Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bluebird Luminosity: Robert Stuart, Isca Greenfield-Sanders and Paul Lancaster

A group of Bluebirds visited our front yard last week.  Five in all, a small family probably, they paused for just a few minutes before taking flight again… a Cooper’s Hawk in quick pursuit.  The sight of them was mesmerizing.

I know Bluebirds are often described as royal blue.  But I think the males’ feathers look much more electric blue with the faintest wash of dark lilac -- like the sky on an extremely bright, clear day just before dusk.  The more gently-colored female and juvenile birds verge on a speckled, steel-gray-rusty-brown without any purple cast.  But their tail and wing feathers sport shades somewhere between brilliant blue and the Adriatic Sea.  Of course, Bluebirds are not actually blue.  The structure of their feathers scatters incoming light so that only the shorter wavelengths are reflected, and they appear blue to us.

I’ve always been drawn to blue paints and pigments, especially vivid, vibrant blues with a tinge of red or a hint of green.  They are somehow both comforting and invigorating… multi-layered and boldly pure... mysterious and reassuring.  A blue’s dichotomy depends a lot on its luminance, basically the intensity or “whiteness” of a color, and its saturation, also known as its chroma or trueness of a color.  So, a watered-down, pastel blue soothes and recedes.  But the imperfect, crystal blues of Bluebirds almost hum with energy.
Pantone's Blue Sky-Imagination Palette
from their Fall 2011-Winter 2012 Colour Planner: Wonder
Robert Stuart, Isca Greenfield-Sanders and Paul Lancaster are artists who regularly utilize blue to create excitement and replicate light in their paintings.

Virginia artist Robert Stuart is often inspired by sunlight filtered through mundane objects, like glass bottles or wood planks.  In a way, his paintings are the ultimate abstraction of a landscape or still-life -- just texture, color and light.  He explains “… I aspire to work with the forces (of light and atmosphere) themselves, directly, without the intermediary representation of objects.”
Blue Poles

Bands of Blue
Robert employs oil paint and wax, and sometimes fabric or paper collage, frequently on very large canvases.  Blue is a recurring color in shades from stunning cobalt to the faintest almost-white.
Scantlings Oceanic
Summer Cloud
These blues seem to illuminate the paintings from within and radiate warmth and joy.
Rust and Blue
Isca Greenfield-Sanders is another artist who uses multiple layers and bold colors to distill the essence of somewhat commonplace images.  Each painting starts with a vintage photograph, a scene of everyday life, which Isca reprints on delicate rice paper.  She completes a pencil and watercolor study directly on the rice paper and then enlarges the study and attaches it to a much bigger canvas.  Isca applies layers of transparent and opaque oil paint to finish the piece.
Woman in Waves

Light Leak (Soccer)
Each step adds to the abstraction, and somehow, the familiarity and quietness, of the image.  
Marker 86
Isca explains “Instead of memory looking faded, as it might in a movie flashback, I prefer to imagine moments as hyper-realized.  Highly saturated color is important to the feeling of my paintings.  I often expand the margins of the captured image to include more sky, more landscape, more water, rending my subjects smaller, and I think that perspective contributes, ironically, to the intimacy of the image.”
Red Boat Beach, Julie (Blue)
Blue is a powerful, emotional barometer in Isca’s work.  Sometimes blue reinforces the immediacy of the moment, other times its sorrow and isolation.
Parachute Class II

Orange Suit Bather
Unlike Robert and Isca, Paul Lancaster is a self-taught artist.  Born and raised in Tennessee, Paul draws inspiration from his natural surroundings and Native American heritage.  Often described as a folk or visionary artist, he has obviously been influenced by the dream-like landscapes of Henri Rousseau, and I suspect, traditional images of the Virgin Mary.
The Old Pond
Girl and Her Cat
Blue plays a significant role in Paul’s canvases, often casting an ethereal glow over the whole setting, or emphasizing a key figure and her bond with our physical and spiritual worlds.
Catching Fireflies

Woodland Solitude
His paintings are stunning and serene… not unlike a family of Bluebirds.

Robert Stuart is represented by the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.  Isca Greenfield-Sanders is represented by Haunch of Venison in New York and the John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco.  And Paul Lancaster is represented by Grey Carter in McLean, Virginia.
You can learn more about him in the book: Paul Lancaster: Immersed in Nature.

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