The Matisse show at the Met definitely was not what I was expecting. Entitled In Search of a True Painting, the galleries are full of studies and series of paintings based around the same subjects. After seeing the impressive paintings on George Bellows, it was a real contrast to see an artist’s studies and struggles with the canvas.
The truth is, Matisse really struggled with painting. He never felt his work was complete, and wanted to push every painting to the next level. This was really a surprise to me. I’ve always considered Henri Matisse (1869″“1954) one of the geniuses of the twentieth century. I love his painting, Acanthus, which I am happy to report was at the Met.
The curators at the Met go on to explain:
Unbeknownst to many, painting had rarely come easily to Matisse. Throughout his career, he questioned, repainted, and reevaluated his work. He used his completed canvases as tools, repeating compositions in order to compare effects, gauge his progress, and, as he put it, “push further and deeper into true painting.”
The show didn’t really make much of an impact on me until I got home to paint. I sort of do the same thing with my own art. Trees are really my favorite subject. I spend a lot of time outdoors. I love to photograph, draw, and paint the beautiful trees I see while on my walks. A few weeks prior to seeing the Matisse show, I’d done a few studies of the same tree:
I mostly like to paint on the floor. Standing at an easel at my studio doesn’t really give me the range of motion I like. But when I paint with David Ohlerking, it’s especially helpful to have an easel. The way he mixes his paints is so different – they’re sort of runny. So the paint sort of drips down. I love painting with him because of this! It’s an entirely different experience. I always learn so much. If you paint, I really suggest venturing out of solitude once in a while. Painting with someone else can really help you learn new techniques and ways to express yourself.
When I paint by myself, I try all sorts of things. Sometimes I mix the paint directly on the canvas. Other times, I use a palette to mix colors or revisit something I’ve mixed before. (Oil paint never really dries!) I’ll push it around with palette knives, brushes, and bits of cardboard. My brushes are usually really dry. I probably don’t get all of the paint off and it hardens. So every time I use a brush, it manipulates the paint in a different way. I didn’t get to finish yet, but here is what I have so far: