The Master Painter, In Person...

No matter the discipline, to observe a master of his craft sharing precious information, with others is always an enlightening and humbling experience since it is always a discovery of what we may not know regarding something that we cherish.

Master painter Henry Finkelstein shared his expansive knowledge of painting with myself and others at the Art Students League's Vylatcil campus in Sparkill, New York. Most in the audience on this particularly gray afternoon bravely brought at least 3 or 4 of their own paintings to the campus for Mr. Finkelstein to critique.

Prior to discussing everyone's paintings, he mentioned to either accept the useful statements and to disregard his comments if not useful. After the discussion was over, it was clear to all that his statements were conclusively useful and could be used as a point of departure for further in-depth study of classical art to modern art, Da Vinci to Hopper.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even spoke with him after the session and noticed that he was amicable toward conversation to all who approached him, and that he even had the same eenthusiasm and energy as he had during the critique session which lasted over 2 hours.

Here are some succinct excerpts from my notes:

1. French painter Corot was a master of translucent paint. Opaque and transparent.

2. When discussing someone's portrait, specifically the head shape and tonal areas, he said "be clear about a shift, you have to exaggerate, there's a virtue in exaggeration, a shift in plane.

3. Have a clarity of plane. Study Cezanne and Leonardo Di Vinci.

4. Color temperature - Artist DNA. Constructing planes with Color. Listen to Color. Hear Color. Notice and appreciate the distinct sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, and Thelonious Monk. Similar differences and conclusions can be reached when applying color depending on what we are trying to evoke.

5. (A) When admiring a young women's painting, he told her that it reminded him of a certain Van Gogh painting which he named precisely. The young woman then told him that the painting that he named was actually the painting that inspired her to paint this particular scene, a scene that she often would drive on occasion. She mentioned also that she had a poster of the Van Gogh painting and was inspired to paint the scene that she saw daily.

(B) While looking at this same women's painting, he noticed that she was using "ready made" greens and she confirmed. I was actually astonished, thinking "what an eye!" He suggested to her to make her own greens so that she could convey broader and more distinctive emotional depth in her paintings. He suggested specific paints and principles for making your own/mixing your own paints. I spoke to the woman afterward about the "ready-made" paints situation and she responded "I didn't learn that in school." I must say also, that Mr. Finkelstein loved her pictures and gave her some great commendation as well. I will also say that her paintings were my favorites.

6. The color - emotions felt and experienced. "Everything we do has consequences." - On the choice of color.

7. Light and Air. Painting light on something and painting the light from something.

8. Constable said "I like to paint the moisture in the air." Study Constable when painting air, landscapes, clouds, etc...

9. Color creates groups and separates. Study Picasso and the "three musicians" painting.

10. Color Distance - distance by use of color; study Stuart Davis

11. Negative space and positive space. Shape. Every shape has to create another shape. "De Kooning takes canvas and makes it a potato chip."

12. 2 ways to think about tone: A) sculptural way: study Da Vinci, the pedigree, and copy his drawings, study Picasso's beach paintings, B) atmospheric tone: Light and air in room, study Vermeer and Edward Hopper. Pick one area for the darkest dark and lightest light. (he gave a couple of exercises for working with both types of tone.)

13. Chardin - short paint. De Kooning "long paint."

14. He mentioned that he prefers oil painting, acrylic neither opaque or transparent.

15. When studying others, "Go back at least two generations and always ask, "what is he/she not doing?"

Hope this coverage was beneficial and interesting. I paraphrased him as much as I could so none of the quotes are exactly word for word but I strongly feel it is at least the gist of what he was saying overall to each respective painter.

Other Relevant Blogs:
International Art Fair
Recital at Carnegie Hall
Literature Quote: Stephane Mallarme