lundi 27 juin 2011

William Cochran

I first met William Cochran in 1998, in Washington DC. during the first international Salon of decorative painters I attended.
I heard about the Community Bridge in Fredericks  (MA) and immediately felt and understood this guy was special. People would show a lot of respect and he was also very kind and respectfull to others.
I guess we met a couple of times after this, I am not so sure. I would visit his website on a regular basis, impressed by the pictures.
By the end of 2008 he called me as I was teaching at Pat Ganino's school "Creative Evolution". He told me he was painting big murals and would need help for the landscapes.
This was a "no-brainer' as Pat says and indeed I said YES before any neuronal conection had time to initiate !
In 2009 I travelled to Frederick and spent a couple of weeks helping him on a set of murals for the Herrshey Museum.
They show , in the background, all the major buildings of the Herrshey "estate"...

 and the foreground is made off two trompe l'oeil low walls one of which includes a niche whith objects.

On the central panel , a group of kids seem to be casually gathered around Mr.Herrshey himself.

I am sure that having seen these pictures you understand why I was so happy to be part of ...this.

Working with William has been a strong experience for me.
I learnt how to really focus on the value/color parameters with a much higher intensity I would do on my own.
It felt a little unconfortable for a few days but I got used to it ...painting slower, trying hard to see and reproduce the right color, check out the relationships between my tones.
This is one of the things I learnt on a practical level .

On another level I discovered what a mural artist is about.
William is a guy who has thoughts, ideas, visions and makes them real through painting.
He sets up goals for himself, demanding ones and seems to stop only when he has reached them.
Painting is a means to an end , the tool and technique he has chosen to carve his vision in the stuff dreams are made of .
This was new to me.
I am coming from the other end of the spectrum. I am a craftsman . I gradually become an artist.
Working with William has been the strongest help I ever had in this evolution.

Please , go see his website.

vendredi 24 juin 2011

Parrots , peacocks and other birds

Birds are quite frequently used to ornate decorative paintings and bring some life and animation in otherwise too quiet compositions...
I remembered I had painted a few parrots but when I started researching in the pictures of my murals and paintings I noticed that there was a nice variety of winged they are. parrots in a boy's room in Provence...

...fantasy birds in Louis XV decorative panels... in progress, class panel...

...cockatoo in a mural for York Wallcoverings...

...peacocks and magpie in murals for a castle of the Loire valley...

...fantasy bird in a ceiling study...

...rooster in a french countryside scenery...

...swallows in a baroque ceiling...

... seagull in seascape ... daughter and the goldfinch , a memory of Carel Fabritius... of parrots from a XVIIth century model.

dimanche 12 juin 2011

Paradise and Chaos and Paris I

This is my very last mural. I was there on Friday evening to check out the way my ( studio made) varnish had dried and how the mural was lit by newly installed spotlights.

It is located in the very nice rue Madame , in the heart of Paris, quariter Latin ( the prestigious schools and colleges area) between the Jardin du Luxembourg and Place St Sulpice.

My clients have owned an appartment in this street for years and they just bought another one in order to have a direct access from street level.
They totally remodeled the whole space and as part of the lower level had been used and redesigned for offices they needed a strong decorative solution for the stairwell.

They have a passion for XVIIth century flemsih and dutch painters and asked me to work from compositions like this one , from Brueghel.

I did researches, sketches and came up with a pretty big oil sketch. Here it is with superimposed composition geomatrical pattern.

In this part of the composition I chose to represent a "Paradise" scenery similar to the Brueghel's with all sorts of animals, predators and prays "living in harmony".
But as there is a second wall I could not see me apinting the same thing on it.
I took time to meditate about it and had the idea of representing "Paradise" or an appolonian vision of the world on one side and "chaos" or a dyonisian vision of the world on the other .
Here is the sketch for the second wall :

At that point my clients aked me to introduce a statue of Pan (  located in the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg)  in the mural , .
Here is the picture they sent me...

...and here is my version of it, integrated into the landscape:

It was a perfect fit for my concept fot the whole !!

Everything made sense now. As you walk up the stairs, the first thing you see is "Chaos", with a wild nature , a dense view stuffed with trees and bathed in a golden light, animals hidden in bushes and forest and a mythological god who seems to celebrate the wilderness.
On the other side, "Paradise", in a much more opened landscape, a soothing evening light , flowers and animals resting together by a cascading stream...
I do not have very good pictures of the whole thing yet but here are few that I took right before and after installation... "Paradise" side first:

I swear this one is for real. WE really had quite a few air bubbles to fix and there really was one by the butt of the lion that Malek is shown here filling it up with diluted glue in the seringe :-)

Detail of the parrots in "Paradise"

"Chaos" before...

...and right after isntallation as we were painting the two medallions we added on the crown molding.

This was, again, a typical "decorative painter's work". Indeed, I had to study and understand a style (Brueghel's), connect it to the work of painters of the same period  ( from Rubens and Carraci to Poussin, Lorrain and the likes) , adapt the composition and technique to a pretty big scale ( this was totally painted in oils) and use specialized craftsmanship to install it seamlessly in strong raking light.
I was glad when it was over, even more so as my clients were really happy , I think I can say that I realized one of  their dreams for this new home.

lundi 6 juin 2011

Workshop in Bergamo.

There are some places whose mere name , for some mysterious reason, attract you.
I have always loved the name " Bergamo". An italianized version of the german "berg" ( mountain), a promise of richness and balance, strength and beauty.
A few years ago , on the way back from Venice we had a glimpse of the city from the highway and it confirmed my attraction.

Finally, in 2009 we went there for Salon ( the International gathering of Decorative Painters) and spent a week painting and enjoying the beauties of this unique city.
A perfect mix of italian art  and alpine panorama , a definition of paradise on earth for me.

My friend Lucretia Moroni, from the current generation of the ancient and locally famous Moroni family, asked me to take part to a class program she wanted to organize there.
No need to say I was honored and excited by the project.
The first workshop took place last year in November.

As we had access to the fabulous Palazzo Moroni I decided that we would spend a full day in the building. 
In the morning, Guia Arnolfi made a brillant guided visit for our seven students.

Right after this I lectured about the perspective rules, and used the gorgeous examples we could study in detail  to tell about the tricks and mysteries of the  illusionistic ceilings of the palazzo.

The game was to detect the vanishing points and guess which technical decisions the artists had made in each case. How they had built up their compositions, linked them up with the frescoes of the walls and anticipated on how the viewers would move in each room and admire their paintings.
We also studied the relationship between what we could observe and some examples from an old italian book on painted ceilings of Genova.

During the afternoon we made sketches of different architectural elements that we would use later on , like balusters, pilasters and various types of ornate moldings.

The focus was mostly put on one part of  the composition that we would use as a basis for the rest of the workshop.

After this we spent two days in a studio at Scuola Fantoni, downtown Bergamo.
The second day was devoted to reproducing, from scratch ( no transfer, no projection, pure drafting) a composition inspired from one we studied particularly in the palazzo.

We started painting on the last day...

 and all the students completed half of the full design, whcih was the goal I had set up for the group
Here are examples of students' work..

It was nice to see people proud of their work and maybe a little surprised by what they managed to learn and achieve in three days.

This is the painting  I did and used to demonstrate.

This was short but I felt it was a good workshop and I think we all enjoyed it.
One day studying, one day drawing, one day painting ...I like that.