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Jun 19, 2012


This is one of my painting from Los Gatos, durlast week. It didn't win any awards, or receive much recognition because I didn't choose to enter it into the judging on the Gala night.


It was clearly the best thing I painted during the week. I was walking back to my car after an artist's lunch and saw it. The light and shadow patter was so evocative I had to stop and paint it. I never thought to enter it because I just didn't believe it had the story or narrative to appeal to a large audience. So I entered something else instead.

In retrospect I would lead with this painting...

"Roses à Contre-jour"
(Backlit Roses)
Los Gatos Plein Air 2012
16 x 12, oil on canvas on panel

"Contre-Jour" is a French term for backlit, and this kind of lighting is found in many French and California impressionistic paintings. Choosing a backlit subject, or setting up light this way creates large masses of shadows and lights -- shapes which play off each other. Both being visually to find in a painting.

This is definitely something to explore further.

To successfully pull off a contre-jour painting an artist must be able to organize a subject's values into two large masses: a light and a dark shape. And then be able to add a plausible bounce or fill light that illuminating subtle modulations within the darker mass. (As seen in the flower heads above.) Again, a beautiful effect when everything somehow manages to hold together.

I don't know if the French invented this treatment of light -- the way Italians of the 16th century invented sfumato -- but contre-jour is breath-taking when you see it expressed with a masterful hand. Fatin-Latour could do it, as did other Northern Flemish painters of Europe, but contre-jour isn't something you see often in contemporary painting these days.

I've got to spend more time on the effect.

And remember to enter the best d*mn painting I paint during the week. Regardless of whether or not I think it has a story or not.


If you are interested my upcoming August 'Essential Plein Air Techniques' workshop, click here. We have only three spots left on a first-come, first serve basis, so don't delay if you want to join the fun! Learn to paint en plein air with a knowledgeable and respectful teacher. This class will be limited to 12 participants to guarantee quality one-on-one time with the instructor.

UPDATE: Because sign-ups this year have been so quick I may offer a second workshop the following week if there is enough interest. That will be decided after the first week closes.

- Posted from my iPad

2 reader comments:

Sergio Lopez said...

haha, I know how you feel, with not picking the right one for judging. I don't know if my painting of the storefront was better than Anton's, but it probably would have gotten more votes than the one I put up.

That was definitely my favorite one of yours, though the 2nd place winner was pretty strong as well.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thank you Sergio. I only got a brief glimpse of your storefront wedding dress painting as someone bought it and I laws impressed. Nice clean whites are hard to hold on to as you paint.

I thought your cropping was daring (meaning, rather Modern in its expression) and your composition was well executed in paint. That painting had its own category.

Anton's street painting was more inside the norm for these events and didn't challenge the viewer as much as yours. Not a bad thing, in any way, just something for all of us to think about. I picked my rose arbor for the gala night for the same reason, even though I knew the contra jour roses was a far better painting.

The moral of that story for me is to go back using my gut to pick the stand out paintings and stop over thinking these things. (grin)

And Anton, if you are reading this, I am absolutely blown away with how far you've come in the past year. I had no idea. I drilled down into your site ( http://antonpavlenko.com ) and your paint handling is rock-solid.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest wrecking crew...