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Robert Glenn Twice Weekly – Character and Characteristics








Larch image from Wikipedia

Larch image from Wikipedia

Character and Characteristics
by Robert Genn

Like a lot of boys, I was interested in cars. You might say I was nuts about them. I drew them at the drop of a hubcap--filling the margins of my schoolbooks with their curves. Perversion? Maybe. One just automatically draws the things one loves. In my case, I drew them from memory. Yep, I could do a pretty good '53 Chevy or a '36 Cord while making a cameo appearance in Math 101. Fact is, I knew the principal characteristics of so many models, I was able to extract their essences from my mental bank.

The trouble with reference material is that we tend to paint that tree, that rock, or that barn in the specificity we happen to have in the reference at hand. On the other hand, with loved images dragged in from recollection, we tend to catch their spirit.

Let's take larches. I've been painting a lot of them lately. Larches are the high-mountain conifers that turn yellow in the fall and eventually lose their needles. With a charm of their own, they are often scraggly and seemingly ill-designed compared to say pines or hemlocks. Their eccentric branches reach in unexpected directions and take un-treelike turns. Up in the mountains last summer I made myself spend a few hours getting to know them. Rather than trying to render a specific larch, I was looking for larchness.

Painting, as I've said a few times before, is a matter of cooperating with the needs of the painting. If my painted larch is needed to reach out awkwardly in the direction of another pictorial element or shy back from one, then so be it. To heck with how the larch in question actually was.

To understand the characteristics of things, it doesn't hurt to assign anthropomorphic connections. Larches reach out, droop, befuddle, dance, embrace each other and inadvertently pray to the sky. These sorts of considerations help imbed vital characteristics in our mental banks. There's another benefit: having insider knowledge helps us love the stuff even more. Without necessarily going all the way to caricature, the end result can be work that has character.

Best regards,


PS: "Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it 'creative observation.'" (William S. Burroughs)

Esoterica: Awareness and observation are the habits of blessed artists. It is our life blood. "Art," said Vincent van Gogh, "demands constant observation." It's not only profitable but one of the greatest of life-enhancers. "A heightened sense of the observation of nature is one of the chief delights that have come to me through trying to paint," said Winston Churchill. If you'd like to read some excellent quotes on the fine art of observation, some of them by you, our subscribers, please go here.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE.org permission to post his twice-weekly newsletter.  Visit his website at painterspost.com for more inspiration!






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