Posts Tagged ‘Helen Frankenthaler’

Notice how big that brush is.  And what kind of brush is that, anyway? Is that even a painting brush? No, it’s not.   It’s  a brush used by wall-paper hangers.  Are you allowed to paint with a brush that’s not made for painting?  Yes, Virginia, you’re allowed to paint with any ol’ brush you can find. Or, for that matter, use any ol’ tool you can lift to transport paint onto that canvas.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) said that when she was getting into the NY art scene in the 50’s, it was taboo to buy your brushes in an art supply store.  You bought your brushes in a hardware store!

I remind my students to use the biggest brush they can. We buy our brushes in packages, yes, in Hardware and, yes, at the bulk price.  The smallest brush I like to see is 3”. 

The artist making this large painting is using only one brush, about 6 inches wide. Notice that she uses this one brush for every effect, from broad fat stokes to thin faint lines. There are two benefits from this loyalty to one big brush: a) the painting achieves a unified look because it’s made with only one tool and b) the artist can work in a more relaxed way. No switching, no calculating, no deciding.  She works gracefully in tune with her instrument. Harmony all around!

See the finished painting in the next blog.

Cassie Buccellato,  Painting on L’huile paper.  (Huile is French for oil.  It’s sturdy, museum grade paper that can take oil or acrylic.)

For Helen Frankenthaler:




I love this next video. It shows her pouring paint from a bucket and using a hardware store brush:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9kfufFMRvg


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





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Oh, Wyeth, I thought, I don’t like Wyeth. I had just walked in at the 7th Street entrance, said hello to some Dutch masters, Helen Frankenthaler, De Kooning and Jackson Pollack. And then there was a sign pointing to Andrew Wyeth watercolors. I was familiar with his paintings, admired them for their composition and austerity, but, really, Mr. Wyeth, all these individual brush strokes for dried grass. Hill and hills of brush strokes for dried brownish grass. Oh, well, I shrugged to myself, I’ll just go in and have a quick walk through.
My jaw dropped at the sight of the first piece, a pencil sketch he did for Wind from the Sea (1947). Then he worked out a watercolor of the same motif, the curtain blowing in the window. Oh, my!


His watercolors are wild! The brush stokes—big brush!—are furious, ruthless, raggedy, dripping, bleeding, dragged dry. The watercolors are large, about 20 x 24, and each looks as if had been done in a frenzy of concentration, in maybe 15 minutes. Here’s the quote I took down from one of the walls:
“I break loose…and there are scratches and spit and mud…that’s what gives them some quality.”
Some quality, indeed. And yes, he ripped into the heavy paper with a knife or razor blade, he stressed the paper to the point of wrinkling, and the mud was passionate mud. He probably did spit and sweat.
Then why are his paintings so, well, fussy. Individual blades of grass, individual threads on torn curtains. Maybe, after breaking loose in a watercolor or two, he got out his tempera and oils to calm himself down.
I have no idea how long I was in that gallery. I lost track of time.

Drawings and watercolors often don’t reproduce well in art books. The immediacy, the “spit and mud,” is lost in reproductions and prints.
What a revelation this exhibit was! It closed two days later. I will hop on a plane the next time someone puts up a Wyeth watercolor exhibit.
(Photography was not allowed, of course. I’m pulling images from the web here. Again, these only hint at the passion of Andrew Wyeth. I could not find the pencil drawing or the watercolor he did for Wind from the Sea and, in any case, no reproduction would do. Shown above is the tempera painting.)
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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