Painting Critique Group, July 2010: 1

Tuesday night I attended my painting critique group meeting. I had been absent two months in a row, and I have missed their keen eyes and intelligences. Alas, I had nothing worth showing. But, as usual, they all had work that challenged and inspired me. Next month…….

The group tends to work in a continuum from representational plein air landscapes through abstractions, most of which take their inspiration from landscape. So I’m going to do two posts, one with the representational work and one with some abstractions.

Jane Erskine, 14 x 18″, Oil on canvas

Jane and I have painted together at various times; her sense of color and shape is always Jane’s. No one else does the scenes the way she does. She once told me that she finds dividing the canvas into tripartite areas allows her to see differently. She has done that again here, as usual, in her inimitable style. This, like the two following, are inspired by elements of the landscape at her home. Hydrangeas, she said, are in bloom and irresistible.

Helen Kroger, Oil bar on panel, 24 x 24″

This relatively “readable” landscape, by Helen Kroger, is somewhat different from her usual style, which often features slightly more hard-edged simple shapes with layers and layers of undercoatings. The subject matter in this painting is her usual; Helen lives and works in a forest; her studio overlooks the treetops, and she paints these features, over and over. But here she decided that, instead of using oil bars alone, scraping and redefining and re-scraping, she added brush work to the process. The brush work gives her trees a much softer look than I’ve seen in her work before. The distinctive tree trunks and the underlayments of pigment and shapes are, however, just like usual — Helen-at-her-best.

David Trowbridge, 47 x 41″, acrylic on canvas

David consistently paints in the large markings and generally on large canvases. Like Jane and Helen, his style is instantly recognizable. He has been renovating his house, so this is the first large canvas he’s been able to produce in a while. Clearly he hasn’t lost his touch.

Jane noted that David’s painting seems to have to it a weight, a heaviness like gravity. Because David laid this canvas on a piece of plywood on the ground and painted it with long-handled brushes (such as those used for barbecuing), the pulling, centered sensation is perhaps part and parcel of the actual experience of the painter.

In the next post, I’ll present the other painters in the group, who worked (at least this time and for the most part) representationally. The mixture of readable scenes and abstracted ones seems to allow the group to feed most thoroughly off one another’s work. I’m eager to have something of my own worth showing. –June

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