June 13, 2011 to June 19, 2011
The idea of traveling to France seemed unrealistic yet exciting, until the plane landed on an early Monday morning. A direct flight from New York City brought me to Amsterdam, and by noon a connecting flight delivered me to Marseilles, where the director of the Marchutz program, Alan Roberts, greeted me at the airport. We began our journey by car to Aix-en-Provence. From the moment he started driving, I was filled with amazement and excitement at the scenery. I immediately felt myself being transported back in time.
Language, culture and a change in schedule created great challenges for me right from the start.
After arriving to our destination and the Marchutz’s director welcoming the group, we began by drawing from a live model. We did about fifteen quick poses as a warm-up exercise. I felt great after a long absence from drawing.
That day I also went to the Granet Museum. Besides their excellent permanent collection, they have an exhibition called Collection Planque. They were displaying notable artwork by Cezanne, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Leger, Picasso and many others.
During the rest of the week we continued drawing from the live model and copying from the Old Masters as well. Doing this helps one understand why those works are considered masterpieces.
Seminar I – Rembrandt on drawing – Part A
Understanding the concept of Rembrandt’s drawings teaches us to be aware of the whole.
By definition, whole is an assemblage of parts that are viewed as a single entity. Adding to that, an object or space will vary as its surroundings diversify. These variations affect the whole. For example, one object or space will be perceived brighter as its shadow becomes darker. This also allows us to manipulate the atmosphere of the artwork.
The atmosphere of a work of art can be related to its tones and mood. This might trigger different feelings. The atmosphere will also define the character of the whole.
As Rembrandt’s student stated, “the luminous effect of the whole will depend on the placement of shadows and their harmonious rapport.”
Seminar I – Rembrandt on drawing – Part B
The first question we considered was: In the process of copying, is the artist’s atmosphere predefined and necessary to incorporate into your copy? Is it malleable?
We discussed in the seminar the topic of the atmosphere of a copy, which in my viewpoint will be ultimately determined by your inner self. During the copying exercise, I personally experienced that I copied forms, composition, space and many other components of the original image. However, tone and atmosphere came from my inner self; thus the copy ceased to be a copy and became my own. In one particular instance, working purely from memory, I found myself letting the drawing grow itself into the space. I allowed the paper the power to act by itself in order to give birth to light.
We discussed that our feelings may converge with the atmosphere, that the mood of the picture might be determined by our personal previous experiences in life, the bad and the good.
The drawing scale and the image’s position are also very important, for they are also responsible for making the artist’s statement very clear. What the artist desires to communicate becomes an imperative.
June 20, 2011 to June 26, 2011
The second week at the program has been more intense and eclectic. This past weekend I visited different villages to enrich my travel experience. We first visited La Ciotat. This village is surrounded by a paradisiacal beach, with its hills dipping into the Mediterranean Sea that is breathtaking.
Crossing through Route des Cretes, we drove by many villages that blend with the mountains. At a very high altitude, on a very narrow road, this route rewarded me with striking views across the most spectacular reaches of the Grand Canyon du Verdon and the Mediterranean.
Saturday afternoon we arrived at Cassis. The first monument you see as you walk to the port is the majestic Chateau De Cassis. Facing the Mediterranean Sea, it sits calmly on top of the hill across from the village. Cassis is locates south of Marseilles. This enchanting place is overseen by France’s highest coastal cliffs. The scale reinforces the intimacy of the narrow little harbor and old town center down below.
Early Sunday I was on my way to another unknown destiny. This time I arrived to Isle Sur la Sorgue. This small old town is surrounded by water. You can browse it on foot or by gondola. It is a lovely place that immediately reminds one of Venice. It is also well known by its 14 working moulins. Isle Sur la Sorgue is France’s most important antiques and second hand centre after Paris. Shortly after noontime, we enjoyed a picnic at Rousillon.
This small village is perched beautifully above a quiet yet extraordinary landscape. The mining of ochre and subsequent erosion have sculpted the red and gold earth into cliffs, canyons and unusual shapes. I found beautiful earth pigments for my paintings.
After the peaceful picnic and walk through the village, we headed to Gordes. My first view was a massive conglomeration of little houses that appeared to be piled on top of one another. This village is perched above the Coulon Valley. In the centre, Le Chateau de Gordes oversees the whole with renaissance dignity.
The weekend cultural journey had ended for now. The time to make art had arrived. I viewed this occasion with new experiences that might enrich my work.
Monday morning I installed my easel under a big oak in the surrounding landscape of the Marchutz Atelier. The main goal for the next couple of days was to closely observe and reinterpret master works of art. I chose to start with Camille Corot. His work has always fascinated me by its silence and mystery. We were doing this to gain a better understanding of the color, perspective and composition. We were doing the same as the great masters did, by studying and learning from their ancestors.
During subsequent days I also studied Monet and Van Gogh. The light in Aix-en-Provence is beautiful. Now I understand why a great number of masters came to study painting here.
Thursday morning we had the second seminar of the program called Color and Drawing. I studied and read Delacroix, Corot, Baudelaire and Van Gogh. Discussed: How Delacroix sees the world? Also discussed: What does Van Gogh mean by “local color”?
On Friday we had a unique field trip at Marchutz. We went to Lourmarin, Gorde and Luberon to observe nature and study the architecture.
Seminar II – Color and Drawing – Part A
-What distinguishes a “colorist” from someone who is not according to Delacroix? How does Delacroix’s colorist see the world?
A colorist will be able to succeed in making it understood that objects have depth, thickness and body by simply using a line. A colorist does not fix the contour line equally throughout. It is made free and unbound, almost broken in certain places, accentuating it in others by means of a second, even a third line if necessary, or even using a wider, richer line, always careful that the line never becomes like iron wire.
Delacroix’s colorist sees that the tones decompose themselves with every hour and the reflection does not separate itself from the depth, just as the line does not separate itself from the model.
-What does Van Gogh mean by local color?
By local color Van Gogh meant the exact color of the object. One does not have to follow the colors of nature mechanically and severely, one can intelligently make use of the beautiful tones with the colors from their own accord when one breaks them on the palette. When starting from one’s palette, from one’s knowledge of harmony and color, copying the same exact color of nature matters very little. Everything depends on our perception of the infinite variety of tones of the same family.
I agree with Van Gogh’s theory. Colors in a painting must come from the inner self, not necessarily from the outside, which yields a much more interesting and powerful painting.
Seminar II – Color and Drawing – Part B
-Is it more important to portray a spatial depth as Delcroix describes, or to portray emotional depth as Van Gogh describes?
In my opinion both concepts belong together. By understanding the light, it’s reflection on the objects and and how it breaks the silhouettes with every instant, instead of a flat image, everything is raised in full depth. However, this thought is complimented by the emotional depth concept. We should not care much whether the colors are exactly the same as what we are representing, as long as it looks as beautiful on the canvas as it does in nature.
It is very intriguing how Delacroix spoke about being a “colorist” without actually using color, rather by using a line with character and how he masterfully achieved depth. The character of the line is related to the color. A well done line has the capacity to convert a two dimensional image into a three dimensional one and a live one.
Another great example of Delacroix “colorist” theory is Baudelaire’s Salon review of Daumier. “His drawing is naturally colored. His lithographs and woodcuts awaken ideas of colors. His crayons contain something besides black, good for definition and contours. He makes you intuit the color as he makes you intuit his thought. Now this is the sign of superior art, and all intelligent artists have seen it in his works.”
Corot once advised Pisarro, “Above all you must study values. We don’t see in the same way: you see green and I see gray and blond. But this isn’t any reason not to work at values, for that is the basis of everything. In whatever way one may feel and express oneself, one cannot do a good painting without it.”
During the seminar we also discussed how body and objects in general have different thickness in different parts. Some are more solid than others. By understanding this we will be able to perceive volume.
Another important characteristic of a good work of art is harmony. This concept can be defined in many aspects. For example, by combining and complimenting colors intelligently. Also, by placing the figures or masses strategically within the space.
Since understanding Delacroix’s statement, I have been more aware of the character of the line and its necessary breaks.
Part of our artistic and academic development at the Marchutz program is to get in direct contact with Provence’s magnificent architecture. We visited Lourmarin, Gorde and Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon. We went there to feel and understand its architecture.
Previous to this trip we studied: “The Timeless Way of Building” by Christopher Alexander. In the lecture he mentioned the concept of the “quality without a name”. Alexander stated that there is a central quality which is the defining characteristic of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building or the wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, yet cannot be named.
We approached by foot the village in the Luberon, we found a staircase facing it at a distance. We sat and talked about what we were seeing. I immediately noticed the harmony and patterns. But those patterns were never the same twice. You can observe many similarities and uniqueness at the same time. It is very noticeable how the village sits on top of the mountain, blending into nature and the sky as well. From the distance it looked peaceful. I felt a celestial silence, and also perceived a stillness in time which is eternal. It became the opposite as I got closer. As I approached the structures, it started to feel as if they were alive.
If you combine and mention all these characteristics and many more, you cannot name it’s quality. I guess this is what Christopher Alexander meant by “the quality without a name”.
As part of this journey, we also had the privilege of visiting a borie. This is one of the most ancient forms of construction. They were built with dry stone perfectly fit one on top of the other using no type of adhesive. Some of these dated from the first century and still stand like they were built yesterday. It was fascinating to go and sit inside of one of these structures. After my eyes adjusted to the limited light, I began to appreciate its organic form and antiquity. It was a truly unique experience.
Our last stop of the day was at the Notre-Dame de Senanque Abbey. This monastery dates back to the 12th century. Nestled at the bottom of the valley, Notre-Dame de Senanque Abbey is one of the purest examples of the Cistercian life and architecture. It is also one of the best places to see Provence’s famed lavender fields. It was founded in 1148 and populated by Cistercian monks who lived and prayed in Senanque.
June 6, 2011 to July 1, 2011
On Monday morning we went to paint plein air in Le Tholonet. I immediately found a beautiful spot, under a big tree facing a rich colored wheat field. In the background there was a very interestingly shaped mountain with a strip of dancing trees at the foot of the mountain. It seemed the perfect place to start the day. I began to apply paint, texture and more paint, then sprayed it with water to make it drip. I scratched the surface with the palette knife and a stick. I suddenly realized WHAT A DISASTER!
I hate to admit it, but I did struggle. I struggled in the same manner as Van Gogh. I felt like I was painting for the first time in my life. I came from New York, world capital of art, with a conceptual artist’s mind, set on conquering Provence. Huge mistake! I was very used to painting on a large scale with many different colors and pigments in the comfort of my own studio. What I did not realize was that this was a totally different scenario. I had to go back to the basics.
The first two days out on the field were very difficult for me. I even considered taking the first flight back to New York. I thought of walking away from what at the time seemed like nonsense, even though it contained beautiful landscapes. Five years ago I had painted many beautiful landscapes in Puerto Rico, so I felt like I was going into the past. Then I asked myself: How am I going to paint this enchanting and luminous Provence landscape if I only want to paint with black, gray, white and burnt sienna? I came against a big wall. Now it was time to make a decision. After all the frustration, anger and uncertain thoughts passed, all became clear. I told myself that I had painted small scale before, and these scenes for many years. I felt it impossible to be defeated by this landscape, so I decided to overcome such feelings and go with the flow. I decided to bring a positive attitude to this experience and furthermore convinced myself that something good was going to be gained from it.
The next day I felt much better when we went out into the field. I had a different attitude, an open mind. The truth is that most of the time we set our own barriers. The results were a lot more encouraging than the day before. I managed to observe, understand and reinterpret the whole. On that day I achieved an infinite ochre and violet gamma among the spectrum. The atmosphere was alluring. The lights and shadows danced rhythmically with the soft breeze. After all those good results, I still felt something was incomplete. I would have to keep working. Eventually, I realized the surface I was working with had a little too much texture. Early the next day I prepared new and smoother surfaces and began painting on those. The outcome was much improved. The painting looked fresher, luminous and had beautiful movement. It seemed like I achieved a step further in terms of harmony and volume of the whole.
We had a seminar on Thursday on “Statement and Rendering”. For this seminar we read Flannery O’Connor’s essay “The nature of aim and fiction”, from her book Mystery and Manners. We discussed the concept of “concreteness”, which I will detail further in the journal. I also had the opportunity to read “The letters of Vincent Van Gogh”. This is a memoir of Van Gogh’s life written by Theo’s wife, Johanna Gesina. She gives us an insight into his family life and their history. Also described, in quite some detail, are Vincent’s life travels, jobs, loves, successes, failures, illness and death. This reading was a preparation for the next day’s excursion to Arles and St. Remy, where Van Gogh painted and drew over 300 of his masterworks. His determination was inspiring.
Early Friday we arrived at Langlois bridge in Arles, which had been moved from its original site in order to preserve its integrity. It was still very well preserved. We spent a few hours discussing Vincent’s reading.
We also compared and contrasted it with one of Monet’s paintings. While at this location, I felt the mistral that Vincent refers to in many letters. With those strong winds, he managed to paint by holding his canvas on the ground with his foot.
Later, we went to the Alyschamps. This marble and stone sarcophagi marks the site of the Roman necropolis where the city’s dignitaries were buried. Among many legends surrounding the site is the claim that Christ appeared there. Those legends may have triggered the interest of Van Gogh to paint a few canvasses on this site. It was exciting to be in the exact place where the great Van Gogh painted some of his masterworks.
After the Alyschamps, we arrived near downtown Arles where Van Gogh painted the Trinquetaille bridge. We discussed the people moving and the continuity of the painting. That is what probably attracted Vincent’s attention to that site.
We also visited the Arles Hospital where Van Gogh stayed and painted some scenes, including it’s courtyard. We explored the painting and compared the theme of his artistic work. We definitely found many similarities, contradictions, omissions and reinterpretations, which make his paintings unique.
As we walked, I was more amazed by the antiquity of the marvelous city of Arles. There, I had my first encounter with a Roman Colosseum. It stood straight and proud and left me breathless.
After lunch we went to St. Remy. It is another village where Van Gogh painted many masterpieces, including Starry Night. Our first stop was the Mont Majour Abbey.
In the 10th century a community of Benedictine monks settled on a rocky mountain island rising up from the marshes just outside of Arles, the Mont Majour. This abandoned abbey, mostly in ruins, was the platform for some of Vincent’s most outstanding drawings. He never painted there because of the mistral. Some parts of the Abbey have recently been restored and now serve as a historic landmark.
Our last site visit of the day was Saint Paul Asylum. Unable to live securely on his own, Vincent voluntarily entered St. Paul, a psychiatric asylum in St. Remy de Provence. When Vincent entered the asylum on May 8, 1889, his condition was diagnosed as a form of epilepsy. As long as he remained stable, he was allowed to paint. Sometimes, he was allowed to paint by the courtyard and the olive trees that surrounded the property. He usually painted from his room, looking at the landscape through an empty window.
I had the opportunity to be inside a room exactly like Vincent’s, and looked through that empty window. It was not a good feeling. Although the surrounding landscapes were beautiful, the feeling of confinement when looking through the bars was unavoidable. At the asylum he suffered four major attacks. He lived there for a year close to the end of his life.
Seminar III – Statement and Rendering – Part A
Based on the lecture “Mystery and Manners” by Flannery O’Connor
-What does Flannery O’Connor mean by “concreteness”?
By applying the “concreteness” concept to a work of art, she means that it is organic and grows out of the canvas, different from every other that has ever been done, valuable and works by itself. It appeals through the senses, enhancing touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. There are details that, while having their essential place in the space, operate in depth as well as on the surface, increasing its power in every direction.
While observing “Starry Night” by Van Gogh, I have noticed this concreteness concept. The first impression I get from this work is movement, it has awakened all my senses.
I immediately feel the strong cold breeze and hear it whistling in my ears. My eyes cannot stop moving rhythmically along the canvas. It also invites me to go from behind the cypresses into Saint Remy village. I can smell the humid grass and am aware of wanting to taste mushrooms. I can perceive great color harmony with complete tonal values. This characteristic makes this painting more dramatic and interesting. The smaller elements of the picture are points that together complement each other and become part of the whole. The use of dark colors and strong lines must be a reference to his feelings and emotions. By his assertive lines, by painting the night sky filled with swirling clouds and star ablaze with their own luminescence, this painting comes alive.
Seminar III – Statement and Rendering – Part B
During the third seminar the panel brought back the question: What is concreteness in art? We decided to examine this further.
The concrete in art is intensely emotional or keenly perceptive. We also elaborated on a discussion regarding the five sense and the quality that the work must have.
Concrete art is selective and it’s accuracy is the essence that creates movement.
We also discussed different concrete visions: tropological, allegorical, and analogical. Tropological is moral, which entails what should be done. Allegorical is when one fact pointed to another. Analogical is the kind of vision that is able to see different levels of reality in one image or situation.
There was also a debate about reality and truth. It was said or pointed out that everybody has their own interpretation of reality. However, truth is being in accord with a particular fact, event or actuality.
The few characteristics that can be found in concrete art were stated; it is important to be lucid or clear to understanding. The artist’s statement must be clear and may also be mysterious.
In a concrete art, the artist uses his reason to discover an answering reason in everything he sees. For him, to be reasonable is to find, in the object, in the situation, in the sequence, the spirit which makes it itself.
July 2, 2011 to July 9, 2011
On Saturday morning I woke up feeling energetic and went directly to the atelier. During the last week I had been painting a special piece. I wanted to examine it more closely in order to produce a larger work. As Van Gogh used to do, I observed and reinterpreted the smaller piece. Many changes occurred in terms of composition and color. I also changed the position of the main character and the color of the sky. The sky went from a light blue violet to vibrant golden and orange. I used more contrast that in the original study. That converted the main character tree into a more vivid one. The results were intense.
The next day I visited Marseilles, the oldest city in France. It was founded 2,600 years ago by Greek settlers from Asia Minor. This city is crowded but presents a free spirited environment. It is filled with chalk hills and flanked by white cliffs facing the Mediterranean Sea. The seaports of Marseilles are a trading hub and point of entry for immigrants. It reminds me of the history of New York. Marseilles is a collection of urban villages, from the souk-like market areas to tiny fishing settlements. This is home to French music, football, bouillabaisse and exquisite cuisine. Picturesque and picaresque, it is a vibrant place.
Marseilles is a big city. The smartest way to travel is on the “Petite Train”. This ride gave me an overview of the entire city. I rode to the Notre Dame de la Garde Cathedral. This Romanesque-Byzantine cathedral was built 1214 and underwent extensive restorations between 2001-2008. This cathedral is the symbol of Marseilles. Perched on the city’s biggest hill, and topped with a 30 foot high gold statue of the Virgin, it can be seen from long distances. The views are spectacular.
After heading back to the port, I decided to try something adventurous. I traveled by boat to a solitary and enchanting island to visit Chateau d’If. This was certainly been my most awkward adventure yet.
The chateau is full of mystery about events that have taken place there. As I approached the remote island, I felt a sudden chill under my skin. This was the legendary prison of the man with the iron mask. Who was that man? Louis XIV’s troubled brother? A meddling royal priest? Dante? The Count of Monte Cristo? No one knows.
In 1687 he was clamped in a mask locked away at Chateau d’If. He was considered dangerous. There was silence inside his cell. It reminded me of El Morro Fortress in Puerto Rico.
After that different experience, I traveled to the Palais Lonchamp. It is the great expression of Marseilles’ 19th century “Golden Age”. A water tower is embellished in Palatial Second Empire style. Fountains, columns and animal sculptures evoke abundance and fertility.
Before leaving Marseilles I walked under the Arc de Triomphe on the Place Jules Guesdes. This monument was constructed in 1823 by Penchaud. It commemorated the victories of the French Revolution and the First Empire. It is also a tribute to the glory of the Republic, the Consulate and the Empire. It marks the old entrance to the city.
On Monday the sculpture workshop by Gregg Wyatt began. I realized I was at a new stage in my career at the Marchutz Atelier. The purpose of the workshop was to give us insight into the different types of sculpture methods and procedures. In contrast to a painting, sculpture has a form and volume. It is three dimensional artwork created by shaping, molding or combining material. It has physical volume, specific gravity, mass, form and material.
As we talked and experimented, the first assignment given was to create a quick sketch with a 12 gage copper wire. The wire was to be the structure supporting the first material we used, called green plastillina. The plastillina is a very soft and malleable synthetic material. It can be easily transformed and shaped. I actually enjoyed doing this, working with a technique called inside-outside.
I began by doing a wire sketch of a bent tree. I thought about my artist’s statement and that was the first thing that came to mind. The bent tree resembles the effect of years of hard work on immigrant workers while away from their families. We all come to the U.S. seeking a better life. At what cost? The bent tree can also be interpreted as the result of global warming or the contemporary issues affecting society today.
I started to shape my model and the result was very interesting. I saw that the concept and materials had potential. A good characteristic is that the interior frame provided the sculpture with good support. However, though the plastillina is very malleable, it is too soft and can easily damage. This was the downside of this project.
Next we experimented with plaster. Greg showed us how to mix and manage the material properly in order to achieve the best result. We explored different stages of hardness with the plaster and its properties.
On the next day we tried something new with terracotta. By using the first model of the bent tree, I shaped the new model made only of terracotta with no wire inside. I noticed the sculpture did not have much strength because it did not have any structural support. This made the process harder; it eventually fell apart.
On Wednesday, Greg asked us to make a synthesis of the two sculptures. We composed two more wire drawings, one bigger than the other, He wanted us to combine the best characteristics from each into a new model. I kept developing the bent tree concept into a new, enlarged and stylish sketch. It gave the feeling of the wind effect over the tree. I finally decided to keep using a plastillina. It was a firm one. The new material responded very well to any shape and form I applied. It allowed me to add the desired volume, form, texture and mass. It was also a much firmer model than the initial one. At the end I added a green plastillina leaf to the tree to signify hope. After finishing my model. I decided to coat it with shellac to make it stronger. I did not like the shiny look, so I immediately removed it with alcohol. Instead, I ended up giving my model a final glaze with terracotta water to accentuate the shadows in the volume.
On Friday we had a seminar about light and volume. I will provide further details later in the essay.
Saturday morning I went to Avignon. It took me about an hour to get there by bus from Aix-en-Provence. I noticed that Avignon is a walled city. Avignon was named after its violent wind, the mistral. It is also referred to as the City of Popes. In 1309, Pope Clement V transferred the Papacy to France to escape the political turmoil in Rome. For 68 years, Avignon became the religious, political and cultural centre of Christendom.
In 1335 the magnificent Papal Palace was built. It took 20 years to complete. Pope Benedict XII was responsible for the sober Cisterian architechture of the old palace. His successor, Clement VI, added the new palace in Gothic style, creating a massive ensemble of towers and stone walls soaring 165 feet above the town center. It remains a monument to the immense power of the Papacy in the middle ages and is a world heritage site for UNESCO. The surrounding views from the palace’s garden are endless and take in the 13th century Pont St. Benezet.
After lunch I decided to visit the Collection Yvon Lambert Musee d’art Contemporain. This is Avignon’s premier showcase for contemporary art. They were showing an immense retrospective exhibition of the photography of Cy Twombly. The Lambert collection also displays works from Anselm Keifer, Constantine Brancusi, Edgar Degas, Sol Le Witt, Augustin Rodin, Ed Ruscha, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Edouard Vuillard, among others.
As I walked the streets of Avignon, I felt great energy of a lively town. During this time of the year, Avignon celebrates its world renowned theater festival. You can enjoy a mini play at almost every corner of the village.
The art collection in Avignon is priceless. You can find one of Eurpoe’s finest collections of Medieval and Renaissance art with exceptional early works by Boticelli at the Musee du Petit Palais. There is also a fine collection, from ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century, at Musee Calvet. You can also find works by Cezanne, Manet, Picasso and Van Gogh, among others, at the Musee Algladon-Dubrujeaud.
Seminar IV – Light and Volume – Part A
“I do not mean the volume of a single object, but the volume of the whole image has omissions in the single object as a corollary volume results from the light of the image, or its abbreviations, which may well be only in black and white.” Leo Marchutz
-What does Marchutz mean by “corollary volume”? – How does it come about in a painting?
Marchutz means that volume is a natural consequence or direct result from the light on the object.
In a painting the volume is created by the combination of light and shadow, which create depth and space in the object. Volume can easily be mistaken as mass, although mass implies weight. Some objects have both, volume and mass, while others do not.
Volume is a solid form with a particular shape and size. It is determined or shaped by the position or extension of the light.
To avoid flatness on a painting, we must have volume.
Seminar IV – Light and Volume – Part B
Based on the reading: Dante, Canto XXXIII Paradiso
“Oh grace abounding, wherein I presume to fix my look on the eternal light so long that I wearied my sight thereon! With its depths I saw ingathered, bound by love in one volume, the scattered leaves of all the universe; Substance and accidents and their relations, as though together fused, after such fashion that what I tell is one single flame.”
By reading and discussing a segment of Dante’s Canto XXXIII, Paradiso, the group leading the seminar arrived at the following question.
-How does the volume relate to substance and accidents?
Volume by definition is the amount of space occupied by a substance. In music, it is also the fullness of sound. Substance is a physical matter or material. It can also be defined as the essential part.
In the discussion we described that the substance had depth, it may also have a particular shape and form.
The substance is more concrete than the accidents, which are not usually totally planned out. However, sometimes we perform actions intended to create accidents. The accidents can then be turned into substance.
Life and nature are composed of many seeming accidents. These make things look real and alive. They are related to substance and a create need.
Accidents can create volume and that volume can be a substance. Substance is the core. Accidents can change form. However, substance’s form is more stable. Substance might be a consequence of an accident.
Sound is also related to volume. Sound can fill a space and become substance.
July 11, 2011 to July 17, 2011
On Monday morning we started a new sculpture workshop, this time using wax. We used the victory brown wax which has a bronzed look. The wax molding process is commonly used by sculptors. It can be liquified and cast molded. The wax is usually converted into bronze.
After learning a few basic steps about how to manage and shape the wax, we started a new project. We had to create a wax sculpture that would be cast in bronze. We had to think not only of the design, but also of the stability and engineering of a self sustained three dimensional object.
For this new art project I decided to create a borie. The borie is one of the most primitive forms of shelter. They were constructed only with dry stone. Some of these structures date back to the first century. I thought of using this concept for two main reasons; first, I was amazed that after so many centuries these structures still stand. Secondly, it spoke to the lack of shelter many people around the world experience. This new project would symbolize shelter for humanity.
I started cutting out small pellet sized pieces out of the victory brown wax. Then I started to form my borie structure from the bottom to the top. I gave a rock shape to every single piece of wax. I also used the alcohol torch to shape and attach the pieces to each other. The next day I continued giving shape to the borie. I used a sharp tool to scratch the surface of every piece in order to give it a rough and more realistic aspect. By the afternoon the project was finished and now was ready to transform into bronze. I chose a green patina for the finish of my project at the Coubertin Bronze Foundry. Perhaps this is the beginning of the sculptor in me. Who knows?
On Wednesday we went to the Cezanne excursion. We began by visiting Cezanne’s atelier. The light and size are very impressive, I thought. An artist’s creativity would be enhanced there. We gathered in the patio and talked about his work and some of his ideas. Cezanne was mostly focused on the forms. He believed that art is a harmony which runs parallel to nature. Painting from nature is not to copy an object, it is realizing one’s sensations. He also reflected on two things in a painter, the eye and the mind, and that each of them should aid the other.
After Cezanne’s atelier we went to the Chateau Noir. Between 1887 and 1905, Cezanne painted 19 oils and 20 watercolors around Chateau. There he was able to paint without being disturbed. Other motifs surrounding the Chateau were: the house he saw through the trees, the cistern and the well, the millstone,the forest floor and pines, the rocks and the caves in the cliffs, and of course, Sainte- Victoire. After the Chateau Noir we also visited Le Tholonet and Sainte-Victoire. The peak of Monte Sainte-Victoire attracted Cezanne all of his life. He did a series using this mountian as a motif. We discussed at some detail some of his paintings on the site. This discussion was also related to our next seminar about Content and Form.
Seminar V: Content and Form
For the seminar about Content and Form we read the essay “Painting and Painters: How to Look at a Picture, from Giotto to Chagall” by Lionello Venturi.
We had to select a painting of reference and show how the content is embodied through the form of the work. We were asked to describe some of the specific color and drawing relationships that contribute to the fusion of content and form.
By observing and trying to comprehend the painting “Impressions: Rising Sun” by Claude Monet, I can clearly see the content and form.
There is a strong unity of the brush strokes along the canvas. The colors of the painting, gray, blue and orange, seem to complement each other and blend with the atmosphere.
Monet, by applying assertive and abstract brush strokes achieved in letting us believe that there are buildings across the water. He also ties together the sky with the water through color and form. He mainly accentuates the round red impression of the rising sun by its prominence in form and color. He also accentuates the boat in the picture, but Monet does not bring it to the forefront by leaving out details and by using lighter tones.
In this painting Claude Monet seems to have mastered the motif with a few assertive brush strokes.
Immediately after the seminar I was to make one of the most exciting trips in France…Paris was my next destination. The ride on the TGV from Aix-en-Provence to Paris was fast. By 6p.m. I was in the French capital, where I saw many war tanks and soldiers. It was July 14, Bastille Day. France’s national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille at the onset of the French Revolution. The area by the Champs-Elysées was crowded and the military parade was led by the President. Parisians celebrated until dawn as fireworks exploded over the city.
On Friday morning I walked the Jardin des Tuilleries until I reached the Seine River. The Jardin des Tuilleries is located west of the Louvre Museum in central Paris. This gorgeous garden has many wonderful statues and a pond. It is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch and relax when visiting the Louvre. By noon I took a quick tour of the city by bus, a good way to learn about the city. After the tour I went to the Musée du Louvre. Originally a royal palace, the Louvre became a public museum at the end of the 18th century. It is located on the city’s western edge, in the heart of Paris. There are about 35,000 objects on display. It spreads out over three wings of the former palace. The collection is diverse, ranging from antiquity up to the mid 19th century.
A large part of the collection consists of European paintings and sculptures. Other rooms contain Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Oriental art. Some of the most famous works of art in the Louvre are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
In the evening I went to Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées. The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, but he was ousted before the arch was completed. In fact, it was not completed until 1836 during the reign of Louis-Phillippe. The Champs Elysées is an impressive promenade that stretches from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles De Gaulle, the site of the Arc de Triomphe.
At its western end the Champs-Elysées is bordered by cinemas, theatres, cafés and luxury shops. Near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardin des Champs-Elysées. It is beautifully arranged with gardens, fountains and some grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side of the Elysée at its northern side. The latter has been the residence of French Presidents since 1873.
Early Saturday I went to the Musee D’orsay. I was first in line. I felt like a child waiting for the toy store to open. The history of the museum, of its building, is quite unusual. In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuilleries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, which was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. The train station had been completely abandoned since 1961, when it was saved from demolition by President Pompidou. In 1978 his successor, President Giscard d’Estaing decided to use the Gare d’Orsay as a museum for 19th and 20th century art. It would not only contain paintings, but it would also cover different art forms to include sculptures, engravings, photos, film, architecture and urbanism. Restoration of the Musée d’Orsay, as it is now called, began in 1979 and finally on the 29th of November in 1986, the museum was inaugurated by the French President François Miterrand.
When it opened, the museum contained approximately 2,300 paintings, 1,500 sculptures and 1000 other objects. Most of these works of art came from other museums such as Musée du Luxembourg. Over time the collection has expanded significantly, due mainly to acquisitions and gifts. It covers a period from the mid 19th century up to 1914 and contains works from Degas, Rodin, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh and many others.
Saturday afternoon I went to a most special place, Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny. I think this was one of the highlights of my French experience. I went to his room and looked through his windows. I was transported to his époque, imagined myself living there and opening these very windows every morning to look at the same view. I now understand why he never left his gardens to paint elsewhere. He possessed infinite motifs to paint there.
In 1883, then middle aged Claude Monet, his wife Alice and their eight children from two families settled into a farmhouse west of Paris. Monet, at that point already famous yet happiest at home, would spend 40 years in Giverny. He built a pastoral paradise complete with a Japanese garden and a pond full of floating lilies.
In 1890 Monet began renovating his garden, inspired by tranquil scenes from the Japanese prints he collected. He diverted a river to form a pond, planted willows and bamboo on the shores, filled the pond with water lilies and the crossed it with a wooden footbridge. As years passed, the bridge became overgrown with wysteria. He painted it at different times of day and year, exploring different color schemes. Later in life, Monet’s muse became the changing reflections of nature in a pond.
In the last half of his life, Monet’s work shrank to encompass only Giverny. The greatest visionary, literally, of his generation, not only is he the father of the French Impressionist Movement but also one of the leaders of modern abstract art. He was the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the Impressionist Movement’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting.
On Sunday morning I went to Montmartre. It reminds me very much of Williamsburg, New York. It is the most vibrant and artistic Parisian sector.
Montmartre is a hill which is 130 meters high in the north of Paris. It is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Coeur on it summit and as an art district.
In the mid-19th century, artists such as Johan Jongjind and Camille Pisarro came to inhabit Montmartre. Only at the end of the century did the district become the principal artistic center of Paris. A restaurant opened near the old windmill near the top, the Moulin de la Galette. Artist’s associations such as Les Nabis and the Incoherents were formed, and individuals including Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec worked in Montmartre. They drew some of their inspiration from the area.
Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and other impoverished artists lived and worked in a commune, a building called Le Bateau-Lavoir, from 1904-1909
I also visited the Espace Dalí Montmartre, which displays more than 300 works of the artist. At the end of the 19th century Dalí thought of Montmartre as the center of artistic life, with Toulouse, Modigliani, Renoir and Picasso. Artists workshops began to flourish like the famous Batueau Lavoir (1907), where cubism was born.
Dalí came to live at 7 Rue Becquerel, in the apartment that Paul Eluard founded in 1929 for Gala. He could not miss seeing the windmills, an essential aspect of the Montmartre myth and of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote, Knight Errant”, which he wanted to illustrate. In November 1956, Dalí undertook “the first engravings of the Don Quixote series before the press, in the Place Jean Baptiste Clément. The master used two rhinoceros horns and some bread dipped in ink for the process. A short film was made to immortalize the scene. It was “to illustrate paradoxically all the electric mystery of the liturgy of this scene and the moral character of the audience”.
I went back to Aix that afternoon full of energy and excitement.
July 18, 2011 to July 21, 2011
On Monday morning on the last week of the Marchutz program, I stayed at the atelier. I worked on a larger canvas using the small studies as reference. This gave me the opportunity to make other decisions than when in the field. Both ways yielded interesting results.
On Tuesday morning it rained heavily. I decided to capture the rain while painting from inside the atelier. The colors of the landscape under the rain were beautiful. An infinite gamma of grays blended with the atmospheric greens and black. The rain gave the painting a different character and atmosphere.
On Wednesday I kept working and gave final touches to other paintings for the Thursday night art exhibition.
On Thursday morning we had the last seminar, this time about tradition. Later in the evening we had the opening for the Marchutz Program exhibition. Alan and John made a very good choice of works from the artists. It was a very nice gathering and we said good bye to each other.
Seminar VI: Tradition
In R.D. Elliot’s essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” from the book The Sacred Wood, what does Elliot mean by the “main current”?
The artist must be very conscious of the main current, which does not flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. But the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.
Someone said: “The dead artists are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are what which we know.
The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.
My educational experience at The Marchutz Art Program was vast and rich. This program allowed me to learn in depth about art concepts never taken into consideration before. For me one of the main concepts studied was “The Whole”. This concept helped me realize that you don’t have to follow nature’s colors mechanically and severely. You can intelligently make use of the beautiful tones with the colors from their own as long as they look harmonious. Copying exact same color of nature matters little. Everything depends on our perception of the infinite variety of tones of the same family.
There is no doubt that the Marchutz art Program achieved their mission that is above all to develop the student’s capacity to see. But it is also to instill in each individual interested in artistic expression a perception of the nature of art itself. I do believe that what I have learned at the program is going to be transcendental. I know that I will apply that knowledge in my future work of art.
One of the highlights of the program was the Greg Wyatt’s sculpture workshop. I truly enjoyed it. This workshop awakened my curiosity about sculpture. Greg is very knowledgeable and an excellent communicator. He really gave me an insight and approach about different types of sculpture methods and procedures.
I enjoyed learning about French culture. However, learning the French language was very challenging for me. It limited my ability to communicate with others. I also appreciated visiting many museums across France. One main constant characteristic is that you can appreciate art and beautiful architecture everywhere you go. There are many monuments and sculptures in every city I visited. I also had the opportunity of visiting many museums and was able to admire artworks from some of my favorite artists. That was a very outstanding experience for me.
This experience was truly exceptional and I highly recommend it to artists in general regardless of their career stage.
This Painterly Journey was made possible by the Fantasy Fountain Fund and generous contributions from: Gregg Wyatt, Yolanda Romero, Eileen Collins, Ramses Lukis, Nedra Rosen, Victor Cortés, Tony Perez, Eduardo Rubio, Wilfredo Pereira, Yilitza Oliveras, Dr. Roberto de Jesus and Roberto Benejam.