Friday, September 16, 2011

Alexander Harrison

In my quest to become a seascape painter I've searched back through time to find the very best examples of the genre. I have lots to share as we go.... today  it's Alexander Harrison, an Am. Tonalist painter of great repute in his day. In particular one painting called The Wave.  You can enlarge the link I gave, but what we can't get is the real impact. The painting is 40 inches high(99.7 cm) by almost TEN FEET long (299.7) Can you imagine the experience this must give you! Even in the poor internet reproduction you can see the amazing subtle colors he's captured in the overcast light I love so much...Here are just a few things to appreciate and for painters to learn from.

Horizion line
notice how it changes across the work, nowhere is it hard, which would flatten the space, and in some places it's obscured altogether,

Lead ins. 
notice how he leads our eye into the painting with the little wavelets and on a more subconscious level with the reflected darks of the wave in the foreground wet sand linking us to the dark of the wave.

Gradated color/value shifts.
In the sky, a deeper value fog is played off against the light on the water on the right side of the painting, if the sky tone had not shifted that light would not glow so much

The wave itself is pure magic, notice how much he varies the top line, the intervals of dark water and lighter foam, the dimension of the foam and the treatment of the bottom edge shadows and reflections into the water below.

I will be doing some small studies based on some of his paintings. This is how I'm teaching myself seascape painting. I have a few good books by E John Robinson, and one by Roger Curtis, most of the others out there have not been useful to the way I want to paint. But I've learned much more, once past the basics, from study of the great painters who've gone before me.  They are not painters on the radar of the art world anymore, except maybe Homer, but in their day were greatly respected and well known.

more links for Harrison the way to find all his work on the internet, some have large files

and on American Tonalism, (Harrison was a Tonalist) the only home grown Americn art movement, that crashed when Impressionism came along. The paintings are very quiet and subtle and have an intentional spiritual quality. Tonalism has a great influence on my current work as the quality of light along the N. California coast, is that way in nature.

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