Who Was Your Greatest Art Influence3F

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    This post is by regular contributing author John Pototschnik. Since beginning his fine art career in 1982, Pototschnik has become a popular speaker and juror among art organizations. John's artistic influences are diverse, ranging from the Barbizon painters of Corot, Daubigny and Millet to the American tonalist, George Inness. He is an Art Renewal Center Living Master, a Signature member of the Oil Painters of America and a Master Signature Emeritus member of the Outdoor Painters Society. His paintings are in many private and public collections nationally.

     

     

     

    I think it appropriate that I begin my monthly Fine Art Views writing adventure by sharing with you where my introduction to fine art painting began.

     

    I grew up in a home in which I had little exposure to great art, and I don't recall ever visiting an art museum. So, it came as a surprise to my parents when I selected art as my college major. It was the era of "do your own thing" in the fine art department so I set my mind on becoming a commercial illustrator. I became a huge fan and follower of all the great illustrators of the day and had no interest in other types of art, or in art history. So, it was with some dread that I had to take the required Art History class under Dr. John Simoni at Wichita State in 1967. Simoni was considered a dry, boring teacher...and then he introduced me to the work of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875).

     

    I've often wondered, "Why, Corot?" With a total lack of interest in and ignorance of all things related to the history of art, I've often wondered why I was so captivated by this one artist of all those studied.

     

    Primarily, of course, it was purely emotional. However, now I believe one's response to a painting is also influenced by the subject, what is being communicated, the mood, composition, values, color, etc.

     

    Corot's paintings are powerful in the same way a whisper in the ear might be in a crowded, noisy room. There is an undeniable harmony, balance and perfection in his work. Critics have called it poetic. I am attracted to his magnificent use of grays, the all-enveloping peacefulness and quiet of his paintings. Among the screaming paintings of today, Corot enters a room quietly, almost unnoticed. There's a certain humility in that which is very appealing to me.

     

    All this I came to appreciate after leaving my freelance illustration career in 1982. Till then, I had little to do with art history....and yet, all those years later, it was Corot that brought me back, stirring up in me a deep interest in art history.

     

    More recently, I've made copies of a couple of his paintings, and plan to do more. There's much to be learned, still, from this man.

     

                                                   

    Meadow With Two Large Trees by Corot (1865-70)                               (Copy) - Meadow With Two Large Trees - 10 x 15

     

     

                                                    

    Old Bridge at Limay on the Seine by Corot (1870)                                  (Copy) - Seine and Old Bridge at Limay - 17.68 x 23.38

     

     

    Corot believed the first two things to study are form and values. For him, these were the basics of what is serious art. Color and finish put charm into one's work. He considered it very important to begin by indicating the darkest values and to continue in order to the lightest value. From the darkest to the lightest he would establish twenty shades. "Never lose sight of that first impression by which you were moved. Begin by determining your composition, then the values...the relation of the forms to the values...these are the basis...then the color, and finally the finish."

     

    Throughout his life Corot was devoted to draftsmanship, making hard-pencil studies of landscape structure before he laid out his picture. To the end of his life he was a hard worker, driving himself to detailed study. He once said of himself, "I have only one aim in life, to paint landscapes."

     

    Even when he was near seventy, he never lost his conviction that the artist should be pushing on continually, discovering new things in life and nature and new ways of expression. He always insisted on two things:

     

    1) The artist should be himself and not be carried away by "influences".

    2) The artist should always keep his eyes open for new horizons. "Have an irresistible passion for nature."

     

    He warned that nature must be seen with the eyes of a visionary, a discoverer.

     

    Among his notes on painting he wrote: "Follow your convictions. It is better to be nothing than to be the mere echo of other painters. When one follows somebody, one is always behind. Sincerity, Self-confidence, Persistence."

     

    "I hope with all my heart there will be painting in heaven. If my time has come I shall have nothing to complain of. For fifty-three years I have been painting; so, I have been able to devote myself entirely to what I loved best in the world. I had never suffered poverty; I had good parents and excellent friends; I can only thank God."

     

    Amen to that.

     

     

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