Pierre Boncompain’s flowers living in the modern age

There’s always a freshness to a vase of flowers trapped in a painting. Sometimes it’s the colors, or its the petals, the leaves, the vase, the strokes. Everything can make a difference in the scenery of a flower being displayed, even at the slightest amount. But this particular painting of Pierre Boncompain is one I’d like to analyze.

Pierre Boncompain, Valence, 1938

I’d like to stick with the color palette. It’s a light and monochromatic palette that plays with the hues of the same colors. But the contrast is there. The yellow flowers easily dominate the frame against the white vase and cream surface.

Now what would I do to Boncompain’s flowers if I were to keep them today, and trap them in my own painting? First, I’d take them out of the vase. Not that flowers aren’t in vases anymore, I’d just like to see flowers in petal to stem yellow. What would I do for the background? An unclean contrast. I think the pollution of today would have a place in my painting. And that’s pretty much it. I have a background with a bouquet of flowers; tulips that is.

I did this drawing using soft pastels. I wanted to keep some the contrast between the white color and the yellow from Boncompain’s work. So I left some of the paper untouched.


Reviving the blank distance between things: the appreciation of a canvas

I’ve embarked on my bubble journey toward Fauvism. It’s easy to get lost in the still life you can create within an art form. I’ve been very appreciative of keeping the white paper untouched with watercolors throughout the years. However, Fauvism has made it even more interesting.

As I’m heavily influenced by Henri Matisse, I’ve spent some time studying his work and the distances between things. The white canvas peaks through the colors stunningly. This reminds me of Paul  Cézanne’s art; the importance of what is left out. But that’s a different story. Henri Matisse doesn’t leave much out, he accentuates it with the white spaces around objects (in addition to the deep blue outlines). For now, I like focusing on the distance between what is portrayed and what is the significance of it.

I’ve been so used to merging objects and landscapes together that sometimes I’ve had to let go of the white spaces I could keep in watercolor paintings. But my experience of painting in Fauvist style has changed that. Everything is in its own place, not touching what’s next to it.

A watercolor painting of a stream in a field of trees.
The Stream, Watercolor on paper, 5 x7, 2021

I did this painting inspired by John Harney’s photograph. He is a wonderful photographer based in Connecticut. I’ve been leaning toward larger areas of colors and less brushstrokes with less water and more color. The presence of white paper makes me appreciate the vibrant colors even more.

This makes me think of the next chapter I will be going toward with Fauvism. Do colors get bolder within this art style?


Waterlilies: Impressionism or Fauvism?

I’m finding my exploration of Fauvism very rewarding. When I began studying the works of Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, I imagined the steps they took and what they were thinking when they were painting. I’m sure they weren’t thinking of opposing to Impressionism every second of their career, but it’s sometimes difficult to conclude whether your actions are motivated by decisions or oppositions.

I tapped into one of my favorite collections, by one of my favorite artists in my first revival. I spoke about attainting the right vision you’ll need for your artistic journey (or career) and now I feel that confident with the lens I’m looking through. Waterlilies is a collection that can astound anyone when they take experience Monet’s fluency in French Impressionism.

To avoid exhausting the subject, I will dive into my main source of inspiration. I was fortunate to come across John Harney, a wonderful photographer based in Connecticut. His new photo of waterlilies urged me to paint, but he continuously inspires me with every shot. Here it is.

The colors and saturations of this photo are unmatched. It would actually make for an incredible impressionist painting. But this (I) wild beast ins’t going down that path. The whole purpose of this revival is to oppose impressionism, just like the Fauves did long ago. However, I had my own oppositions with Fauvism too. For example, I’m continuing to paint with watercolors. It is weird and untraditional, but it is liberating.

I’m quite happy with the way my painting turned out.

Watercolor painting of waterlilies in a colorful pond.
Waterlilies in Litchfield County, Watercolor on paper, 5×7, 2020

I think the most valuable prize that comes with painting (and Fauvism) is learning about your own art style within the form you’re exploring. I can see my brushstrokes being rounder rather than linear, just like my handwriting. My colors are often more pigmented than watery. I’m also more keen on small brushstrokes, just like my preference for smaller paintings.

I will also be selling all paintings due to me moving in a couple months. I can’t wait to see my paintings hung in their new homes! Contact me via the commissions form if you’re interested in purchasing any of my work.


Holding Henri Matisse’s brush

It took me about a year to really understand Fauvism. I don’t mean the basics and the history of it, no. I’m writing about the fine details in every painting. Since the pandemic began, I haven’t been able to go to any museum to see the paintings. So I had to be really careful with what I thought I was learning from each artist. The brushstrokes, the vibrancy of the colors, and the deep blue outlines. It’s easy to retrace a technique in your head. But it’s a different story creating a picture and coordinating the movements in your head with your hands.

I was always so astounded by Henri Matisse’s Landscape at Collioure collection. I can stare at it for hours, days even, and there will be a section of the canvas that feels new every time.

Henri Matisse's Landscape at Collioure.
Henri Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, Oil on canvas, 1905

So I decided to begin holding Henri Matisse’s brush for a while. It’s quite a liberating thing to do. I have never felt both control and freedom with the strokes and shapes. I’ve also been more honest about what I want my painting to mean, what sense it needs to make. I’m slowly in the process of making art more meaningful, rather than it being beautiful.

Watercolor painting of two trees on sparse grass with yellow flowers, surrounded by orange leaves and blue, angular raindrops falling from two clouds.
I used watercolors. Quite a different approach.

When I started painting this piece, I automatically changed my plans of making the grass uniformly green. I also let my leaves look more like waterlilies in their shape. And for me, the blue needed to look different than raindrops. It needed angle, more movement with my fingers holding the brush and less curve in my wrist. The most natural part of this process was using colors directly from the pan. It would have been more common for me to use oil or gouache paints, but I wanted it to be something I never experienced before.


Remembering Georgia O’Keeffe and her perception

Georgia O’Keeffe has always been an incredible inspiration to me as an artist and as a woman. Her poise and magical touch of art is irreplaceable, and her work invites endless perceptions. During her life, she has changed and evolved in her paintings, but her firm character is an exemplary model for artists.

Today, 15th of November, is Georgia O’Keeffe’s birthday. I’m always reminded of her stunning works and looks on this day. I take a look at her work with Alfred Stieglitz and try to revive her style of painting every year. What amazes me the most is how soft her work can feel. The Mother of American modernism has truly left us behind a therapeutic legacy.

But I believe the Precisionism brings meaning to our perception when we look at O’Keeffe’s work. Georgia O’Keeffe has mentioned herself, “Paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.” Her big flowers flowers with the soft colors really makes me want to touch nature, especially during these times where people can’t be as close as they were.

My favorite works of O’Keeffe are the muted pink and gray paintings of flowers.

What matters to me the most when I look at her paintings is the intimacy with nature. The petals feel so close it’s like I can feel them. The tangibility is what draws me in and then I see the hues, shadows, and highlights that make me stare for a long time.

This year, I decided to paint a piece inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe. I celebrate her with the precision and softness she passed on with her paintings.

Flower and Pearl, 2020, Watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 in.


Reviving Kees Van Dongen: can Fauvism be digitalized?

Kees Van Dongen was one of the pioneers of Fauvism, focusing on women and portraits with unique details. Among his paintings, there are countless figures with memorable faces. But an important feature of his women is their clothing. Colors, creases, folds, and textures are very well defined in Dongen’s artworks, which is something to consider if you’d like to start painting portraits in the form of Fauvism.

What does it mean when clothing is important in an artwork?

Now you may ask what it translates to in the art world, when I say that clothing is a dominant part of Dongen’s work in Fauvism style. It’s easy to think that clothing should be detailed if the art form is Fauvism, but that isn’t the main point.

It’s essential to go back to your vision and build on what you create as you keep the eye of a viewer as well. Sometimes you might find yourself buried in layers you’ve created for the characters you paint, which will prevent you from seeing it the way a viewer might. So start sketching clothing that strikes the eye; garments that appear before the women (or men) you’re depicting. Sometimes clothing makes the character!

How would Fauvism work digitally?

Well, in short, it won’t if you’re hoping to revive Fauvism resembling the work of its pioneers. Many artists such as Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, and Van Kees himself worked with gouache, lithography, and oil colors. But if you’re like me, you’re giving the digital programs a chance. It may never look like a real painting done with those colors since it’s more of an illustration. However, it’s a fresh way to give your illustrations a direction to a specific art form.

The key to making digital art lean toward an art style is to preserve the elements that make an art form complete and recognizable. For example, Fauvist paintings have a notable outline around objects and people. This outline is usually in deep blue, and not drawn so precisely. Another property of this art form is the strong colors that stand up to reality. In the field of Fauvs, you don’t have to worry so much about things looking real and making so much sense through the lens of impressionism. Paint colorfully and don’t be able to define your work imprecisely.

Layering a Fauvist illustration in Procreate

There are many different programs and applications that are great for illustrations. I personally use Procreate because of the variety of brushes and textures, easiness of layering, and ability to make alterations to my work conveniently. Here is a video where I illustrate using many different layers.

Video of illustrating a woman using Procreate.

The purpose of this video is to show you how illustrations are layered digitally. This is not a tutorial video, but rather a snippet of the work behind my illustration. A great thing about digital illustrations is how much you can change and how indispensable layers are. You can hide and unhide layers or even delete them. You’re able to erase again and again and change brushes, colors, and textures as you’re learning. So take the opportunity to build on your vision as you choose the art style you’d like to revive. It is always great to be traditional and go for pencil and paper, but remember that digital programs can also be an awesome alternative if you’re going for less waste (read more about art and waste here).

Painting of a woman wearing a gray and blue dress, decorated with a big blue bow on her neck and a blue hair on her head, all inside a painted ochre frame. Painted by Kees van Dongen.
Kees Van Dongen, Claudine, ou Mlle Oeuie de Lynx, Color lithograph, circa 1950.


Channeling Georgia O’Keeffe: What did she see in flowers?

Understanding Georgia O’Keeffe’s vision through her work

Georgia O’Keeffe was celebrated for her unique, close-up paintings of flowers. Her abstract yet clear depictions of flowers elicit the eccentric vision that she possessed. O’Keeffe’s work includes collections of flower paintings, Mexico City landscapes, and skyscrapers of New York City where she eventually settled.

As we discussed in our last blog post, an artist’s vision is central to their work. Georgia O’Keeffe’s maximized focus on flowers and each of their features is exemplary. But there is a crucial question that an artist must ask before getting inspiration: What does the artist see?

Starting from Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers

Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers appear in many different shapes, contours, and colors that come from her distinctive palette. The idea may begin with picking a flower and paying attention to it. The various parts of a flower make up the entirety of O’Keeffe’s frame. Petals, leaves, sepals, stigmas, anthers, and ovaries of a flower emerge vividly. These features are visible in almost all of her flower paintings, such as Hibiscus with Plumeria (1939).

Georgia O’Keeffe, Hibiscus with Plumeria (1939). Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 2018 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

What does O’Keeffe’s palette look like?

Georgia O’Keeffe works with a variety of color palettes in each artwork. Some works are hued calmly, whereas others have powerful contrasts of color within them. But her palette presents sharp focus on mood that can be created with colors. In other words, the colors that are painted on the canvas determine what feeling will be exhibited.

Across her artworks, colors come to rise in their different hues and tones. From muted pink to fuchsia, or sky blue to a deep ocean blue give space to the different possibilities of a mood that can be created with color.

Reviving Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers in the 21st century

To revive an artist’s style is to hold their brush while looking with their eyes; thinking with their mind and feeling with their soul. That is a goal that may take a lifetime to achieve. However, channeling O’Keeffe’s art style can inspire you to start looking at flowers differently and in turn, painting them differently.

It starts with a strong vision, continues with laying out a color palette, and ends with an artwork that is touched by O’Keeffe’s legacy. Below is my take on Georgia O’Keeffe’s irreplaceable flowers.

Layers, Watercolor on paper, 5×7, 2020

The process of painting this piece began with an idea of a flower. Sometimes real flowers or objects can be too distracting, with details that are hard to ignore. That is when imagination comes into play.

To revive O’Keeffe’s inclusion of significant details, I focused on a simple flower with it’s petals and leaves, but then diverted my attention to a colorful background, which is present in many of O’Keeffe’s paintings. Vignetted background and edges and emphasized petals are key features of most of her flower paintings.

Yet to bring in some elements of modern abstract art, an artist can make most of the white paper beneath the colors. Such technique is most helpful when using watercolors. Even though O’Keeffe believed in defined images, defining shapes and lines can depict an abstract painting with less to tell about the painting itself.

So take a look around you. Enlarge objects with details you can concentrate on, with a canvas similar to O’Keeffe’s. Select the colors that match the mood you want to create in your art. Remember to be free as you do all this, because that is what Georgia O’Keeffe would want you to do.

Explore Georgia O’Keeffe’s collection of flower paintings

Discovering elements of an artist’s style through their work is the greatest way to get inspiration. Find more of O’Keeffe’s flower paintings here.

Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation


Reviving a Vision

For the first revival, Claude Monet’s vision will be examined to understand how paintings are seen before they are painted. In his legendary series Water Lilies, various viewpoints are visible across the paintings. Some include more details whereas others are more simple. What the community aims to focus on for the first step toward revival is achieving the right vision. Monet’s work includes many details of a landscape, but those details aren’t distracting. That is why every brushstroke is essential to the work. Here, we will be centering our vision on the essential parts of an image or abstraction we wish to recreate.

Below is one of Monet’s paintings from his Water Lilies series, which was retrieved from Monet | Kelly published by Yale University Press (you can purchase this book here).

Water Lilies (1907) by Claude Monet.

As it is perceptible, there aren’t many details in the artwork. The artwork may also seem unfinished, but that isn’t the center of focus at the sketching stage. What is most crucial in sketching is capturing the bigger picture first. After that, smaller details may be added, depending on the art style the artist will use. So the take away point is to concentrate on silhouettes. Think about mountains, surfaces, land, water, clouds; all things a child will capture because they aim to create something that can be seen clearly.

Here is an image of a small pond that I took last year on my trip to Lake Placid. It is full of details that are hard to capture within a sketch. But an artist isn’t required to replicate every single silhouette they see.

Picture of a landscape; a pond full of water lilies and weeds.

To show you how silhouettes must be sketched and what should be in the frame, a section of this image will be worked on. Here is a cropped version of the original photo.

A pond full of water lilies, algae, and weeds.

Look closer into the picture, and then at the reference. An image has within itself images that seem to come from different universes.

A sketch based on this image will look quite simple if the goal is to focus on silhouettes. In one word; outline. At this stage, shading and dimensions don’t necessarily matter. The most important thing is defining objects, surfaces, and distances. Scroll down to see the sketch.

Materials you’ll need for this revival: an artist’s pencil (HB), eraser, sketch paper.

Exact materials used in this post:

A sketch paper notebook, a graphite pencil, and an eraser.
A sketch of a pond filled with water lilies and algae. Drawn with pencil on paper.

You might think: “This looks nothing like the picture!” Well you’re right. An artist should not aim to achieve realism within the first sketch. Begin working on outlines from pictures you take. Remind yourself to take pictures that have clear silhouettes. Or challenge yourself with a less defined image. It is also up to you how much of an image you’d like to recreate. Sometimes, the details are in the bigger picture, not within the detail itself.