Tag Archives: impressionism

Chicago Art Talks: What’s the Big Idea?



No matter how many times I’ve been there, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago always feels like a new experience for me. As I change and evolve as an artist, the way I view the art changes.

Movements in art can all come down to this: What is the big idea an artist is playing with? For me, most recently, it’s about light. Light is most definitely not a new idea, but it’s my new idea. My latest obsession.

Impressionism could be summed up by the exploration of light. The invention of paint that didn’t have to be painstakingly hand made but came ready-made in a tube allowed artists to paint “in plein air” (French for “in the open air”  — e.g., outdoors) for the first time. In plein air, the light is constantly changing. This is why Monet painted so many versions of his famed haystacks, seen in varying stages of the day, demonstrating the effect of shifting sunlight.

Below are two examples of Monet painting the same scene in different light.

On Wednesday, at the Art Institute of Chicago, I was blown away by the use of light throughout the history of art. From the beginning, in the Renaissance, artists were concerned with light — some famously so.

A prime example of a near single-minded obsession with light is reflected in the works of J.W.M. Turner, whose amazing skies have long transfixed me.

newm22cowsI have always been concerned with and aware of the use of light in art, but now that I have taken it to the next level in my own work, it’s jumping out at me in others’ work.

In the end, I encourage you in your own walk with art to ponder: What was the big idea an artist was exploring? Or, as I did this week, focus on your own observations just as I focused on light, and see what history’s greats had to say about it via their work. It’s a way to dive deeper into the art and expand yourself and your knowledge at the same time.

After writing this on Wednesday post-excursion, I’m off to soak my tired limbs in a hot bath. Museum gazing has a way of stimulating my mind while exhausting my body — with no complaints, I might add!

Italy: Great Art, Fresh Eyes and Inspiration



While walking through the many art-adorned churches, palaces and museums of Italy on a recent trip, I had the great honor of having my mother with me, and she brought fresh eyes with her. You see, I am a lover of art history — I mean, I’m really a geek about it. In college art classes, I sat at the edge of my chair, hanging on every detail, every word. After college, I got my hands on every book on the subject I could. My appetite for the details of the history of art never slowed down. It’s still one of my greatest joys, poring over art books. I’ve even been long known — and I’m a wee bit embarrassed by this — to pile books upon books by the side of my bed. Why so many? I can never choose just one — I love them all.

imageSo, back to Mom and I in Italy. As I was explaining different information and details to her, I had a revelation about my own process.

I love art history because it’s world history, but it’s also about ideas. Historically, artists and art movements became famous by being the first to change something, to choose not to follow the status quo but instead begin to play with another idea.

The Renaissance translates to mean “rebirth,” and the idea was humanism. Europe was coming out of the Dark Age and celebrating in full color, with man as the subject matter of prime importance. Florence is a living breathing tribute to the movement.

Impressionism was about the value of light: the ability to get outside (thanks to newly invented tube paints) and record light as it was reflected everyday life and landscapes. In other words, what mattered most was a reaction to this new ability to get outside, work quickly and record light. Post-Impressionism was the freedom to take the Impressionists’ abstraction even further. With the camera invented and working well, painting no longer need to serve as a record of events, and artist could play with paint. Each movement in art is playing with a new idea.

7113road41313This came full circle for me in explaining to my Mom what ideas I am playing with in my own work. Inspiration might come from subject matter, but what excites me in the actual process of painting is about movement, color and paint … when the motion of my hands pushing paint across canvas creates something interesting with color, something I have not seen before. It’s much more about how I feel than what I see. Seeing is secondary; painterly expression is at the forefront.

History of any kind relates to what ideas people are interested in, and art history helped me understand myself. How has history or art met you at your own front door? What ideas are you most interested in? It’s all part of the process. Comment below or come chat on Facebook!

Cheers to the art of understanding!