Andy Warhol was a Pop artist who is known for his portraits of famous people and the portrayal of American consumerism. He was encouraged to focus on imagery of cows by a pop art dealer, Ivan Karp, saying ‘Why don’t you paint some cows, they’re so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.’
The image of the cow was chosen by Gerard Malanga who was Warhol’s printer. Warhol was a highly experimental printmaker who focused on the range of graphical possibilities in a single image. Manipulating colour to create different levels of contrast was key in his work. This allows him to make typically mundane into something a lot more fun and exciting, such as people suggesting the cow subject was on an acid trip.
The cow image was printed many times for the show at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1966, with a yellow colourway and pasted throughout the gallery – every inch of gallery wall was covered with the printed wallpaper. (rather a shocking experience for viewers upon entrance of the gallery).
“I don’t know how ‘pastoral’ he expected me to make them, but when he saw the huge cow heads ‘bright pink on a bright yellow background’ that I was going to have made into rolls of wallpaper, he was shocked. But after a moment he exploded with: ‘They’re super-pastoral! They’re ridiculous! They’re blazingly bright and vulgar!’ I mean, he loved those cows and for my next show we papered all the walls in the gallery with them.” – Andy Warhol
Although all of Andy Warhol’s artwork is very eye-catching, I am focusing on researching his serial cow imagery as I feel this work goes well with my theme and could inspire me in different ways which could benefit my project.
The vibrant colours in Andy Warhol’s cow prints are fairly relevant to my work as I am starting to incorporate some abstract colours and colour schemes into my farm animal paintings. However as I am unsure of making my work too abstracted as it takes away from the serious topics of my project, the use of repeated imagery could be a crucial area of research for my project. My aim is to create a herd of paintings of goats and sheep of various sizes, no larger than A3 of different colour schemes to demonstrate how many farms there are and to highlight how many animals go through the same experience.
Although Andy Warhol’s cow imagery is the same size when presented on the wall, I feel it still has the same relevance. The use of screen printing to create multiple versions of the same imagery is something I would like to explore if given the chance as it would make my task of creating a herd of paintings easier and it would give me the opportunity to explore colour schemes easily without having to dedicate all the time that a painting would take. I would like to explore other techniques like this if I can’t do screen printing such as linocuts as I already have a lot of familiarity with this process and so I could get started on it a lot quicker.
Information from the video above:
Signed screen prints of a cow by Andy Warhol, 1976.
Created for an exhibition at the Modern Art Pavilion Seattle Centre Washington, information is printed on the edge of the artwork – exact dates of show printed on the other side of the piece (November 18th 1976 to January 9th 1977)
The image was printed again twice in 1971 in a brown colourway and a blue colourway
The pink and purple colourway of the piece shown in the video is considered to be the most sought after of all versions produced, seen as most attractive and Worholian in the atmosphere and contrast.
Screen printed on wallpaper making it a fragile piece, use of printing rather than painting it was a comment made about the forms of art at the time. Printing onto wallpaper made it a decorative art rather than a fine art
Screen printing can create easily multiplied imagery
Lots of versions – in 1979, he signed approximately 100 of them with felt tip
Iconic Warhol style cow’s head image, the image of a sub staid pastoral art which Warhol filled with vibrant contrasting colours
Represents Warhol’s attitude at the time towards the symbols of the art world
Most of the artworks are now framed in perspex box frames as that was Warhol’s preference, very evocative of the framing of the late 60s to the 80s of Warhol’s work
Andy Warhol’s cow artwork is featured in the text ‘The Presence of Animals in Contemporary Art as a sign of Cultural Change’ which I have been reading for my Art History component of my CPS module which I felt was quite relevant.
“I consider all that representations focused exclusively on the animal identity, body or eyes, beyond the metaphoric representation; e.g. portraits elevating animal to the status of icona, questioning it as a thinking creature: Cow Wallpaper by Andy Warhol (1966)”- Karin Andersen and Luca Bochicchio
How Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery is influencing my work:
The subject of Andy Warhol’s cow imagery is relevant as I am focusing on the captivity of wild animals, including cows and exploring my ideas with an intention to create a group/herd of paintings of cows in different poses looking at the viewer in their enclosures. Although Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery is the same image repeated, there is still relevance there that could be developed to suit my project. As well as subject matter, the colours used are very abstract which is a key component of my work as I am trying to show the irony of people feeling sympathy for the animals in my work when they do nothing to try to help them in the real world. The colour palettes of the serial cow imagery are quite simple yet still effective and this could be a good way to start exploring the colour palettes that work well rather than overcomplicating them.
Ways I am going to experiment in my own work upon reflection of this research:
Do screenprinting/lino printing to generate a lot of work quickly
Explore a range of colour schemes – including those in the serial cow imagery work to see how it looks in my work
Explore whether having paintings the same size or varied sizes is more effective – both have been done with the serial cow imagery and have different impacts, ask my peers what works well
Henry Moore was an English artist who mainly focused on sculpture but relied on drawings to develop his ideas. He also did some printmaking throughout his career.
Although I find all of Henry Moore’s work captivating, I am going to be focusing on researching his sheep drawings as I feel that they correlate with my project subject very well and could help my methods of capturing primary evidence at farms as I’m usually quite particular about things but Henry Moore’s sketchy approach would be very beneficial to help boost the amount of imagery I have to work with and take further in my paintings.
Information about Henry Moore Sheep Sketchbook – In February 1972, Henry Moore was based in his sculpture studios a lot to prepare for an upcoming exhibition. His studios were based in the countryside and he desired a place for peace and quiet so went into a room where he could view fields where sheep were grazed by a local farmer.
The sheep came up close to the window and so Henry Moore started sketching them. Initially, he only viewed them as balls of wool but as he started to pay more attention to their way of life, the way they moved, the shape of their bodies beneath the fleece, he got more understanding of them. They had strong human/biblical associations – the sight of an ewe with a lamb evoked strong mother and child themes (large form sheltering small form) which has been important to Henry Moore throughout his artwork.
He drew the sheep again that summer after they were shorn so he was able to see the shapes of the bodies properly without their wool getting in the way. With a solid form and vigorous movement, the sheep are captured in a network of swirling and zigzagging lines using a ballpoint pen.
The effect is both familiar and monumental; as Lord Clark comments, ‘We expect Henry Moore to give a certain nobility to everything he draws; but more surprising is the way in which these drawings express a feeling of real affection for their subject.’
Although I know that this is an etching and drypoint piece, it reminds me of a biro drawing which I find interesting. I love the way the wool has been built up with a lot of mark-making as it looks realistic. I find the gaze of the mother sheep effective in engaging with the viewer and having a direct confrontation/communication with the viewer. It makes me think that the mother sheep is having a protective stance over her lamb. The fact that Henry Moore included grass in certain areas is nice as it doesn’t take away from the main subject as it’s not too overpowering.
Again, the gaze of this mother sheep is directed towards the viewer which is interesting and as a result of the sheep being interested in what Henry Moore was doing at the time. The build-up of mark-making makes it clear that the image was done in real-time from life and the different marks being random really emphasises this. The horizontal lines in the background make the sheep stand out and add variation to the piece.
The addition of watercolour in this piece creates a nice effect as you can actually imagine the real-life scene that Henry Moore witnessed at the time. It also makes it seem like it’s a dull foggy day which is interesting in making people think about how animals are outside most if not all of the time and they don’t have the luxury of having a roof over their head. The amount of contrast in this piece is very eye-catching and makes me look at the piece for a long time as the more you look the more details you pick up on. Again, the gaze of the sheep being focused on the viewer is interesting and makes the viewer feel as though they are connected to the sheep in some way, as they matter to them.
How Henry Moore’s sheep drawings influence my work:
Henry Moore’s sheep drawings show the importance of working directly from life as you create more life-like drawings than if you were to work from photographs. This is due to the dimensions and angles that you see in real life while photographs flatten things, making them two-dimensional. The work also shows the importance of mark-making for texture as without the build-up of marks, Moore wouldn’t have created such realistic works. I feel inspired by the way the animals gaze is most of the time directed towards the viewer, staring or making contact as this can create sympathy or feelings for the animals which is something I explore in my own work and something I could take further using Henry Moore’s work as an inspiration. Although Moore hasn’t done any continuous line drawings, the build-up of marks in some of his works remind me of them and so I feel that I should apply that to my drawings of farm animals from life to ensure that I have a lot of good imagery to develop in my paintings. The combinations of mediums allow Moore to create effects that show different times of day/year which could benefit my work in terms of creating sympathy for the animals out in the cold during the night.
Currently, at the Leicester Gallery located in Vijay Patel, there is an ongoing project called ‘Art by Post: Of Home and Hope’ which was first introduced in May 2020 to provide activities for people in the UK suffering from a range of problems including loneliness, social isolation and digital exclusion. It involved commissioning artists to make activity booklets that were sent out to people to complete and send back in which resulted in over 600 works including poetry, drawings, paintings and mixed media work being received by the gallery.
The exhibition was organised based on three different themes being Nature, Sound + Movement & Hope. These are the key themes that emerged during the art by post responses and submissions but they demonstrate the vital needs that we all have including green spaces, music, dance, physical activity, and experiences that we all share.
These framed artworks (image above and below) are a selection of works made by the participants which are organised by theme and colour coded.
The green frames are related to the nature theme, the orange frames are related to the sound & movement theme and the pink frames are related to the Hope theme. The colours used for this suit the themes well, particularly the green for nature. The wide variety of different outcomes including written work and artwork demonstrates how we are all individuals and handle things in our own way. Despite different methods, a lot of the works are demonstrating similar ideas which are fascinating as it shows that there are often so many thoughts we don’t consider.
This tapestry was influenced by the booklet surrounding the topic of creativity in the home and cultivating that through music, dance and creating a safe space for making (written by Cherrelle Sappleton and Barbara Clarke). Zoe Kreye did a lot of research into tapestries and fabrics to identify common ones used in front rooms as people were spending a lot of time in there and this is why the tapestry includes some domesticated fabrics.
These are some paintings (image above and image below) by Luke Squire based around nature which are small scale and so Paloma Proudfoot created the tapestry around his work to support them and add scale to the work. The final effect emulates windows which were an important connection for people who had to remain indoors during the pandemic, with shades of blue representing the sky during the day and black representing the night. Being connected to nature is a key way to improve mental and physical well-being.
I feel that the colours used in these tapestry pieces work well together yet also contrast in areas to keep the audience interested. There is a contrast between the solid colours and patterns in the areas that surround the more intricate and detailed nature paintings. Since I am exploring colour combinations in my own work, I could use some of the colour palettes in this work to see if it could benefit my own work and allow me to develop a more informed choice of colour. I stayed at the gallery for a long time looking at these works, I feel that the meaning behind them is very significant and plays a big role in how they are perceived.
This tapestry brings together a series of self-portraits of the participants. It is entitled ‘Hope’ This is vital in visualising members of the community and showing that their existence matters. This resembles the community and the support that it had for the art by post-project. In addition to the booklets used, there were zoom calls in which the participants did activities, some involving creating self-portraits which were used in this piece.
These batik works (image above and below) are made by Sophia Niazi in which she used some of the participants’ illustrations of their own interiors to create a kitchen and living room. Even the artworks on the wall in the work are adapted from pieces submitted by the participants. I particularly like that in the batik above, the light is shining through due to the gallery being made from transparent glass. This really makes the work pop and catch your eye. I believe that this is significant as it shows that your work in a gallery can be perceived differently depending on the time of day if it is in a location where light is able to reach the work. I also love the abstract colours used and again could consider using similar palettes in my work to see how it affects my personal subject matter.
This is the other batik kitchen interior created by Sophia Niazi which uses more muted colours yet the contrasts used still create a captivating effect. This work doesn’t have the same effect as the other in terms of the lighting but I think it is important to show the obvious differences in the outcomes. I have never seen batiks so detailed before but I love the small details such as the wood textural lines on the floor and the labels on the books at the bottom of the page.
My opinion of this exhibition:
Overall, I really loved this exhibition and the way it brought people together during the hard times during the pandemic. I always hated to think about the vulnerable people experiencing those times alone and so knowing that a lot of people had support and someone to talk to puts me at ease. In particular, I love the way colour has been used in the works in this exhibition as they are all very bright and attractive, a happy outcome of this project which is interesting as they could have focused on the negatives of those times but it has a positive vibe which is so lovely. The combination of detail and simplicity is nicely balanced. Some of the colour palettes, specifically the kitchen and living room batik pieces are some that I would be interested in using in my own project as I feel that they are really effective and balanced nicely. Since colour is such a vital part of my work, this is very relevant and I hope it develops my own colour use in some way.
‘Painting Freedom’ – an exhibition profiling Indian Modernism and its three rebels – Hemen Mazamur, Jamani Roy and Rabindranath Tagore. The largest UK exhibition from the period of modern Indian art including loans from the British Museum.
Although I found the exhibition interesting, I don’t feel that the content particularly relates to my project in any way. However, I feel that I could take some inspiration from the colour palettes used and analyze what could work well in my own work.
The colours used in this painting are very eye-catching and work well with the intricate imagery. The detail of the illustrations remind me of wallpapers and the colours used in the painting seem to work really well with the grey wall colour. I find it interesting that the piece is made using watercolour as from far away the colours seem really opaque. The gold framing works well as it fits in with the colours used in the painting and although I can’t be sure if this was the curator’s intention, I still personally think it is effective.
This painting was a much smaller scale and I can’t work out the reason for such a big white border, it may have been done like that to fit the frame unless the intention was for a lot of contrast to be created with the border and the actual painting. The subject being animals is relevant to my own work, although I am focusing on farm animals rather than birds, the shades of blue, pinky-orange and yellow create a lovely composition.
The uses of the bold colours in this painting are extremely effective and contrast to draw the attention of the viewer. The black border fits in well with the painting and the colour of the frame fits in well with the golden ochre shade in the painting which is a thoughtful and considerate thing to do when it comes to framing and displaying the work. The painting medium being tempura is interesting as I learned about this technique last year and it makes sense that it was painted onto a cloth.
This painting is similar in style to the painting above with the pointed oval eyes and the black outlines with bold colours. The pattern in the right-hand corner really interested me when I first saw this painting and in my opinion, it represents the sun although it could just be there for decoration. The frames selected for these pieces are really appropriate and work well with the paintings to create a sense of unity and a flow of colour.
This painting reminds me of a mother animal carrying her cub in her mouth. I love the use of pattern in this painting along with the colours used as they are very eye-catching. The cub being a different colour to the mother figure works well in differentiating the two and again the framing works well. I’m not sure what the symbols around the subject mean but they make me very curious. I would like to explore doing a painting for my project with this colour scheme as it works well and has a lot of contrast.
This painting is of a sheep and so I feel that it is very relevant to my project, although explored in a vastly different style from mine. It is simple yet still effective through contrast and mark making. The side profile is unique and not something I am exploring in my own work but it is still good for me to see other people’s takes on animals.
My opinions about this exhibition:
I really enjoyed going to see this exhibition to see the range of different works created throughout history, particularly Indian art as I have never really had exposure to this style of art before. I loved the range of different works involving still life, animals and humans. I decided to photograph a lot of the animal art as this is the part that was the most relevant to my work at the moment and so I felt it could be useful for developing my own practice. Mostly, I was really fascinated by the colour palettes used and the way these were combined down to the last detail – even the framing! The patterns and simplicity of the works are really interesting and it would be really interesting to see a large mural of art in this style.
Collaged birds created by a range of Leicester residents
Inspired by museum collections and the residents of Leicester
The tree itself is used to represent the tree at the front of the museum
Leaves and Bark created with rubbings/prints from trees around the museum
The collages include newspaper cuttings through the years involving the past of Leicester and the Coronavirus pandemic
Each bird has snippets of poems, photos, recipes, letters and songs which were chosen by the participants to demonstrate their personal stories of Leicester
I particularly like the use of the light shining onto the work as it demonstrates that through all the experiences of people there is light at the end of the tunnel and demonstrates the hope that people have. I feel that this could also relate to the sun or moonlight shining on trees throughout the day. Birds are a beautiful part of nature and I feel that this work shows the unity of Leicester residents and how we can overcome things together.
I like the colours used on this bird and the way the lines on the tail create the illusion of feathers
I particularly like the mark making on the wing of this bird and how the eyes are three dimensional as it really stands out
I love that the birds are all in different poses and facing in different directions as it shows that a lot has happened over the years in Leicester and how much people have had to overcome.
I found these mixed media collaged birds very captivating as they involved a lot of textures and mark-making in a playful way. The use of contrast is interesting and ensures people take time looking at all the details, it is certainly not boring.
My opinion of this exhibit:
I was very drawn to this piece when I first saw it and I found the backstory about it really interesting and a lovely way for the community to come together after such tough times involving COVID. I have always liked collage which is why I think I liked this piece so much and the fact that people all around Leicester came together to get the materials for it, most likely more impactful to me as I have lived in Leicester my whole life so feel a connection to this piece. I also feel that the bright colours work well and portray birds nicely. The work overall is greatly patterned and textured which attracts viewers and I found it interesting trying to work out what some of the snippets of newspaper/text were.
Art History section:
While I was at the New Walk Museum, I decided to visit the art history section to give me some inspiration and to give insight into the different ways that scenes were painted throughout history. A lot of these paintings I have seen before as I have been to the New Walk museum a lot but this was the first time I had been in a while and so it seemed different.
My opinion of this exhibition:
This Art History section has been at the New Walk museum for a long time. However, I only go to this area around once or twice a year so it is always a nice experience to look at the paintings. I feel that art historical paintings are so realistic and detailed – so different from my own work but I still enjoy seeing the ways people throughout history explored their love for art and developed their ideas. The art world has changed a lot since these paintings were made which always fascinates me. The artworld is always changing, we never know what will happen in the next 10 years.
Rebecca Haines is a Fine Artist who has had a strong passion for art throughout her life. She began her artistic career by focusing on a portraiture subject – predominantly faces, in which she built up a skill in creating photorealistic pieces. In her thirties, she began to engage in artwork with an animal-based subject which was a lot more abstract through her uses of mark makings and colour. This interest in animals came from her friend lending her a book about the spiritual side of animals and how they connect to humans. This was an eye-opener for Haines and she continued to do lots of research into animals and people’s opinions about their purpose.
During her degree, she worked at a gallery and after graduating became the director of that gallery which gave her the chance to exhibit and sell her own work. She works on board rather than paper or canvas as she prefers the feel and firmness. I feel that I can relate to that as I am using small scale boards for my paintings. She uses oil paints and grease pencils to create her works which I find interesting and I may consider the combinations of media as my own project develops.
The use of mark-making and solid colour in Rebecca Haines’s work is what captures my attention the most as it creates a lot of contrast. She also includes a lot of abstract colours with dark colours which is interesting as often the bright colours used don’t reflect upon the animal itself but more so with the animal’s spiritual feeling, which requires a lot more thought. I like that her works include drawings as well as paintings, with the drawing showing through transparent layers of paint as combinations of mediums are something I am fond of in both my own work and other people’s work. In this piece, in particular, I feel the red circles on the cheeks are very playful and doodle-like which contrasts with the serious face and stance of the bear.
In this painting, I particularly feel that the colours used are successful and the uses of similar shades in the bear and the background allow the viewers’ eyes to look around the painting rather than focusing on one area. The different areas of mark-making, both simple and complex work well and contrast at the same time. The use of the complementary colours blue and orange is a focus of this painting and as I use a lot of complementary colours in my own work, I feel that I can relate to the colours used.
In this painting, I find the colours used are really simple yet effective, with the orange bringing out the richness of the brown. The way that the owl fits perfectly into the shape is something I feel works well and shows how deer and owls may be connected spiritually. Using more than one species of animal in her work is something Rebecca Haines does a lot and they aren’t always animals you would associate with each other. The mark-making in each of Rebecca Haines’s works varies from painting to painting yet is effective in different ways. Although I know the works are created with oil paints and oil sticks, certain areas through the way they look or the texture created reminds me of soft pastels which are interesting.
Things learned from video:
During the initial stages of a painting, she has a computer with lots of images of animals in different poses and then starts scribbling down her preferred one. This is different from her early paintings as she used to plan them out a lot more which resulted in her losing a lot of the successful mark makings and so she is much happier with her current process
The decision of what animal to do is very practical, sometimes from dreams or areas she visits such as Buffalo dams, however, she also looks at individual galleries to see what animals they are in need of or which will fit each venue the best
She markets her work primarily through galleries as she respects the time and effort they make to display and represent her work
Oil sticks are used a lot in her work, Sheba branded, it’s not a pastel but is oil paint in a stick form. She likes to use oil sticks as she enjoys drawing in her work and this is the easiest way to add this drawing aspect. The sticks allow her to scribble and add marks and then smear or smudge them after. The oil sticks are permanent oil paints and have skins form over them like the paint in the tubes
The only painterly aspect is the gesso to prime the backgrounds
She uses china markers to add the fine-lined areas like a grease pencil would achieve
She does commissions and is willing to replenish paintings that have been damaged over the years. When it comes to commissions, she doesn’t mind doing work that is a lot different to her usual work as long as she is still able to incorporate mark-making
She has experience being a gallery director and she finds knowing both sides of the operation helpful in being understanding of what gallery owners go through
She is a successful full-time artist
The artist influences in her work are Leonardo Da Vinci as she likes drawing and Rick Bartow as she feels that their work comes from a similar place in terms of drawing and mark-making
How Rebecca Haines’s work is influencing mine:
I am particularly fond of the way Rebecca Haines combines colour and mark-making to build up interesting depictions of the spirituality of animals. She focuses a lot more on wild animals and animals with big spiritual beings/auras including but not limited to bears, owls and deer. Although my project focuses on farm animals in captivity, I am more interested in the applications of media and the build-up of intricate details which all say something about the complex spirituality of animals. My work at the moment involves a lot of block colours and so I feel that adding mark-making to some degree could make my work a lot more effective and allow the viewer to understand how the animal feels more or to understand the deeper meaning of the animals. In terms of colour, researching the colours associated with the farm animals I have been focusing on in my project could help as this is the method that Rebecca Haines applies to her own work effectively. Since I am working on a much smaller scale than Rebecca Haines, I feel that I should try to be selective with the amounts of mark-making and so this is something I would need to experiment with – trial and error to see what works best.
Robert Phelps started his artistic career by being a decorative painter at Disney, mainly painting interesting scenes and doing caricature work. He progressed onto becoming a Fine Artist, doing exhibitions since 1996. His subject matter is of vibrant and uniquely coloured figures, both portraits of humans and animals.
I have decided to research Robert Phelps as I felt his focus on animals and colour relates to my ideas for my project nicely and I could benefit from trying out his methods of applying paint onto a surface. His works have an Expressionist or Fauvist style which I find interesting as I have researched these terms throughout art history and I could benefit by researching these further.
I like the fact that Robert Phelps doesn’t limit himself to one type/group of animals and I feel that I should try to do studies of a range of animals rather than just farm animals although this will involve going to places like zoos to gain primary evidence which I will have to arrange in my free time. If I don’t have the time to do this, however, I can still learn from his techniques and unique style, particularly his interesting use of colour to benefit my work and push it further than just being a painting of a cute farm animal.
I couldn’t gain access to good quality pictures of Robert Phelps’s work due to security on the website so I took a screenshot. Although the image isn’t of great quality, this painting relates to my project through the use of the goat and a sense of being in an enclosure. I particularly feel that the combinations of bright and dark colours create a great balance and makes the image very captivating. The painting is simple and yet built up in areas such as the goat’s face of different tones of the same colour which add depth and detail and makes it look like real fur despite the painting being abstract.
Although this painting has a lot more realistic colours, it still has small strokes of colour which add depth and make the audience want to spend more time looking at the painting. An interesting quality of Robert Phelps’s work is the range of backgrounds and environments in which the animals are, making me wonder if he has a lot of access to different animal attractions or whether he works from photographs. I find the use of green in the goat’s fur works well with the brown colour and I feel I could apply this to my own work as I tend to stick to quite simple colour schemes and the additions of small areas of colour could make my work a lot more effective.
In a lot of his goat paintings, they are gazing directly at the viewer which is something I have been exploring within my own work to see the different emotions this can evoke from the viewer as well as creating a connection or making the viewer feel uncomfortable. There are some paintings looking to the side, but I have decided to only include the paintings that are relevant to my own practice as that is something that I, as well as other people, feel works well from feedback during my crit. Robert Phelps adds a lot of texture to his paintings which is relevant to his subject matter.
https://www.youtube.com/shorts/EaFovmt0JUs – a short video of Robert Phelps working on some paintings. I decided to include this video as it shows that he likes to use his fingers to apply paint as well as brushes which I think is a really interesting method as it can add texture and make the artist literally a part of their work. I also found out through the description of the video that he likes to experiment with ‘alla prima painting’ which is a wet on wet paint technique that allows you to produce work in a spontaneous style without too much perfectionism.
Robert Phelps also has an art Etsy account – https://www.etsy.com/shop/RobertPhelpsArt – in which he sells his artworks in a range of forms, including the original paintings as well as prints of his paintings in the form of good quality prints, t-shirts, stickers, mugs, phone cases and tote bags. This is interesting as it could be something I can explore in the future provided enough people are interested in my work and I make myself present in the art world.
In the above image, I find the image on the far right quite interesting with a real cat being behind the painting. Although a different cat entirely from the one in the painting, I find this playful photo has a good composition and brings the painting into the real world. Although I doubt I would be able to take photos like this with my own paintings due to farm animals tending to nibble on whatever they can get access to, I still found this particularly interesting and is something I could explore if I were to focus on more chilled animals.
Since I don’t have a lot of experience selling any of my work or items with my designs printed onto them in my professional practice, looking at the ways artists such as Robert Phelps is informative and educative and gives me an idea of how I could price my own work, although this does differ artist to artist.
For this sort of business to work, I feel that you need to have a lot of social media presence and have a good following of your work to know that people would actually buy them. As well as this, I would have to factor in being able to afford materials or getting another company to do the different prints for me so I feel that if I ever explore having a small business, this will be a venture in the future when I have enough money to feel stable to keep it afloat and enough time to dedicate myself to it.
How Robert Phelps’s work is influencing my work:
I am fascinated by Robert Phelps’s use of colour as colour is a vital aspect of my project and finding artists to influence me helps a lot in deciding colour palettes
The subject matter of Robert Phelp’s work is also relevant, particularly his paintings of farm animals – in particular goats. The additions of fences and enclosures are very interesting in the context of my work as it seems as though Robert Phelps likes to explore animals’ emotions in enclosures similarly to what I am hoping to achieve in my work
The gaze of the goats is effective as they are looking directly at the viewer/staring which is a concept that I am interested in as it evokes a lot of emotion in the viewer and creates a connection between the subject animal and the viewer. I am intrigued by the different ways people can be affected by paintings and how an image can drastically affect or not affect the viewer at all
In November last year, it was recommended by our lens-based lecturer Anna Lucas to go to an exhibition which she put together in a collaboration with the Arts Council Collection. It was based at the WQE sciences building and was a fairly short/small exhibition. The exhibition was mostly lens-based in the form of photos and videos. It had Anna Lucas’s work as well as work by Wolfgang Tillmans – a popular artist in the Lens artist community and another artist Yve Lomax.
There were some drawings presented in clear display cases which worked alongside the themes explored in this exhibition such as nature and our interaction with environments. I wish I would have taken some closer up pictures of these drawings to show the detail combined with the simplicity which is something I found captivating at the time.
Catalogues of the exhibition were also presented in clear display cases with one opened to a collage of photographs. At the small scale of these pieces, there wasn’t much to look at but I like the way that the text in the background is at a large scale and creates an interesting composition.
There were several exhibition catalogues shown in the small exhibition which was interesting, especially since each one was presented in different ways with inclusions of different objects or materials. For instance, in this piece, there were again two exhibition catalogues with information about the work but the opened book was displaying a different page to the image above and there was a metal sheet that was accordion folded and had different shapes such as circles and squares cut out of it which reminded me of keyhole lenses.
In this display cabinet, there was some photography accordion-folded which I felt was interesting, as each compartment that was displayed in the clear cabinets were different and yet related to each other in some form, showing the development of things and how things are always changing to some degree.
Anna Lucas’s part of the exhibition:
As Anna Lucas had been one of the main people involved in the set up of the exhibition, she had multiple of her works in the exhibition, a lot of these looking like a monochrome mash-up of photographs that were created in the darkroom. They were quite abstract which I think is interesting in photography.
My thoughts about the exhibition:
Overall, I really enjoyed this exhibition and found it interesting that one of my lecturers was in it as often when I go to exhibitions, I don’t know anyone in them. I have always enjoyed experiencing the different ways that artists work on different subjects. Although I have dabbled in lens-based work through my art explorations, I am in no way an expert and so seeing the different ways people have used lenses to get their ideas across is always interesting to me and it makes me wonder about the individual process for prints or experiments in the dark rooms. This exhibition, in particular, wasn’t very long but sometimes I prefer that – short and sweet, especially since there was a couple of videos involved which required your attention. I found the location of the exhibition fascinating as it shows with the right permissions you can exhibit almost anywhere.
I wish I would have taken more photographs when I went to the exhibition so that I had more to write about but I was enjoying the work too much. Upon reflection, I should have gone to the exhibition more than once, the first time to experience it and a second time to make sure I gather enough photos of the experience. However, I can’t change things now so I will take this on board the next time I go to an exhibition.
Shane Meadows is a Nottingham based screenwriter, film director and actor. As a lot of his films are based in the East Midlands and have a very British vibe focused on council estates, it felt relevant to research him and the different ways he involves/represents the architecture in his films. He manages to capture a lot of depth in his films that provide psychological portraits of the types of people that live in the areas and architecture that are captured in the films.
I decided to research Shane Meadows as his films feature a lot of council estates and I feel this is relevant to my project as Leicester has a lot of similar areas and so this is appropriate.
He is well known for shooting in local locations where he lives which allows him to constantly be creating new films and not having any barriers preventing him from doing what he loves. Shane Meadows also likes to incorporate untrained actors in his films which give a more realistic interpretation of the places and people from those areas.
Shane began his film career by volunteering at Intermedia Film and Video Ltd in Nottingham, being able to use and borrow the filming equipment by working for the company for free. At the start he tried to involve his family and friends in the work as this was the most convenient option at the time. He also made himself an actor in his films which shows how versatile he is and dedicated to his craft. As he gained more experience, he was producing short films at a very fast rate which shows how dedicated he was.
Information I got from video above:
Shane Meadows got involved with film after he was thrown off his Photography University course for getting into trouble with debt and he saw a film crew when he was on the way home. he was interested in the way that lots of different people were working together. After he had made a large amount of films, he showed them to someone at the place he was volunteering and was advised to enter some of them into competitions. He was called by a well-known British producer and filmmaker called Steven Malloy and was asked if he had considered making a feature film. Since then, he has made many films that demonstrate his passion for filmmaking.
This was the first feature film that Shane Meadows made based in Nottingham in 1996. It involves themes of friendship and theft which are quite common in run down areas which relates to how he captures the essence of council estates and troubled people from those places.
This is one of the first well known films directed by Shane Meadows to feature well known actors. Again, based in Nottingham which allowed him to portray the realistic aesthetic of the area and the common traits/characteristics that people from those areas have.
Shane has made a few psychological thrillers in his career which often show the dark sides to council estates and life in general with drug dealers being a big part of the foundations of the films.
This is England, 2006 – Shane Meadows
Information I got from videos above:
“It’s this story about Shane’s experience growing up including the political side with Thatcher and the miners’ strike, including all those things that that they both remembered. Shane wrote in the opening paragraph saying remember boys before Gameboys and PlayStations. Before all the kids looked the same, there was this time when they were punks, mods, skinheads, new romantics. On this release or captured in this opening paragraph, this tribal thing about the 80s then but have you belonging to one of those tribes. You see a young boy Sean going to school for the first day, he has a terrible day by getting bullied and having a fight. He’s a loner and doesn’t really want to be there. On the way home from school after this really bad day, he meets a skin head gang in an underpass and they’re funny and witty. He makes a good impression on the gang, so they take him out for the day hunting and slowly but surely he becomes part of the gang. Shane Meadows experienced this as when he was about 11-12 years old he went hunting with this group of skinheads and they were all crazy and then he made friends with this lad Gadget who he wasn’t really close with before the hunting day. The hunting day made them do all these mad challenges. When he met the cast, and they were all together they made him cry his eyes out with laughter after their extreme hair decisions. Although the film was based on Shane Meadow’s experience, he wanted them to choose what they wore and experiment with their costumes. The main character feels he belongs when he gets new clothes and a haircut to fit in with the gang. Then it’s the summer Holidays and a big character called Cosmo gets out of prison. He has made some opinions in prison that are not great, but you get a sense of menace, he’s become racist. This affects Milky in the gang who has black skin. Cosmo takes Sean under his wing. This gives Sean a father figure. Then slowly but surely that kind of the menace of the race goes from super joke stuff to a national fraud which is horrific and it’s six weeks this young boy goes from being a boy to a man.
The core of this film is autobiographical but each person that comes into that process has something good that Shane sees and then he allows the character to breathe. Joe who played Woody was a funny guy and so why not allow them to be funny characters. The girl’s hair is more grown-up but it’s not case of just having the costume, it’s that they walk right in it too. Shane said he remembers the day when they did the haircuts and the costume fittings, putting on the jacket badges, jeans, and the docs. As soon as they put that uniform on, you could see the most change regionally and they began to look the same. A famous part is the tattoo which Shane also has which is an autobiographical element. After meeting Tommy who played Sean, they didn’t come on too graphical about Shane, there was a lot of Thomas character included. You have to you have to learn to trust and to work with these people and I think the relationships in the film that you look at, you know Stephen Graham who plays Cosmo really took Tom under his wing and helped/supported him which added to their relationships or when it came in there was a very strong father relationship. I don’t think Shane set out to make a political film, not at all it’s about caring about specific characters and the choices they make for you on that boy’s journey. There are many ways were ultimately kids are easily influenced and you can see how the wrong adult father figure or the wrong peers if you like can influence the way you think.” – what the video above says.
Information I got from video above:
This is one of the films and dramas that Shane Meadows is well known for. His portrayal of British life and council estate issues was very unique and more importantly a very realistic portrayal of life in the 80s. This film put a lot of Nottingham based actors into the limelight and set off their careers which was important as there wasn’t a lot of well known actors from the East Midlands before then.
This film showed the importance of friendships. The fact that Shane Meadows covers a lot of different themes in his films is important as it allows him to be more relatable. I like that he shows the highs and the lows as life isn’t all doom and gloom but it also isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time.
This essay takes consideration into how the uses of environments in Sean Meadow’s films impact upon human development.
“Set in towns and cities once characterised by thriving industrial and manufacturing economies, these films depict communities in which the working-class of the British documentary movement”
“Therefore, I want to frame my consideration of Meadows’ representation of space from the perspective of these debates about the relationship between consumption and masculinity. What follows, then, should be read as an attempt to begin thinking about Meadows’ work in light of this theory, and to hopefully contribute towards a possible understanding of his work in the context of this changing landscape of contemporary British social-realism.”
How researching into Shane Meadow’s filmmaking is relevant to my project:
I was recommended to research into Sean Meadow’s films by my tutor during my crit as he often films in the east midlands in council estates similar to Leicester, often close by in Nottingham. I found he way he combines landscapes with different people and demonstrates the unique relationships between people and the places they live. I like that he maintains the realism of the places he films and doesn’t feel the need to photoshop or change anything to suit a particular aesthetic. It is a true depiction of the world some people live in which is very unique, embracing the true beauty of the world.
James Rosenquist was an American Artist who was heavily involved with the Pop Art movement, being a co founder of the movement. As he had experience in sign painting, his work often explored advertising and consumer culture in art and society. To do this, he used his experiences and techniques used within sign painting to create work involving popular cultural icons and mundane objects. Although his works have been compared to artists such as Warhol and Lichtenstein, he is considered unique for the ways that he incorporated surrealism by including actual fragments of advertisements and imagery to show how ads can often be overwhelming.
Information I got from video above:
“Art historian and curator Sarah Bancroft had the great privilege to work at the Guggenheim where she co-curated James Rosenquist’s retrospective. Beginning in 2015 Jim asked Sarah to come and work for his foundation and his studio, making her the vice president/the director of James Rosenquist studio and the executive director of the James Rosenquist foundation. James Rosenquist is one of the founders if you can call it that of the American pop art movement he along with his contemporaries Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol who really grouped together by art historians and curators. At the time they weren’t working together as a group, but the young artists were painting figuratively, coming out of a moment where abstract expressionism was at the apex of the art world. These young upstarts painting in this fashion was quite shocking and so there were no characters like Henrik El dollar at the Met and wonderful gallerists around town who started to show them together and it was really quite a shock this artwork at that time, so he was one of the artists at the forefront of this group and in the early 60s became known as an American pop artist and he’s really pushed himself over the decades to create new and new forms he’s never repeating what he did before. James Rosenquist was born in North Dakota and grew up in Minnesota spent most of his young life in the Midwest the middle of the country and he moved to New York to study at the art students League while also working as a commercial artist to support himself. Before he became known as an American pop artist, he was really standing on the boards as billboard artists called it painting commercial advertisements and his focus was on massive advertisements. In his private time, he had a little studio where he did tiny abstract drawings.
In 1960, a friend of his and a colleague fell off the boards and died which made Rosenquist realise that he didn’t want to be painting commercial anymore. This led to him moving into a studio in lower Manhattan to focus on his fine art career. Very quickly thereafter his career had momentum and he became known as one of the American pop artists. When Rosenquist moved into the space his work changed dramatically; rather than making small abstract drawings he started incorporating elements of the commercial advertisements into his own work, so he would take snippets of images make collage from them to make these unexpected changes to positions and then use the collage to paint the canvas and these became the very first pop paintings of his.
In the marine Gallery there’s a beautiful collection of Jim’s source collages almost every painting has a source collage which is a working document for him, he created these collages sniping imagery from advertisements, women’s magazines, lifetime or from photographs he had commissioned or taken himself, alternately even from photocopies. These developed his billboard painting experience as whatever it was that he needed to paint on the Billboard he was given a small image and he would use that image to scale up on a massive billboard and so when he started painting his own works he decided that he would continue in that tradition. However, rather than using imagery that had been given to him, he chose the imagery himself in unexpected ways to create a composition of his own making and then painted the canvas from these collages. These are known as working documents which he did not show to people for many decades, he was very secretive about them as he didn’t want people to understand the process of how he composed the work. This meant that they didn’t enter the realm of the public until the 90s. For the Guggenheim retrospective, he very generously allowed us, or he was convinced to show a much larger body of work because they are relevant to his process, to the conceptual backbone of each painting and quite frankly they are works of art. This space is a perfect marriage between architecture and painting, there is enough space for these paintings to breathe, many of these works are enormous, monumental in scale and yet they feel calm/peaceful. It’s almost cathedral like, it’s an incredible show, this Gallery is really a destination and I can’t imagine a better place for these works to be shown.”
Information I got from video above:
Rosenquist talking about his 88-foot-wide painting of an F 111 fighter plane in 1965:
This was a combination of number of ideas, and one was visiting an amusement park in Texas, seeing a beast 36 aeroplane just sitting there rusting and then going to an amusement park that had a lot of unnatural things about it as a theme park. Then wondering and then talking to Barnett Newman about seeing something which is relegated by peripheral vision, what you see through the side of your eyes makes what you think you see that colour for instance or colour can change other colours according to the whole show rounding up senses of colour light dark everything. I wanted to make a room that wherever you looked you would that colour would be that colour because everything else made it that colour. I learned that income taxes were started by the Chinese to the donation to make a humanist or was a humanist donation to make it a community or society just at that time I met Paul bird from the St. Louis post dispatch, we had just come back from some combat missions in Vietnam so the culmination of all these things created the painting. I thought of the economy that this war weapon supported in Texas and then Long Island so that was the beginning ideas to get me off the chair to do this is painting. Later, it was taken as a great anti-war picture and how illogical it was to be an artist in this century at this time, how what a joke it was to be an artist I mean of 1 think that they have any power political power by being an artist or saying something or doing anything it didn’t doesn’t seem to be the artists role in society to be silly at that time.
Rosenquist talking about whether Pop Art was revolutionary:
I don’t think it’s revolutionary. Revolutionary painting shows in history a few times, like in the high and low show there was a beautiful Miro painting and the inspiration from that came from him clipping with the scissors, clipping off little pictures of a knife, fork and spoon out of catalogue. He used the positive – negative space as a sketch and then this became a big, beautiful painting which was very atmospheric and very unusual as the knife, fork and spoons were transformed into funny shapes, but they were still from the drawing. People have always been searching for an idea or a reason for to get them off the chair to do something so during the time of abstract expressionism a lot of students were merely taught to be careless with abandon, hit the canvas with a rag with a broom with a rush after you make a mark on a canvas does that mark suggest an inspiration? Then you have to have the responsibility to finish something and do something about that mark that you made because you destroyed the beautiful painting surface, Lots of people were being taught that the brush stroke and the viscosity of paint became a cliché so people were becoming tired of that and abstract painting being misinterpreted into something else, for instance something that could be very serial looking gradually could have a figure of Popeyes sitting in there right in the middle of it. You see the strangest artworks coming out of people, so called pop artist commercial artists Roy Lichtenstein and I was a billboard painter, and many other commercial artists were.
Rosenquist discussing why Pop Art happened when it did:
I can’t put my finger on that one, one could say that abstract painting up until 1945/1950 really had its roots in Europe from French non-objective painting but then one could say well this looks more American and with that which has less roots in your in Europe. I don’t want to say that because I don’t see enough reasons for that as it would be a self-conscious attitude, like saying hey I’m going to do this now because I don’t hate Europeans, I’m not going to be like that I’m in America I can’t, I don’t see that well. Lawrence Alloway coined that term pop art, we were called new realists and lot of other things, I think Pop Art was a misnomer as Lawrence Alloway seemed to think that everyone was infatuated with popular imagery which I don’t think was the case. Strange thing is that since 1960, the pop art has still remained popular or people remain interested in it, also the artists involved have been very lucky to have a rather long life with exception of Andy Warhol but I’ve been pretty lucky to have a rather long career.
Rosenquist discussing what he wants people to see when they look at his paintings:
Well, I mean I like them to realise how much can come out of a little paint pot, just open a little pot of paint and it flies all over the place. That’s a thing that students don’t know, and I’ve tried very few times but I’ve been to a school for boys and girls there the trying to make an expression from a little tube of paint and they don’t know how to mix paint or do anything practical so they get very frustrated so they take a cigarette and put it in the mess, and they will home and everything is dirty in a mess everything. So, I showed them how to take the paint out of the tube and smear it up and how much space they could cover with just a little bit of paint in that tube. I showed them how to do that and after a while they could make these big beautiful abstract paintings. I said fantastic, now you must have an idea that’s the next part but it’s the same with film to be able to use it be able to do it to be able to light things to be able to do all that takes someone to show you the knack of how to do that, it’s craft.
James Rosenquist discussing where his ideas come from:
My inspirations when I was first starting was that I thought I could devise a new space from painting outdoor billboards in Times Square and that was as a kid I was subject to Rinso White commercials and early television commercials. Our commercial society which is quite unlike Russia for instance, and I thought my job was to paint big pictures of movie stars and then to paint objects to sell and if I could paint them well the company would sell them but if I didn’t I’d get fired. I had to paint a beautiful beer, beautiful shirts, beautiful everything so salesmen would be attracted. They said the beer had too many hops in it, tell that kid change it, got to change it so that only meant making a slightly different colour yellow and repainting the whole damn thing slightly. So, I take it home with me and I take Franco American spaghetti orange I take that home which was like red dye number 2 and yellow I take that, and I make abstract paintings out of these. Then I thought hey I’ll use magnified imagery that spilled out of the picture plane and I’d set it up so the closest thing you would see would be recognised last because would be too personal and what irritates people. So that’s how my so-called pop art painting started, and I really use generic things unlike say Andy Warhol who used Campbell’s soup. I painted spaghetti, I painted soup, I painted hot dogs, jeans, cars, generic things instead of out there things. The labels and the title might occur to me and this title with the stick out my mind and then I’ll think in terms of everything I think of I’ll think in terms of that title. For instance, I did a painting called 4 nuclear women which is meant if women become powerful and they are like women who own a lot of stock in the stock market or better be like Golden mate or become president like Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or Indira Gandhi, will they be new clear women or nuclear women, will they blow us up or are they smart something like that. So, then I met Zack Darlington’s actress Liv Ullmann, she saw that painting she says oh what are you going to do next and I said I’m going to do the persistence of electrical nymphs in space and she said oh what’s that about I said well that’s the sound of all the souls after the earth blows options.
Okay so those are titles that I would think about before I would start working. Then I like to think about how young people want to live in the future too which is interesting as people are like animals and still have all the best visuals. I mean still have all the best vestiges of anatomy and they have claws, fangs, ears, noses just like animals you see running around here and then I go to New York, I see beautiful girls that have claws, fangs, noses everything and I see they are very sophisticated and they smell nice but there are still animals so I wonder how will a young person like to live in a really high tech environment such as a rocket ship or an apartment or a business place like that but would they prefer to live a pastoral life like little lambs in a Meadow so I think that’s curious what the future generations will select as an environment. If the environment is going to hell those oil slicks all over and Hussein burned the oil fields down and all of that and one wonders what you know when will people get busy cleaning it up or are they interested or whatever it’s curious, I’m interested in what people will select so I started making paintings that look like people reincarnating into Flowers are starting to be intermixed with flora and fauna and machines too, they were sort of pieces of flesh start starting to be connected to machines or Flowers or an I did those in a shot images cut in shards so that with the least amount of suggestion you could see what an image of something yet there was a whole ground to put another image in to paint there was a lot of area left over and then that would be a specific image and then the mixture of both of those I was hoping for a third image it would be if all artists have crosshatched including Michelangelo Rembrandt and everybody like scribbling and in those scribbles screw doing that one day and then that I thought haven this crosshatching I could like this for instance put two images overlapping so you could see both images at the same time and still have more area to paint it and you could even describe with pieces of imagery which no one has done before yet so I mean use using imagery as a sketch to describe another image that would be really confusing so or illuminating so that that’s why it was one inspiration.
A lot of James Rosenquist’s work is very abstract Pop Art work including a range of different objects and materials, with collage being a big part of his work. Rosenquist arranges each piece of cut out prints differently to create a range of interesting compositions that work with the bright colours used to draw the attention of the viewer. For instance, in ‘Miles’ (shown above) the shards of the plate are spread around the circle in the middle to draw the eye to that part of the piece which is quite interesting as the background of the piece is very detailed, so you don’t expect the centre of the piece to be the main point. Sometimes Rosenquist didn’t have to use actual images of things, but instead used shapes and colours to translate into something he wanted the viewer to see without having to make it too obvious. In ‘The Bird of Paradise Approaches the Hot Water Planet, from Welcome to the Water Planet Series’, Rosenquist builds up the ‘bird’ using flowing lines and cut out prints and I find this fascinating as people don’t have to see an actual object or figure to understand the work. Even in circumstances when actual objects are used, they are made abstract to go along with the rest of the elements in Rosenquist’s work.
There are many abstract forms and lines used throughout his work which he is well known for. Although these sometimes seem quite spontaneous, they are actually considered for a while by Rosenquist as he puts a lot of attention into getting the right compositions and angles of the different cut out pieces in his collages.
In some of his work, Rosenquist focuses on key objects and figures throughout history, such as the F-111 plane mentioned earlier on in this post. This is because he was trying to demonstrate what life was like back then and how this could have impacted on people’s lives. Yet he also focused on subjects heavily involving what could happen in the future and how young people would react to different situations which I find very interesting as a lot of people are quite unpredictable.
A crucial part of Rosenquist’s work was parody yet he did this in a way that still allowed him to demonstrate his own individual perception and purpose. His parody was mainly focused on advertising and he wanted to demonstrate the powers that advertising had in an innovative way.
Ways James Rosenquist’s work is influencing my project:
The key influence I have from James Rosenquist is his bold uses of colour that demonstrate a flow in his work. I find his combinations of colours very interesting and feel his abstract approach could add to my work. I am hoping to do one of my paintings using a colour palette inspired by one or several of his paintings to allow myself to fully explore whether this would be right for my project.
American Regionalism involved a style of realistic painting that started in the 1930s, becoming popular during the Great Depression. The most popular subjects of American Regionalism were rural and everyday situations. This movement was not inspired by a manifesto or particular agenda and was instead inspired by three artists, being Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry who were known as the “Regionalist Triumvirate.” They rejected abstract work, responding to cultural isolation that saw art as out of touch with the American spirit. They felt unsatisfied with American art as they felt it lacked style and a proper audience. Wood wrote a letter home saying “The art dealers and the critics want no part of American art. They think this country is too new for any culture and too crude and undeveloped to produce any artists. You have to be a Frenchman, take a French name, and paint like a Frenchman to gain recognition.”
Whilst reading this book, I came across some information about Grant Wood which I felt was relevant as he was one of the three main artists who inspired American Regionalism.
Information I got from the book:
‘Grant Wood created a series of agricultural landscapes in the 1930s to portray his romantic vision of man’s relationship with cultivated land. He created paintings and prints to make the farm and the farmer a fantasy. The result of these mythic landscapes is Spring Turning, a representation of green hills painted in 1936. In the painting, the land has been divided into four fields for cultivation. In the lower field, a farmer drives a team of horses pulling a plow as he turns over the earth. He is dwarfed by the hills that surround him. Previous scholars have focused on the sexual nature of the rolling hills in Spring Turning—Wanda Corn, for example, sees the fertile body of a Mother Earth figure, while Tripp Evans sees the erotic contours of a man’s form.
What has not been previously examined, however, is that Spring Turning, and indeed all of Wood’s farm scenes, were responses to specific local and regional conflict: severe economic depression, agricultural catastrophes, political unrest, and anxiety about the farmer’s place in a country in crisis.Wiped clean of dirt and disorder and marked by a stylized geometry, these landscapes are highly constructed objects drawn from the artist’s memory, his attempts at myth-making, and his desire to control a world under threat. Wood’s work as an artist is closely associated with the figure of the mid-western farmer and the land he inhabited. Though the artist was himself a Midwesterner and the son of a farm family, his first subjects were simple Impressionist-style landscapes that rarely included farms.
Over time, Wood began to champion his favoured subjects—farmers and the land—and develop the style and approach to landscapes that communicate the almost mythic values and virtues that he saw in Midwesterners on the land. He was the son of a strict Protestant farmer who discouraged his artistic tendencies. Unlike his repressive father, Wood’s mother encouraged him in his interests, and he began drawing, painting, and designing jewellery in high school. After graduation, he attended design schools in Minneapolis and Chicago, supporting himself in his twenties and thirties as a designer and teacher and painting in his spare time.
Wood came to see his fellow Iowans and their landscape as topics worthy of his artistic attention only after his early experiments in Impressionist-style painting met with disappointment.4 Wood painted in this retardative mode for nearly twenty years in the early twentieth century, but this aspect of his work is little known now.
Although he worked mainly as an Impressionist in the 1920s, he experimented with other styles during this period as well. Wood’s work underwent a more significant change in style in 1928 when he encountered the work of Northern Renaissance artists in Germany. He had accepted a commission to design a stained-glass window for the Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial. Although he had never worked in the medium before, he took on the project with enthusiasm, even traveling to Munich to oversee the production of the glass. The trip had a profound effect on him. While in Germany, he visited museums, where he found inspiration in portraits by artists such as Hans Memling. Their style and subjects influenced a new direction in his art. Upon his return to Cedar Rapids, he abandoned Impressionism in favour of the hard-edged styles he had experimented with.
‘Woman with Plants’ is a portrait of Wood’s mother in which he adopted Memling’s practice of setting his figures in landscapes painted from a high bird’s-eye perspective, with intricate details in the background. In addition, the work of the Northern Renaissance artists convinced Wood that local imagery—the landscapes and people of his native Iowa—was rich material for his art. This new focus on local subject matter aligned Wood with the movement called Regionalism. In the early 1930s, Regionalism, defined by art historian Matthew Baigell as “art created from local traditions,” was at the height of its popularity.
After the surge of interest from American artists in European art in the early twentieth century and into the 1920s, Regionalism represented a new inward focus in the country during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Rather than being influenced by avant-garde artists from Europe who experimented with innovative styles such as Cubism or Surrealism, Regionalist artists sought to portray the experiences of ordinary people in an easily readable visual style. They looked to the Midwest and the South for subject matter and narratives.
Wood’s 1930 painting American Gothic encapsulates the aesthetic and cultural goals of the Regionalists, and it was the first of Wood’s paintings to receive national attention. The painting depicts an Iowa farmer and a woman who may be his wife or his daughter. American Gothic was then, and is still today, an enigmatic painting: Is it a tongue-in-cheek but affectionate portrait of staid Midwesterners? Is it, perhaps, an indictment of repressive mid-western values? Historian R. Tripp Evans contends that it is the intriguing ambivalence at the heart of the work that holds the key to its appeal.’
In 1930, American Gothic won third prize at a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago. It remains in the collection of that institution today, and it is among the best-known American paintings in the world. After the success of American Gothic, Wood invested many of his character studies with a decided satirical edge.
Information I got from video above:
“American regionalism or American scene painting as it sometimes called is a naturalist style of painting and art that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. The artists of the movement will depict scenes of typical American life and landscape painted in a naturalistic descriptive style. American scene is an umbrella term for the rural American regionalism and the urban and politically oriented social realism. After World War One many United States artists rejected the modern trend stemming from the armoury show in part as a reaction to the war. Oftentimes when we see war we will see far more conservative movements following that war and then things will develop. From there we get to the next war we end up with the same thing a little more conservative and then redevelopment once again and we see the same thing but around World War One as we do around World War Two so instead they adopt an academic realism in depicting urban and rural scenes. Much of the American scene painting conveys a nationalism in romanticism of everyday American life, they’re trying to create something that reflects the American life of everywhere between New York oftentimes and as an anti-modernist style and reaction against the modern European style, this American regionalism was seen as an attempt to define a uniquely American style of art. As soon as we’ve seen the armoury show in precisionism and surrealism and the Americans are starting to get involved in all these movements, all these basically modern movements we see this reaction so we’re pushing back to a more conservative and more realist movement in this case. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just one of these cycles that we see in our history and it doesn’t mean that we can sit there and look at history and go I can predict what’s coming next as that’s foolish . There’s always something that you wouldn’t expect at the time but it does give us a general idea so if you’re looking at a painting you can kind of start to date it based on realism versus abstractions.” – what is said in the video above.
How American Regionalism is inspiring my project:
I was encouraged to research into American Regionalism by my peers during my crit as my work has a great portrayal of real life, you can tell the areas that I have focused on if you have been there before, Leicester is easily identifiable in my work. I found it very interesting to look into this style as I have heard of it before but didn’t know too much information about it. In particular, I find the buildings behind the figures in Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’ very similar to some of the architecture I am focusing on in my project, with a sense of realism yet still being abstract.