Category Archives: Fauvism

Autumn in the Air

Rethinking the River 16x20" Acrylic on masonite ©2014 Lucinda Howe $800

Rethinking the River
Acrylic on masonite
©2014 Lucinda Howe

As the weather turns cool this week, I feel invigorated and eager to start new projects. Working on my recent series of water lily paintings has convinced me that working in a series am a good thing. Now I’m in the process of thinking about what to paint next.

I have several paintings that I’ve made en plein air around Columbia. Although I want to use bold pure colors and distinct brushwork, I don’t always succeed. When I paint outdoors, I use small boards, usually less than 11×14” and tighten up with small brushes.   Too often I find myself using dull colors or putting in too much detail. I let myself be confused by reality.

For my next series, I want to make larger pieces, using plein air studios and other references, while focusing on the Fauve style. I’ve selected this piece as a starting point because rivers and bridges are emblematic of Columbia and the colors make me happy.   I’m still trying to decide what variables to keep the same and which ones to change. I expect that each piece will tell me what to do next.

As I was writing this post, I took time out to attend Trenholm Artists Guild and hear a lecture by Susan Lenz. She talked about how to finding inspiration is easy, but can be overwhelming. The question is how to use that inspiration. How to find your own voice? Susan suggests using stream-of-consciousness writing to think about what you want to say in your art. Words are very important in establishing the intent and direction. But they must be your own words. She says that we must “stop looking for your voice, and start listening for it.”

This is what I’m trying to do in developing my ideas.   I’m using writing exercises to think about my art. I’m collecting inspiration from here and there and reassembling ideas in my own way. Writing this blog also helps me with that process. As I try to find words to guide the development of my art, I’m also accumulating words to write an artist statement about the work when it’s completed. So the process is circular, and the words and images must mesh together to form a complete body of work.

Also posted in Oil Painting

How to Forge a Derain

Fauve Path 16x20" Acrylic ©2012 Lucinda Howe

Fauve Path
©2012 Lucinda Howe

At the suggestion of art friends, I’ve been watching Forger’s Masterclass videos on YouTube.  The forger teaches students to paint in the style of several famous artists.  My favorite is Episode 2 on André Derain, one of the Fauves (Wild Beasts) of the early 20th century. The Fauves used bold color and a deceptively simple style that built upon the loose style of the Impressionists.

The Fauves painted outdoors (en plein air), but they were about painting one’s emotional state and not being constrained by literal reality.  It was an early form of expressionism and the beginning of the end of realism.

While Fauvism appears to be simple and childlike, it’s not as easy as it appears.  The forger encouraged the students to make several compositional sketches using simplified shapes.  Then commit to something really fast and stick with it.   Plan colors in advance.  Use shapes in the landscape to build a composition.  Detail is not relevant.   Colors are used to express emotional state and do not have to match reality.  Use pure colors and bold strokes.

This class reminded me of what I want to do with my paintings.  Recently I’ve been concentrating on learning to use oil paints and have felt that my colors were overly dependent on local color.  So I got out my acrylics and tried out a Derain-style painting of the back yard.  I decided on a composition, outlined it in blue, and filled it in quickly using several pairs of complementary colors (blue/orange, red/green).   I set my inner beast free!

Also posted in Acrylics, Garden, Plein Air Tagged |

The Evolution of Derain


Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume au grand chapeau by André Derain c. 1929

I’ve been familiar with André Derain as an originator of Fauvism, a painter of wildly colored landscapes and portraits with energetic brushstrokes and skewed drawings.  If you don’t know what I mean, Google “Derain” and look at the first page of images.

So when I encountered a large number of Derain’s paintings in the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I was amazed by the variety of his subjects and styles.  Derain passed through his Fauvist period when he was in his mid 20’s, but he lived and worked for almost 50 more years.  During his life, he experimented with sculpture and many styles of painting.  He studied the old masters and began to use a more muted palette, painting a variety of subjects including portraits, still lifes, and figures.

Derain’s later paintings are very beautifully rendered, but not immediately recognizable (to my uneducated eye) as Derain’s style.  This made me wonder about how an artist’s style develops.  Why did Derain move on from his Fauvist phase? How did it happen that Derain is most well known for his early experimental work?   Is innovation that is admired?  Does classical training impede innovation?  If Derain had not passed through the early Fauvist phase, would he have been known at all?  What do you think?

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What Price Fauvism?

Summer on the Congaree

Summer on the Congaree by Lucinda Howe 24x12" Acrylic $750

On February 9th Bateaux à Collioure by André Derain sold at Christie’s of London for £5,865,250 ($9.4 million).  Derain painted the scene of boats in the harbor during the summer of 1905 that he spent painting with Henri Matisse at Collioure on the coast of France, a pivotal moment in the development of Fauvism.  Click on this link to see the painting

Don’t miss the video if you haven’t seen an art auction

In case you would like to purchase some of my exciting Fauvist landscape paintings while the prices are not yet in the millions, you’re invited to the Trenholm Artists Guild annual exhibit where this painting of the Congaree River will be included in the show.

TAG Show Invitation 3/4/2011 6:30 pm

Also, SAVE THE DATE May 7-8 when Columbia Open Studios event will return after a two year hiatus.  I’ll be sending more details in future newsletters.

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Why Fauvism?

Once I was in a choir where the director taught us how to hit the high notes.  She said if you strain to slide up toward the high note, you’ll always be flat.  To hit the right pitch, imagine that you’re on a path in the jungle.  A wild beast jumps out of the shadows and scares you.  You let out a screech and jump for the tree branch overhead.  With enough momentum, you may miss the branch, but you can catch it on the way down.   So aim above the note you want and land solidly on it from above.

Color in painting works the same way.  The pure hues of Fauvism bring in the wild beast energy, but leave you with options.  If you decide to reduce the intensity, you can do some mixing and blending.  On the other hand, if you start out mixing low intensity colors, it’s very difficult to pump up the color excitement.

Little Venice

Do you want more color excitement in your painting?  Do you appreciate brilliant color in paintings that you observe or collect, but want to know more about how it is created?   If so, try this experiment….choose a pair of complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel), for example orange and blue.  Paint some simple paintings or find photos of art with a lot of blue and orange.  Find a level of intensity that is “too much”.  Then find one that is “just right”.  What makes the difference?  Does the “just right” color combination add in some lower intensity version of the colors?  Does it include other pairs of complements, or some grays?  Is “just right” accurate natural color, or do you like some exaggeration? Do you find your self appreciating the art for the color combination as well as for the subject matter?   How does this affect your painting or collecting?
Please post comments about your observations.

Also posted in Color Theory Tagged , |

Fauvism: Part 2

Georges Braque was another French artist who was influenced by Matisse and Derain.   He painted in the Fauvist style for a short period before evolving toward cubism.  See several examples of his work in this article:

In House Behind the Trees, the red and purple tree trunks and bright yellow roof are examples of the arbitrary color favored by the Fauves while the light and dark values allow the subject matter to be clearly recognizable.  Bits of red carry the eye around the composition.  Landscape at La Ciotat ventures even further into pure color. Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel such as blue/orange or purple/yellow-green) are juxtaposed to create visual vibration.  In both of these pieces dark outlines add linear elements, and the composition is enhanced with pattern.  As with the other Fauves, simplified shapes suggest the landscape, but keep focus on brilliant color.

First Light, Acrylic, 14x11"

My paintings often include many of the Fauvist ideas.  Painting on location, I capture shapes that characterize the place, then look for complementary colors and exaggerate the contrast.  In this piece, from Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the early morning light touched the tops of the cliffs and tips of the trees, while the canyon walls and red dirt road remained in deep shadows. So I enhanced the colors using the contrast of blue with orange and green with red.

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What is Fauvism?

Fauvism developed when Henri Matisse painted with Andre Derain at Collioure on the French Riviera during the summer of 1905.  Matisse’s Open Window Collioure combined landscape with a rectangular window composition and exciting color.  In Fishing Boats, Collioure, Derain emphasized pattern and color using boat shapes as a starting point.

Matisse and Derain explored the use of explosive, pure color without regard to natural colors.  Their style was characterized by bold, arbitrary color, simplification of forms, and energetic application of paint.  The appearance of spontaneity was valued, occasionally at the expense of perspective.  They were interested in creating an object of beauty rather than a representation of reality.  By disassociating color from form, they opened the door for Expressionism where color was the main subject without regard to form.

Today, many artists use creative color while drawing inspiration from the landscape.  In the future, we’ll look at how Fauvism is being reinterpreted by contemporary painters.  If you know of painters who would be considered contemporary Fauves, suggest their names in the comments.

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Join us for Vista Lights, Thursday, November 18, 2010

Come join us for Vista Lights!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
5:00 – 9:00 p.m.

300 Senate Street, Columbia, SC

Several of my local landscapes are included in the Columbia Icons Exhibit at 300 Senate.  I will be there demonstrating my plein air painting techniques.  Hope to see you there! Click here for a map.

Also posted in Basics, Business Tagged , , |

Revival of Fauvism

In the Post Impressionist period of the early 20th century, a group of artists experimented with bold, expressive color and defined brushstrokes.   They were influenced by Vincent VanGogh and Paul Gaugin who had begun using more intense colors.  Where the Impressionists had concentrated on capturing the effects of light, these artists moved toward using color for its own sake.  The group because known as Les Fauves, French for “wild beasts” after a derisive remark from art critic Louis Vauxcelles. Leaders of the movement, Ande Derain and Herni Matisse, used brilliant reds and yellows to draw the eye and juxtaposition of complements (opposites on the color wheel) to create visual excitement. Other Fauves included Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Raoul Dufy. Although Fauvism was short-lived, it was an important step toward cubism and expressionism.

A Mighty Rock, 11x14", Acrylic

I believe that Les Fauves only scratched the surface of the possibilities of combining expressive color with shapes inspired by the natural and built world.  Today’s understanding of color theory and technical advances in art materials allow creative freedom beyond the reach of the early Fauves.

In future editions of the newsletter, we will explore works of both historical and contemporary Fauvist painters.  If you have questions about Fauvism or know of contemporary Fauves, please post comments.

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