Thursday, August 30, 2007


Variably Cloudy
acrylic and oil on canvas
36 x 24 inches

copyright 1996 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

I was still in college when I first discovered the art of John Constable. Seeing a small exhibition of his sky studies at a local museum, I was fascinated by this concept of focusing solely on sky as a subject matter and filed it away. Later, after having earned my degree, I returned to landscape as a subject and spent some time developing images of skies. The painting above is one example. (I do apologize for the poor photo though, the fish-eye effect is distracting, it's not that way in real life!) Somewhere along the way I also acquired a book of Constable's paintings, Constable by John Sunderland. Published in 1972 by Phaidon Press Limited I see from my Amazon search that this book I picked up used many years ago in a used bookstore is no longer in print. Anyway, it seemed fitting to begin my exploration of John Constable's work with the subject of sky.

John Constable, 1776-1837, was a landscape painter who held an interest in painting the truth in nature, even the precise weather of a particular time and day. In doing so he rejected those of his contemporaries in 18th century landscape painting who made generalized and idealized depictions of nature.

American Artist Drawing Magazine Summer 2007 issue features an interesting article about John Constable's Sketchbooks. The article discusses how he carried with him pocket-sized sketchbooks in which he did graphite studies for large oil paintings. For Constable, sketchbook drawing advanced his skills as he refined his method of showing the effect of light and shadow. Yet even these small drawings show his attention to the sky as he managed to capture the quality of light at a particular time of day.

There is more concerning his interest in the quality of light that I will share later as I work on my own Constable inspired landscape drawings. But for now, I have come across an interesting correlation in the writing of Winnifred Gallagher's The Power of Place, where she states,

"Like other living things, however, our species has evolved over the millions
of years to respond to the cycles of the earth and sun with predictable
biochemical and behavioral changes. Environmentally minded scientists have
begun to question the trade-offs we unwittingly make in order to live sealed
up inside an artificially heated, cooled, and lighted world that is structured
around economic rather than biologic concerns."

And finally, I can't leave out the John Constable art project I did with my daughter a couple of years ago. We spent a year going through
Discovering Great Artists by Mary Ann Kohl, by choosing an artist to study each month and ending the month with a project in the style of that artist's work. This book is a terrific introduction into art appreciation for kids ages 4-12. We certainly had a lot of fun learning about different artists and working on the projects together!

Watercolor After John Constable
approx. 12 x 9 inches

copyright 2005 by HRN
Private Collection

1 comment:

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