Friday, 30 January 2009

The « Monet Impressionist eye » exhibition at Marmottan Museum

« Monet Impressionist eye » exhibition
The exhibition "Monet, impressionist eye" looks at Monet’s work through science. The curator asked two Ophthalmologists to provide their insight into Monet’s painting technique, including when the artist’s perception was impaired by cataracts. Some late pieces of work are exhibited together with blurred photographs showing how Monet would have seen them.

The exhibition showcases sixty works of Monet coming from the museum own collection or specially lent to the Musée Marmottan for this exhibition.

Details of the exhibition :

"Monet, impressionist eye"
16th october - 15th february

Musée Marmottan
2, rue Louis-Boilly
75016 Paris

Musée Marmottan
The Musée Marmottan has a rich collection of impressionist paintings, including many works by Claude Monet, Berthe Morizot, Renoir, Sisley or Gauguin. Actually, The Museum possesses the world's largest collection of works by Claude Monet.

I like the fact that some of the paintings are displayed in the furnished rooms of this rich house.

This museum is less known than the Orsay Museum and therefore less crowded. This is a museum not to be missed if you like Impressionist paintings.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

How to put wedges on a canvas?

Canvasses often come with wedges, which purpose is to increase the tension of the canvas. The way it works is that the wedges push the stretchers away, creating tension on the fabric.

This seems an easy task, but elementary precautions are required to make sure you don’t damage your canvas.

First, you will see that you can insert the wedge in to different ways (depending on what long side of the triangular piece of wood you slide in contact with the stretcher. Personally, I prefer to slide the wedge so that the end part I will be hammering forms a right angle with the stretcher (have a look at the photograph and it will become clear).

Wegde put sideway

Wedges with the end perpendicular to the stretcher

Before hammering the wedge, insert a piece of cardboard between the fabric and the stretcher in order to protect the fabric. This is a simple way to prevent the hammer from denting or tearing away the canvas.

Piece of cardboard protects the fabric

Finally, make sure that you hammer alternatively the two wedges at each end of the same stretcher. This way the tension created by the stretcher will be parallel to the weaving and equally spreaded.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, 26 January 2009

The old trees

It was good to go do some plein air painting on Sunday (not this one, the 19 January). The weather was cold but dry. I was weary of the wind as a gust of wind can blow-up your canvas from the easel and ruin hours of work, but it did not happen.

The old trees – Oil on canvas (16 x 12) by Benoit Philippe

There is something special about capturing nature on site. You get a more concise vision, a more coherent painting. As you have less time at your hand (the light is changing fast at this time of the year), you have to concentrate on the design and simplify your brush work.

For this painting, I used only three hog brushes: one flat, one round and a filbert - No rigger or small pointy brush.

My palette reduced to eight colours:
  • Titanium White

  • Cadmium Yellow Pale

  • Cadmium Red

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cerulean Blue

  • Phtalo Blue

  • Ultramarine Bleu

  • Bloxx green (equivalent to Viridian Green)
You will note that there is only one green. To compensate, I introduced an additional blue (Phtalo Blue is not one I generally use, but it gives some beautiful deep greens). Also, I didn’t use any earth colour. This is probably the influence of a recent article I wrote on Monet’s palette.

Friday, 23 January 2009

The art of recycling: frame corner protectors

If you have some plumbing done in your house and have some polyethylene pipe insulation left (see photograph), you can recycle them for your art.

These tubes are slit to go around copper pipes and you can use them to protect frames during transport. This solution works well for small mouldings used for watercolours or pastel works. You just need to open-up the tube with your fingers and slide it over the moulding.

I tried to make a “V” shape cut in the pipe insulation material to see if it would allow the material to bend around the corner. I am happy to report that it works. The only recommendation I would make if you do that is to let a good length of pipe insulator on each side (otherwise, the material will spring back and get off the frame corner)

I did a quick search on the web and found some of these round pipes insulators for £1.84 for a pack of 5 (totalling 5 metres). This material is fairly cheap and may be a viable solution to protect these fragile frames’ corners between your studio and your next exhibition.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, 19 January 2009

Night roadwork - oil painting

I took the photograph I used as reference material last year in the town centre of Munich, with my mobile phone's camera. I was wondering if I would get anything in these night conditions, but the digger with the projectors looked good in the night. This is the advantage of digital photography, you can experiment and, if it does not work, there is no consequence.

I was pleasantly surprised with the result. Because the camera is only a 2 milion pixels one, the photograph looks grainy. Far from being a drawback, the lack of definition enhances the view and also makes it easier not to paint is a photographic manner.

Night roadwork - oil painting (24 X 19 cm) by Benoit Philippe

I think I will try a larger format of the same painting... with a twist. More on this later.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Degas: a quest for perfection

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – November 2008. 

I just read a book in French titled “Mon oncle Degas” (“My uncle Degas” by Jeanne Fevre – Pierre Callier editor, Geneva 1949). The character that emerges from this book is a well rounded artist, with broad interests in many artistic fields and a dedication to his art that will confine him to his studio in the later part of his life.

Jeanne Fevre described the painter in a few words: “If he was not cheerful, it’s because he was clearsighted. If he was sometimes shy, it’s because he was always tormented by his desire of perfection.”
Degas had a profound admiration for the painter Ingres and following the recommendation of this master, Degas spent numerous hours in the Louvres museum to copy paintings from old masters. There is a wonderful anecdote about his ability to copy or paint “in the spirit of”. One day, at the Café Guerbois where he was meeting the impressionist group (Manet, Monet, Renoir, Fantin-Latour, Cazin, Pissarro, Whistler and Zola), one of his friends bet with him that he could not paint a landscape in the manner of Corot. The next day, Degas came with two paintings: one by Corot and one he had painted during the night. Without any hesitation, his friends and colleagues pointed at the real Corot… which happened to be the one painted by Degas.

Degas had a vast culture: he could read books in Greek and Latin and showed a keen interest for the antiquities. He read the classics, but also Flaubert and Maupassant. He went regularly to the Opera in Paris. He painted in oil, watercolours and pastel. He also did some sculptures and prints. He was also an excellent photographer and used his photographs to capture the furtive movements of the ballerina at the opera house or the gallop of races horses that he painted over and over.

Race Horses in a Landscape, Edgar Degas, 1894, Pastel on paper, 47.9 x 62.9 cm (source: Wikimedia)

When he was young, Degas travelled the world, visiting America, Italy (Naples and Rome) where he did numerous drawings in churches and museums. During his life, Degas also travelled to Morocco, the Netherlands, Belgium and England.

Towards the end of his life, he stayed long hours in his studio and did not go out very much. He had harvested enough memories to feed his art. I believe his deficient sight had something to do with this. He lost partially his sight, leaving him in the fog, even if he was never totally blind. The idea of losing his sight must have driven in him a sense of urgency, the feeling that every day counted.

A search for perfection and a humble attitude towards his work led Degas all his life, as his niece testified:

“However, his working method consists in starting over and over; twenty times he draws a movement, he repeats the trials on canvas or paper. On one of his early works, La Source, painted for a ballet, he will still try to make some adjustments twenty years later, with charcoal and chalk!”

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, 15 January 2009

So, you don’t have time to paint

This article was first published in "Frequency Magazine" – January 2009.

January is the time for New Year’s resolutions. May be you received a brand new paint box for Christmas and you wonder: “If only I had the time…” Not having all the time you think you need is not necessarily an issue. Twyla Tharp, in her book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life ”, explains:

“Remember this next time you moan about the hand you’re dealt: No matter how limited your resources, they’re enough to get you started. Time, for example, is our most limited resource, but it is not the enemy of creativity that we think it is. The ticking clock is our friend if it gets us moving with urgency and passion.”

You want to know the secret? Just start. The world is full of people with a novel in their head; people who wait to retire to learn to play the piano; people who hope for the ideal moment to paint. If you want to be more than a dream artist, you can change that for yourself:

  • Start small, but often: the reason most of us don’t even start is the sheer size of the commitment. Just commit to draw or paint for fifteen minutes every day. If on a particular day, you have more time and feel like carrying on, just do so. You will be amazed by how much you can achieve by taking regular small bites at your projects.

  • Makes it a habit: It takes thirty days to build a new habit. The key is to repeat the new habit often, ideally every day. If you fall off the wagon one day, don’t worry and start again the next day.

  • Paint small: a small painting in oil or watercolour (6” x 8”) can be completed in one hour or less. By painting small, you can paint more often and see the result immediately, which is really gratifying. Try your hand on quick techniques: a sketch in your notebook will only take you a few minutes.

  • Make it portable: it is easy to put together a drawing or painting kit that is small enough that you can carry it around in your bag. For drawing, you just need a notebook and a couple of pencils or felt pens. For watercolour, all you need is: a pad of watercolour paper; a small pain box with an integrated palette, one brush, one pencil, one eraser, a piece of tissue paper and a small container for water. Having this portable studio means that you can paint on the go, in the train during your commute, during your lunch break or while you wait at the airport.

  • Organise your material for easy set-up: If you have a studio, then it is easy to let you current project on the easel and just close the door until your next session. But you don’t need a studio to start painting. Spend some time to organise your art materials by media, in separate boxes or bags, so that when you have time to paint, it takes only five minutes to set-up when you want to be creative.

  • Reclaim these pockets of time: “Time management” is a deceiving expression because time is fixed and what you can really manage is the tasks you do during the allocated time. If you look closely, I am sure you can free-up fifteen minutes per day. You could cut down on television time for instance.

  • Sign-up for an evening art class: If you enrol for a two hours evening class, you ring fence time to paint. The class is in your calendar, so you can let people know that you have to go. You will also learn a few things and meet like-minded people.

  • Paint early morning or at night: Find a time when you are quiet and can immerse yourself in art making. Invest in a day light lamp (they have blue bulbs that simulate the quality of the day light) so that the next day your colours match what you wanted to achieve in the previous evening.

  • Make art even when you don’t paint: Gardeners don’t stay idle during winter; they get ready for the new season, plough their patch and get their tools in shape. It’s not because you are away from your easel that you can’t make progress in your art. You can prepare canvasses or frame you works for instance. You can visit a museum, read about art, collect painting ideas in your notebook or walk around and look for painting subjects.
One last word on the subject: Start. Don’t try to make it perfect, just start today.

Further reading

Working in batch, the artist way

Time Management for Creative People”, a free e-book by Marc McGuiness

Brad Blackman at Mysterious Flame wrote a series of articles on Art and Getting Things Done:

Recommended books:
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Do it Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Marc Forster
Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity by David Allen
Eat That Frog!: Get More of the Important Things Done, Today! by Brian Tracy

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, 12 January 2009

Morning snow

Snow is a rare event in the South of England. It generally happens when I am travelling and it does not last. I was in luck last week as, one morning, everything was white. I took the digital camera and, on my way to work, I shot many pictures in the park.

Here is a painting I did this week-end based on one of the photographs.

Morning snow - Oil on canvas (25 x 30 cm) by Benoit Philippe

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Looking back at 2008 and a new exhibition starting

It’s good to look back and see what we achieved. It gives you a boost for the New Year. So, in 2008, I managed to:

  • Create 35 paintings (mainly oil and watercolours plus a couples of pastel paintings). Not close to my initial goal of creating on average one painting per week, but still a good number.

  • Read eight books on painting history or painting techniques (I would recommend reading Painting better landscapes by Margaret Kessler) and four books on creativity (I really liked The creative habit by Twyla Tharp for an artist view on creativity and Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques by Michael Mickaldo as a creativity manual). I still have a big pile of art books in English and French to read in 2009…

  • Publish my monthly newsletter as well as my monthly art tip column in Frequency magazine, a local magazine. These articles appeared later on this blog, as well as other articles, making a grand total of 116 blog entries for 2008. I still have many things I want to talk about, but if you would like me to write on particular topics, please leave your suggestions or questions in the "Comments" section. I will do my best to pick these subjects in the months to come.
  • Visit eight art museums or art exhibitions.
I only took part in three exhibitions in 2008 and I want to put more efforts into exhibiting my work this year… which leads me to the next topic.

New exhibition

I have a new exhibition until the end of January 2009 at Stratton Community Leisure Centre, Grange Drive - Stratton St Margaret, Swindon Wiltshire SN2 4JY.

This exhibition features nine paintings in oil and watercolour.