Monday, February 10, 2014

Studying Under the Masters: Week 1- Matisse

Hello Lifers!

As many of you know my One Little Word for 2014 is CHOOSE and one of my BIGGEST choices this year is to spend more time and  money on knowledge and less on stuff.

My first step towards that has been starting an online course called
 "Studying Under the Masters: Becoming an Apprentice." 

It is a 9 week course developed by Jeanne Oliver where she brings together herself and 8 other modern day arts and asks the question: What can we learn from great artists of the past if we sat at their feet and learned by doing what they did? That's the way people learned for centuries...they would be chosen as an apprentice and spend YEARS doing grunt work just for the opportunity to be around a master painter and gleam knowledge and skills from him/her. 

Week 1 is with Jeanne Oliver herself and she chose Matisse.

 I am only about 2/3 of the way through week 1, but already I am learning so much, about Matisse and about myself. This week is making me look at art differently...yes...I can say I do or don't like art, but why do I feel the way I feel? Am I seeing beyond the basics of the picture (it's a portrait, it's a landscape, it's a still-life, etc) and breathing in the COMPOSITION of it (the brushstrokes, the patterns, the medium, the white space, etc.) 

One of our "assignments" this week was to look at Matisse paintings and start seeing the patterns he used (he LOVED mixing Patterns!) We were to use a black pen and watercolors to do quick sketches of patterns that stuck out to us in some of his paintings. 

Here are 4 of my favorite paintings and patterns:

I couldn't find the name and date for this painting, but obviously I like it enough to use 2 patterns from it.

I loved the boldness of the white and red striped tablecloth and obviously Matisse liked it too...he was known for reusing props and I saw this tablecloth in at least 10 other paintings. 

I loved the elegant, gold scroll work on the wall. I like how it was such a contrast to the bolder and less-serious pattern of the striped tablecloth. 

This is "The Window" from 1916. I was immediately drawn to the flooring pattern...I guess chevron has been around for a while, huh?

I liked how some of the "chevrons" were broken. I think it says a lot for an artist letting go of the need for perfection. It was accidental, but this ended up with an ombre effect on the aqua color!

This is my favorite of the ones I am sharing today. The bold colors and patterns speak to me. It's called "Interior with Egyptian Curtain" from 1948 and it is an oil on canvas.

This window is my favorite part. I love that you know it is these big, beautiful branches outside this tropical oasis, but they are not so defined that it feels like your looking at real leaves. It keeps that feeling of fantasy. 

Isn't it great that all three of these are so different? During my search for patterns, I came across 2 other paintings I wanted to share because..again...they are so different from the ones with all of the big, bold patterns and scenes.

This one is called "Open Window Etretat" from 1920. The only real pattern is the small one on the curtain. It is serene and uncluttered. 

I couldn't find the name and date on this piece, but note how it is COMPLETELY devoid of patterns, people or props. It is simply an open door, giving the viewer hope that that open door can  lead anyone. 

I wanted to share a few things that Jeanne pointed out about Matisse that really hit home with me:

(1) Matisse was an insecure artist. Oh thank's not just me! He struggled just like every other artist to find himself and his style. which lead to...

(2) Matisse was ALWAYS trying new things. If you look at his body of work, you would think the guy had multiple personality disorder. No...he wasn't crazy...he just knew that he always needed to keep growing as an artist and that as an artist...he would never truly "find" himself permanently..that art was a journey. 

(3) Matisse believed that nothing was permenant and it was OK to repeat. He might have 5 different versions of the same scene, with small changes like the medium or a color or a small movement of a prop. And these are just the changes that are documented. There were probably thousands of changes made because the chose NOT to get too attached to things and knew it was OK to paint over whatever he wasn't happy with until he was. 

So there you go...that is my Matisse journey (so far.)

I can't wait to share more with you over the coming weeks.

And if you would like to join me on this journey, you can check out Jeanne's website: Jeanne Oliver Designs for more information and to register. 

Until next time...make your art intentional...not an afterthought. 


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