Cozied in the Man Cave with Winslow Homer and Color Harmonies

Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist.

Edward Gibbon

No one will ever hear me claim to be “self-taught.”  I took art as soon as it was offered in my school (8th grade) and continued to take it until I graduated high school, then obtained my undergraduate degree in art.  Though my professional life has taken several detours, I have always remained a student of the arts.  Watercolor, however, is one medium where no one could seem to help me, though I took classes from accomplished watercolorists in high school and at the university.

My teachers in watercolor have been primarily Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, J. M. W. Turner, and Winslow Homer.  I have pored over more images of theirs and read more biographies and catalogues on their works than of any other artist.  I have been called a professional watercolorist, and I like the sound of that, but frankly, I’m a public school teacher.  That salary puts a roof over my head so I can explore watercolor.  I still feel very much the student, and sometimes feel too timid to be that fearless explorer.

During this week’s Spring Break, I have spent delicious hours in my Man Cave, devouring the watercolors of Homer.  My two favorite books in my possession are Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light (I saw this exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler (that show I got to view at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth).

It comes as a surprise to many to learn that Homer “received almost no formal artistic education” (Martha Tedeschi’s opening article in The Color of Light).  Tedeschi testifies that his nearly 700 watercolors, produced between 1873 and 1905, “were also his classroom, a way for him to learn through experimentation.”  I have spent most of today in the classroom of Winslow Homer, trying to absorb all he learned from Michel-Eugene Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrasts of color, particularly the reds and greens.

The sketch posted above, an 8 x 10″, is a study of one of Homer’s early oils, titled “Fishing.”  I am astounded at his use of greens and reds, and tried to explore some of those relationships in this sketch.  Some of it worked alright, much of it didn’t, to me.  I’m still trying to solve this puzzle, and am very intrigued by it.  I have tried for several years to pursue plein air watercoloring, and even teach it in the summers at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (I’ve been invited for my fourth consecutive year, June 17-21).  The greens of nature still leave me spellbound and searching for ways to catch that wonderful dynamic on the white rectangle that lies before me.

I’m working on a second Winslow Homer study, that I’ll try to finish and post later today.

Thanks for reading.


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