A friend of mine at the studio came in with an artnews mag and held up a full page ad with a painting of a chicken and said “I’ll bet you can’t tell me who this artist is!” and I said without blinking an eye, Grant Wood. I had never seen the piece before, it was completely unlike anything else he had done (American Gothic) in almost every way and yet I knew without thinking who it was. The artists voice is the thumbprint of the individuals approach to picture making. If I were to make a list of some of the things that distinguish one artist from another, or the voice of an artist, shape making would be right up there. How many paintings of rocks, water, trees and mountains can there be out there? and yet there are a handful of artists whom you can identify at a distance or in the blink of an eye even if you have never seen the work before. Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia Okeefe, Maynard Dixon, Thomas Burchfield, William Wendt etc. They could all paint the exact same scene and resolve it so that each is distinctive from the other.
When I was in Carmel, Don Son Sondag and I (fellow artist from Mcrae studios) stumbled on this painting on the back wall of a gallery, I think it was william karges gallery. It’s big. 6×7 feet or so and it sure got my attention. I mean it’s just rocks and water and we’d been looking at other artists marine paintings for hours so what’s the big dealeeo? For one the shapes, both positive and negative are really workin in this piece. The rocks are not so much realistic as they are interpreted and are divided into light side and shadow side with color modulation in each. Part of good shape making is being consistent with the nature of the shape but not repeat exactly the mass or size or make a twin anywhere in the composition, variety within a framework of continuity. Think if it like writing, writing has rhythm and flow. If you repeat a word or a phrase in a paragraph or drop in some ∏Δ∑ΨΦ’ξ in a paragraph, it really stands out in a paragraph. It takes some doing to find the repeated and foreign shapes and whittle them down . Take a look at any great painter and you’ll see what I’m talking about.