Saturday, July 9, 2016

Prozac for the Eyes

-By Ron Lemen

The news has been heavy lately.  The world is spinning out of control in so many sectors and the internet reminds us of it all too often.

Rather than focus on a subject that requires a lot of brainpower to both write and to consume, I am going to share some beautiful paintings, up close and personal.  This is where I find the most enjoyment in looking at the canvases of old.  The stories are stellar and the symbolism is smart, but the craft is the priceless jewel to me.  So few aspire to such a craftsmanship in our modern world of digital painting and hurry up deadlines and it is a treat when a show like this is anywhere near to home.

When these shows come to town I try to plant myself in front of the art and soak up as much as I can. I also try if I can to record it, take it home and continue that visual expedition over the layers and layers of genius these canvases exude.

These are a few of the paintings I shot from the Kelly Collection when they were on display at the Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University several years ago.  Thank you Michael Zakian for the indelible memories, the fantastic paintings that were picked for the show and having the rare opportunity to paint from the canvases.

Here are just a few of the canvases and several close ups to appreciate just how complex the surfaces really are.  Have a wonderful July and don't let the world get tangled up in your creativity.

Chan Chi-tan Saw the Flames Jump Up, 1938 by Henry J. Soulen

This canvas is difficult to photograph.  It is so complex, and all the detail is lost when trying to shoot it in one simple shot.  It was the stand out for me in the fantastic collection of other artists that rate high on my list of favorites.  Here are some close ups to help you understand what I saw that made me feel the way I do about it.

This is absolute genius in portraying the roaring fire in the congested alleyway.

All this architecture is nothing more than layers of broken colors layered over one another.

The Black Buccaneer, 1929 by Mead Schaeffer

The lights are a touch blown out on this painting, but again, the simplification and the color chords are just amazing.

Night Raid, 1928 by Harvey Dunn

This canvas was in a very difficult place in the museum to photograph, the lighting was really bright, and the canvas had varnish on it.  It is so colorful, it is very difficult to fathom that the printed version came from this original.  For years I thought this was painted in an earth tone palette; I was very very wrong about that.

Dreaming of Adventure, 1924 by Norman Rockwell

Zoom in on the hand and the face, even closer than I shot them.  Yep, he was that good.

Nicodemus Comes to Jesus at Night, 1928 by Dean Cornwell

I could not end this entry without a Dean Cornwell.  The effortless brushwork, how much is described in so little, mmm mmm good.



  1. Fantastic! So many good shots. I LOVE the close up the head of "Dreaming of Adventure". Rockwell was a real master of edges and this one shot has it all. Edges that advance, recede, soft hard, convey texture and form... all in a small portion of the painting. Great share Ron.

  2. Thank you! Love these paintings!

  3. Thank you! The close ups of the brushwork are great. Cornwell even made a clay pot look fabulous- so inspiring.

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