Monday, January 05, 2009

Working in a series - drawing and painting ponds

Ecology Park Pond Series - 28th December 2008 #2
14" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm working up to doing a major post about my new project of drawing my local Ecology Park Pond during 2009. I've already outlined what I want to try and do in my post Reflections on a Pond on one of my group blogs - Watermarks but I also want to say something more about the pond and what I've learned in creating artwork in the last week or so.

But that's tomorrow's post.

I'm looking today at some other artists who've also drawn and painted ponds in different seasons and at different times of day as I intend to do. What I'm trying to do here is to look at what i can learn from
  • the different ways people approached the process of making art about a pond.
  • what other artists did in terms of working in a series
There are lots of artists who have painted a pond or two but very few who have made studies of ponds and the surrounding environment. The two most famous 'pond projects' are probably:
  • Claude Monet's paintings of the Water Garden at Giverny
  • Kevin McPherson's 'Reflections on a Pond' project
However there are also other artists who've done the same thing - some of whom I've found on the Internet - and others who I hope you will tell me about.

Claude Monet and 'Landscapes of Water' (the water garden at Giverny)

The water in the Water Garden at Giverny isn't often described as a pond but that's in effect what it is. Monet painted the Waterlilies and the water garden at Giverny - including
  • the Japanese Bridge (12 views of the bridge painted between July-September 1899; exhibited by Durand-Ruel in November/December 1900)
  • the waterlilies (starts summer 1903, continues each summer in summer 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908; exhibited at various exhibitions after these dates)
I looked at Why and how Monet developed his series paintings back in October. In September 2007, as part of my Gardens in Art project, I also wrote a couple of blog posts about:
I've found my 'big book' about the waterlilies (Monet, water lilies / Charles F. Stuckey. New York : Hugh Lauter Levin Associates : Distributed by Macmillan, с 1988.) Charles F. Stuckey is a professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and am going to be rereading this. It also has 36 pages which fold out to give panoramic reproductions!

What I've learned about the way Monet worked
  • He started plein air but often finished work in the studio
  • given that the location was part of his home he was able to start several paintings at different times of the day and in different weather conditions and then continue them later if the weather changed
  • Monet is very often painting the reflections of the sky and the trees in the water
  • He didn't paint the same view all the time
  • He often takes a close up view of the waterlilies on the water
  • he painted the water garden even as his eyesight deteriorated. Some of his paintings are a graphic description of what happens to your eyesight if you get cataracts.
  • He destroyed a number of canvases he wasn't happy with. It's possible that these were sketch paintings from which he developed canvases for finished work.
  • the name of the exhibition of 48 water lily paintings (1909) was subtitled "Landscapes of Water" - a term I like very much
Kevin McPherson and Reflections on a Pond

I did a brief overview of Kevin MacPherson's Reflections on a Pond project the day after Boxing Day walk which took in the Ecology Park Pond. (see the Watermarks blog - Reflections on a Pond)
MacPherson's project has been highlighted by some painters as a precursor of some of the painting a day projects - although interestingly he didn't actually paint every day.

My understanding is that he produced a painting of the alpine pond, which he could see from his home in the mountains east of Taos, New Mexico - for every day of a year - in different seasons, weather, light and times of the day. However it apparently took him five years to complete the project and he produced 368 paintings in total!

His aim was to capture the different effects of light as the seasons changed. Given the project was about change he held certain things constant - the subject was the same, he painted on small 6x8" panels and he used a limited palette. I gather he also made brief journal entries about each painting.

Subsequently, his paintings have been reproduced in a book about the project and some of the paintings now go on tour on a regular basis. It's now also got its very own Facebook Group! On Facebook, you can see photographs of some of the paintings in a recent exhibition in Pasadena - and see how the paintings look together. They seem to be arranged by seasons.
Watermarks - Reflections on a Pond 27th December 2008
On his website MacPherson states
Claude Monet and other Impressionists of the nineteenth century sought to capture the fast-changing effects of light in their paintings. Likewise, as Macpherson painted his Pond series, he was less concerned with the subject of the pond itself than with the effects of light at different times of the day and year. Macpherson observed and captured the colors he saw, rather than putting down the colors one might think should be there.
Reflections on a Pond a visual journey by Kevin MacPherson
Reflections on a Pond,” a series of 195 paintings by Kevin Macpherson, will be on display from May 15 to June 15, 2009 at Middletown Arts Center, 130 North Verity Parkway, Middletown, OH 45042. (they've got an incredibly slow website)

Learning: Key features of his approach are:
  • he painted the same view over and over again - in different light, time of day, month and season.
  • he didn't paint every day - but did produce more than 365 paintings across the seasons over a period of some 5 years
  • his paintings reflected different light on at different times of day on different days in different weeks, months, seasons
  • he stuck to a constant 3:4 format through using 6x8" panels
  • he used a limited palette - which presumably have some unity to the series of paintings which, I guess, he always intended to
  • most importantly - as he painted - he began to have a different relationship with the place.
Other artists

I did some searching on the Internet and also came up with these artists

Kurt Jackson

2006 Kurt Jackson had an exhibition at the about Ponds, Pools and Puddles at the The Lemon Street Gallery.

He doesn't paint the same pond repeatedly so much as paints ponds and pools. He has some interesting definitions
  • pond - a small body of water
  • pool - a small body of standing water
  • puddle - a small pool of water
I love his description on the exhibition page on his website of the water found in ponds, pools, and puddles.
When you approach one of these small enclosed bodies of water set into the land you might see it as a mirror reflecting the sky or as a gap in the landscape – maybe almost a hole in the earth, an entrance into the unknown. There is a sense of mystery there – sometimes dark and apparently bottomless and full of beasties, sometimes silver, echoing the light of the sky above; with birds flying through it. No wonder these places became associated with the old stories and tales as well as being used as places of offering in prehistoric times. They’re both a magnet for life and a home to a world of their own – full of life whether amongst the rocks on the foreshore, hidden in the heather and gorse on the moor, lying in a quarry or in the middle of the village green.
What I noted:
  • the majority of his paintings are pools associated with a marine environment
  • His exhibition images suggest he's experimented with a number of different ways of painting ponds and pools - very much influenced by the place and the way the water appears in the light.
  • the paintings are an abstraction of reality but still have a strong sense of place
  • I liked the sense of what is possible just using a pencil - see "Hazy warm evening, ebbing tide, Priest Cove"
Joseph Raffael [Update: this artist was not included in the original post]

Another artist who has painted the surface and vegetation of pools and ponds is Joseph Raffael. His vivid and lush watercolours are an education in complex pattern-making. I've written about him previously on this blog when reviewing his book (which I highly recommend to all watercolourists) - the same comment (below) applies to his paintings of ponds.
You can see his work on his website - I recommend the archives for a more full appreciation of his work with flowers - which are very large, complex, colourful and apparently both saturated and transparent at the same time. His processes are fascinating and are explained in the book about his work - Reflections of Nature - and also in his online autobiography here.
Making A Mark (27 July 2007) Flowers in Art: Contemporary Artists #1
Here are a couple of examples of his work involving lily pads Morning at Kodai and Dusk at Kodai and this is a fish painting Fish Dream II

What I learned:
  • a macro approach to vegetation and the surface of a pond can produce very attractive paintings if the focus is on colour and complex pattern making
  • his water paintings involved pre-painting his canvases with 10+ coats of white gesso which were sanded between each coat. His use of oils diluted his oils with turpentine on this surface gave his oil paintings of water a look of being lit from behind
  • he started his water paintings from photographs of waterways given to him
  • he projects photographs to draw out his paintings. You can see an image of him drawing in a new painting.
  • common features of his paintings are reflections of vegetation and sky, lily pads and fish.
  • he rarely paints the surroundings of ponds, preferring to paint a slice of the surface.
  • he's painted the same lotus pool in Bali that I have (must get my very poor watercolour painting out and see if it can be resurrected in some way!)
His work can be seen at various shows across the USA in 2009.

Tony Clayden

He has a series of Winter pond drawings from Nadderwater which is a small hamlet in a rural Devon. The pond was new in 2000.
I began to observe the pond and its seasonal changes during the winter of 2002-3 and have continued to do so throughout the year, although the winters have received particular attention. The drawings are reflections upon the pond and its immediate surroundings in winter, when it freezes, when vegetation is in winter mode and the entire pond is quiescent. They have been executed on paper, using ink, watercolour, acrylic and pastel, forming a series of thematic variations.
What I noted:
  • He's very interested in the edges of the pond and the relationship between water and vegetation - something I've already identified as a subject and started to do in Frozen Pond
  • there are issues to do with composition and focal point - the ones I think are more successful appear to place more emphasis on leading and guiding the eye into the painting.
  • His mixed media approach looks very interesting and is one which I think I'm likely to progress towards as my project progresses.
Niamh Collins

Niamh Collins, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, has developed a Pond Life series. They're a series of eight small-ish paintings in oil on canvas, but not on stretchers. She has a very unusual approach to creating her vivid pictures.
I have been concentrating on making abstract paintings, with an emphasis on a strong and distinctive use of colour. I am interested in the process of creating a painting, and how elements of accident and chance influence the outcome.

As I work on each painting, I paint out and ‘edit’ details, until I am left with islands of activity within the picture.

When making the work, I often use a basic printing technique, with clothing and textiles.
What I noted:
  • her particular interest seems to be the small creatures who live in ponds - which hadn't occurred to be me as possible subject matter.
  • the colours she used are an enhanced version of 'real life' colour
  • her print-making approach to painting is interesting
Nature artists

There are various naturalists who record pond life.

Koi Carp artists

For some reason, there seem to be a set of artists who like drawing koi carp - but I never seen to get a sense of where the koi carp are!

Who do you know paints ponds?

Do let me know if you know of any artists who paint ponds.

[Note: The drawing at the top is the second developed from my trip to the pond a week ago last Sunday. You can see the first one in Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan]

3.30pm: Updated for addition of Kurt Jackson - who I managed to forget! duh!


Robyn said...

Gorgeous depth and light is this second pond picture, Katherine. I'm very impressed by your waterside grasses and the reflections.

I love the way you reveal more of the clouds in the pond.

Jeanette said...

I love the colours in this piece Katherine.

I also like the idea of exploring a single place multiple times. The end result would be stunning.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks Robyn and Jeanette

I'm finding that even in a very short space of time I'm noticing more and getting much more out of focusing on a single subject - albeit in the round!

Robin Neudorfer said...

Joseph Raffael has made ponds, water, and koi a large part of his work. My first view of one of his paintings was when he was working in oils, quite thin at the time, and very large. Then he made the transition over to watercolors. Incredible in person.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thank you Robin - I'm kicking myself as I've got Joseph Raffael's book and I've written about him before on this blog!!

I knew there were more artists I knew about who'd painted ponds!

Gayle Mason said...

Beautiful colours, I will be following this series with interest.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks Gayle

A reader wrote to tell me the following - I've highlighted the artists' names

"Are you aware of David Hockney's series called "Paper Pools'? He did it at Tyler Graphics in New York State, using coloured poured pulp to create large views of a swimming pool.

Or Jennifer Bartlett's series, "In The Garden," on a (swimming) pool behind a house she rented for a year? Both are interesting because they were on-going projects about a single body of water.

I also have a wonderful book called Artists, Land, Nature by Mel Gooding. One of the artists discussed, Sjoerd Buisman did a piece IN a pond, planting willow branches and documenting their change over several seasons. There are other exciting and inspiring works in the book too."

Gesa said...

The drawing is great, Katherine, I like very much how it gets to darker values and depicts the surface of the pond so lightly.
I am very much looking forward to your series of this pond. I am not sure I'll have a serial pond, but have been trying to work up some of my tree water reflections over the past couple of days.

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