Sunday, November 13, 2016
A Student of Pissarro
An 8x10 pastel that takes up an old theme: looking into woods. The late afternoon, autumn sun gently touches a few branches, tree limbs and leaves. The view is from the top of Sheep Hill.
My current reading is a biography of Cezanne by Jack Lindsay. He recounts how a peasant, who had a way with words, watched both Cezanne and Pissarro painting side-by-side. The peasant said Pissarro 'dabbed' [piquait] and Cezanne 'smeared' [plaquait]. Pissarro was an important teacher for Cezanne. Here's Lindsay's quote of another painter Le Bail on Pissarro's painting advice, which Cezanne adopted and is still quite relevant:
"Seek out for yourself a type nature which suits your temperament. One should observe forms and colours in a motif rather than drawing. It's not necessary to accentuate the forms. They can be realized without that. Accurate drawing is dry and destroys the impression of the whole, it annihilates all sensation. Do not make the bounding line of things too definite; the brushstroke, the right shade of colour, and the right degree of brightness should create the drawing. With a mass the main difficulty is not to give it an accurate outline, but to paint what is to be found within it. Paint the essential character of things, try to express it with any sort of means you like, and don't worry about technique.
When painting look for a clear object, see what lies to right and left of it, and work at all sections simultaneously. Don't work bit by bit but rather paint everything at once, applying paint all over, with brushstrokes of the right colour and brightness, and observe in each case which colours are near the object. Use small brushstrokes and try to set down your observations directly. The eye should not be fixed on one point but should note everything, and in so doing observe the reflections which colours throw on their surroundings. Work at the same time on sky, water, twigs and ground, bring on everything evenly and go tackling everything without stopping again and again, till you've got what you want. Cover the canvas in one sitting and work at this till you can find nothing more to add. Observe accurately the aerial perspective, from foreground to horizon, the reflection of sky and foliage. Don't be afraid of applying paint, make your work gradually more perfect.
Don't proceed in accordance with rules and principles, but paint what you see and feel. Paint strongly and unhesitatingly. For it's best not to lose the first impression ... one must have only one master: nature. One must always ask her counsel."