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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rhythm In Composition

Coney Island has been a favorite subject of mine. There are a number of reasons, I have an attachment to the place having spent many summer days at the beach and from a visual context I really like the compositional elements it holds.
In "Big Bad Beach Umbrella" I enjoyed creating a visual rhythm, the rollercoaster offered and opportunity to lead the eye to the figurative elements in the painting at key intervals while also playing the vertical supports of the structure against the verticals of the boardwalk railing and concrete boardwalk supports.
I also liked confining the strong color notes within the narrow band of the elements on the boardwalk. With the exception of the cadmium green of the beach umbrella I repeated the other colors of the umbrella in key places in the pictorial space.
This painting measures 12" X 16" and is available for purchase through my studio, Casale Fine Art. Price on Request. Visit for contact info
The Arts of David Levine

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Habit is Stronger than Will

Irwin Greenberg (Greeny), one of my teachers at the High School of Art and Design used to say that "Habit is Stronger than Will". He urged us to develop a habit of drawing or painting each day regardless of what other things we had to do. Greeny would stress the importance of putting our time in to advance our artistic growth. We get in the habit of other daily rituals for the sake of our physical, spiritual and financial well being and as artists we should have a "habit" for our creative well being. It doesn't have to be grand or time consuming, it could be a sketch or some thumbnail concept sketches, a small watercolor or oil study.

Over 30 years have passed since I was in a class and heard that bit of advice from Greeny. Sometimes it takes maturity to understand how meaningful and life changing a few words of advice can be.

If we only work on our art when we have the "will" to do it, our output and growth as artists will be tied to the strength of our "will", if we make art one of our habits we will see a direct correlation in our work.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Changing Cityscape

The three paintings I've posted display samples of work from 1984, 2000 and 2009. I am often drawn to a setting that includes signage. I like using the signage as a foil for the figurative element to play against. Including signage also anchors the image in a time and place.
I've revisited the settings depicted in many of my paintings to find them changed.
Lenny's Pizza is in Brooklyn, New York has retained it's original signage but the owners have changed the reflective aluminum and the classic red, white and green awning as well, to me they are significant changes and are less interesting visually.
The painting of the Atlantis bar in Brooklyn's Coney Island is in a sense a history painting. Like the lost city of Atlantis, the classic sign is gone and the bar has been divided into two storefronts and the space underneath the boardwalk has been backfilled with sand.
The Psychic in Seaside Heights New Jersey has pretty much remained the same, I'll have to visit again this season to see if there are any changes.
I think it's important to paint what captures our attention and for me there is a nostalgia attached to these cityscapes. People who view our paintings are transported to places from their memories and for me that is an important interaction. I don't approach these places as sentimental subjects, I depict them as they are in the moment I am painting them, or at least how I see them, I still compose and edit, make color choices to create repetition and unity. The Lenny's Pizza painting is populated by friends and family in specific poses, some posed in front of Lenny's and others under similar lighting elsewhere to suit the concept I had for the composition.
I find I often choose a straight on vantage point to flatten the pictorial space.

Working From Large To Small

When I draw the figure from life I generally work from large shapes to smaller shapes. I might start with a gestural block-in for placement and proceed to loosely and lightly lay-in tone to indicate the largest masses. I don't spend too much time on the outer edge of the form because I know the pose will change a bit from one sitting to the next and even the best models move a bit during the pose. I tend to resolve an area in a form of drawing shorthand that allows me to recall the pose and the lighting even without the model there.
Beginning with the pattern of light and shadow is the key. I often see students making an infinite number of measurements and missing a sense of the whole form and underlying structure. There is also a tendency to place hash marks for the eyes, nose, crease of the lips, ears etc. at predetermined generalized distances, I call it the football head approach because at some point the drawing looks like a football. The oval shape, the center line and hash marks. I'm not a fan of the football life drawing game, it prevents real observation.
When you work your way to placement of the features, see the structure and simplify it. Think sculpturally about form.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Figure as Focal Point

I'm drawn to the figure. The inclusion of a figure in a landscape or cityscape adds an instant sense of narrative to the image. As viewers we project our own interpretation on a painting containing a figurative element based on our own experiences, it is part of human nature, there is an automatic affinity.
The inclusion of a figurative element is just the beginning, the choices we make in the painting will either unify or isolate the figure from the setting. Sometimes we may want one or the other.
I've posted a few paintings that use the figure as an element in different ways.
In the painting of Campo dei Fiore in Rome the cityscape is the subject, the statue and architecture set the mood, the inclusion on one central figure looking towards the viewer is meant to draw the viewer in and place us in the cityscape as a participant in the scene.
The painting of the violinist in Venice has one figure which is clearly the focal point and subject with the other elements there to support the image, add to the narrative and serve as compositional elements.
The Asbury Park New Jersey painting emphasizes both the architecture and figure in equal proportions. The arch frames the figure and the one point perspective and surface quality of the structure make it an equal player in the content of the painting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Paintings Of Italy

Painting outdoors is the key to creating better paintings in the studio. Working outdoors under changing light conditions forces you to edit and develop color handling that is informed by light filtered by the atmosphere. While work created on the spot can be frustrating and yield results that you may not be satisfied with, the knowledge attained through both the successful paintings and the canvases you scrape off at the end of the session becomes a valuable resource.
The paintings I'm posting were created in the studio but the handling has been taken to a level of resolve somewhere between the plein air work and some of my more rendered studio pieces.
I create images a number of different ways, I tailor the handling to the subject, sometimes the work can be painterly, other times tighter and a bit more hard edged.
Visual art can be alot like music, if a musician or a group played each song the same way, incorporating the same instruments and musical notes, their song list would be pretty limited and if an artist approaches each image with the same set of visual marks each time that artist's body of work will have the same kind of monotony visually.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drawings From Life

It has been my pleasure to teach Life Drawing to students at the DuCret School of Art in Plainfield New Jersey this past school year. Working from life is a key component in developing as an artist and my hope is to have conveyed the importance of life drawing in any aspect of visual art.
Drawing is one of the most immediate forms of expression in art. The drawing surface becomes transformed with our first marks, the image is tied to a personal response to visual cues processed through our own individual filters. The amount of pressure we exert on the pencil, how we lay in the tone, what we choose to emphasize or edit are all evident in the image we produce.
Drawing is the exercise that builds artistic muscle.
While drawing we can be working out the design of an image, a sense of light and form or flatness if we so desire. I challenge myself to employ different approaches to drawing and to tailor the handling to the situation at hand and the result I envision.