. It only takes one town gossip to see Van Gogh with a bit of paint on his face and spread a rumour that he eats his paint.  The movie shows what his friendship with Gauguin might have really been like. They were both kind of oddballs and their work wasn't taken very seriously at the time so it's no wonder they didn't always get along yet remained friends.
The movie can be rented on DVD from Netflix,  streamed at Amazon Video, or check your local library or movie rental place.
The book for this week, Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques From Inside the Atelier by Juliette Aristides. One thing about Van Gogh that some might not know is that he took drawing very seriously.  Here's an essay written about his thoughts on drawing. Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings.  His paintings may make some think he had no grasp of the basics but his early work proves he knew what he was doing. One of the most important things to have, if you want to be a painter of any sort, is a basic knowledge of drawing. Proportion, perspective, control of tone, composition, they're all important and can first be learned by simply picking up a pencil and piece of paper. Doesn't even have to be a fancy pencil and paper. This book has a lot of lessons on theory and some instruction that would be worth looking at if you're a beginner, or want to strengthen your knowledge. There's a video that comes with it that is almost painful to watch.  It's difficult for many artists to paint and talk at the same time, but if you're going to teach it's pretty important.  If you can't there's always voice-over work that can be added to the video later, which is what this video needed. Back to the book, the end of each chapter has a lesson set up to get you to try out the concepts covered in that chapter.  This is actually the best feature of the book and makes it a good learning tool. I picked up my copy at Half Price Books for around $15. You can purchase it at Amazon in hardback or Kindle version if you're interested.


  1. I thought that was going to be a hard subject - grey-ish figure on a green ground and everything close in value and chroma. But it reads ok. That little bright green spot just under the belly was a good move.
    "Lust for Life" was the first movie about artists I ever saw, and assumed that was the standard art lifestyle, Though it was a bit confusing to a kid, having also just seen Kirk Douglas in "The Vikings".

    1. There were better photos to work from, but I liked the pose in this one so I tried to paint it. There's actually a line of lighter grass in the photo but just went with a spot rather than making a stripey background.
      The first time I saw that movie I caught it half way while flipping through the channels and I was pretty confused. The thing that got me was the size of the actors. For some reason I always had it it my mind that Vincent was sort of an average size and maybe a bit frail. Never doing much manual labour, he wouldn't need to be a big guy. This movie they looked like line backers, just huge. Never knew if the director had them act that way or they were that way in real life. I didn't know Douglas was in a Viking movie previous to this one so maybe he bulked up for that one and still had the muscles that made him look big in this one.