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2. Fauvist Fail?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Inspiration artists: The ‘Wild Beasts’ of Fauvism

So what is Fauvism? A style that originated in Paris in 1905 and was over by 1908, practically in the blink of un oeil! Their work really is strikingly different and why I wanted to know more. So after some reading… here’s what I’ve learned.

To me in 2022, I’d call these artists “colorists” because their primary concern wasn’t representing reality but instead how they used color. They chose bold colors straight out of the tubes and combined their color choices to showcase strong contrasts. Not so different from today, right? But it’s adding what follows that equals their “wild” combination. So bold contrasting colors plus:

  • they “let go” of detailed realism and worked from overly simplistic sketches

  • they rejected proper 3-D perspective

  • they embraced primitive brush strokes and thick paint application

  • they allowed their spontaneous emotions to guide them.

Looking at their results, a critic commented that the works looked like they’d been painted by “wild beasts” (‘fauves’ in French) and the name stuck. Henri Matisse was the movement’s leading figure. To my eye, works from this period remind me of the joy and freedom in children’s artwork.

My current question: Could adopting some Fauvist style points help me feel free while creating?

It could have worked. In theory, it really could have. I had a good enough idea from a sketch that I made in my hometown. I was in a parking lot with an unusual view of a traditional barn, a grain silo, and modern residences. It’s a view with layers moving back in the distance, trees cutting in several places… and with the Fauvists, perspective is SUPPOSED to be unrealistic so I can do this. I don’t have to mix paint colors and I don’t have to choose the “right” color for objects, so I’ll just grab something out, squeeze whatever’s in the tube, and that’ll work. That’ll be beast-like. I can do this. Easy-peasy… and so I started.

Soon the red barn from real life was being painted red. The green trees were green. The dirty white silo was– you guessed it– white. At least I was successfully taking paint straight from the tubes… until I wasn’t. I’ll just do a little mixing for this one part… And my proportions? OK. I have to be honest here because this was the WORST violation. I needed to allow unrealistic perspective; instead, I had a ruler out for straight lines and even googled an image of a weather vane for accuracy. Long story short: shaking off practiced “right answers” didn’t happen. I colored inside the lines with all the appropriate colors. Wild Beast fail.

Future: If I took another crack, I think I’d be freer than I was and perhaps I could make it more of a game? But I don’t feel drawn to do so, at least not a full list of characteristics. Individual points? More likely. For instance, it was fun to add a completely unnatural color assignment to a realistic object (my sky is hot pink). Also, I like the idea of sometimes using paint straight from the tube.

FOLLOW-UP Q/A: What’s next for this painted panel? I found out!

Well, me being me, I collaged over the damned barn but kept some “sneak peeks” of bright color from layer #1. I ran an orbital sander over the very textured surface. From there, I added two gessos: white and watery black. As the underlayers showed through, I thought about how I no longer hated the piece but, in fact, some of the remaining marks and colors were pretty cool. I made some abstract impressions of flowers and painted them magenta in honor of the old hot pink sky that I had liked on ‘the beast’ base layer. Then, like a kid with new crayons, the Sennelier oil pastels were released. At that point, I thought about Shakespeare’s line, “All that glitters is not gold” and how, with this piece, the little gold nuggets of goodness were working! Let them be gold! And there I finally let go and did what I felt inclined to do: I covered everything– Fauvist or otherwise– in a shimmering gold glaze. Maybe, in the end, I found my inner “baby beast”? Or maybe not. But I’m happy because now all that glitters really IS gold. 🙂

June 5, 2022

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