"Art is pattern informed by sensibility" (--Herbert Read)
Well,-- this one's pretty funny: this portrait maybe looks a little bit like Red Skelton,... or maybe William Macey,... or even Bill Geist, from CBS Sunday Morning,... but it is SUPPOSED to represent another painter whose work I enjoy: Maurice Prendergast, the American Post-Impressionist painter, born in 1858. Haaaa!
Way off the mark, unfortunately--no likeness whatsoever,..but it's still good portrait practice, anyway! (I seem to discover my drawing deficiencies only after I've finished painting, and then I see things such as: "Ahhh--the forehead is way too high, and the wrong shape, etc....")
Alack...let's get to the heart of the matter:
Prendergast painted in different media, but as usual, I am focusing my discussion here primarily on his watercolors, and his style there was very unique.
He would take bright colors and place them carefully on the page with a rhythmic quality that was almost like a mosaic. Frequently, he painted gentle ladies and children, with repetitive parasols and umbrellas, and he's known for his landscapes with crowds of people. Here, he depicts a beautiful bridge with umbrellas dancing along it:
He also lived in New York City for some years, and painted lots of images of New York settings, such as Central Park. This one is a favorite of mine. Look at how he places people on the beautiful Bethesda Terrace stairway in the park, and how the eye travels through the painting as the negative shapes help to form the figures in this painting. For example, notice how some of the steps shape some of the figures themselves--particularly those in white. (Remember that in watercolors, there is no white, but the white of the paper itself, which you must plan ahead to leave, unless an artist uses opaque whites.) His sense of perspective here is wonderful if you examine the stairs and columns surrounding the figures, and creates a marvelous sense of depth back into the far trees:
Now that you've seen those two paintings, look at this third painting, and you'll recognize another trend in his compositions. Here, in this painting, he uses a railing along a wharf, as it curves and twists, leading your eye throughout the image, and he builds his composition around it, much the same way that the bridge functioned for him in the first painting, and the elegant stairway did in the Central Park painting. It's a ploy he uses continually: benches in parks, horses and horse and buggy wheels, etc...Watch for these patterns in his work.
The repetitive umbrellas, and in this painting, the white dresses on the figures in the foreground, guide us through the image. (Now, here, Prendergast used opaque white, and not the white of the page, as I described before:)
I have a book of his art that describes him as having been a very shy individual. He never married, but remained a bachelor his whole life. He must have had phenomenal patience, if you look at all the minute patterns he used in his art.
Here's another example, in his painting of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, of all the detail he describes in his images, and the wonderful patterns he creates with puddles and reflections in those puddles as well. Also note the way he constantly uses repetition: of flags, colors, domes, curving arches, figures with umbrellas, and rectangular and curved shapes in the grounds and puddles of the piazza itself. And once again, the architectural shape of the beautiful cathedral is the backdrop that moves us through the painting. Observe, too, the way the sky is a fairly saturated cerulean blue, and the cathedral is warmly colored, but as the image moves towards the watery puddles, the paint is more diluted and light, and you immediately read them as water:
I've never known another artist to do quite what Prendergast does with watercolor. Isn't his work interesting? I hope you have enjoyed this smattering of his art as well.
"One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in the same pattern, but in different colors." (--Robert Graves)