Artist Gang Xu usually tells graduate students in oil painting that art needs Classics. “I remember the master impressionist Camille Pissarro said, ‘To choose the expression theme that is most suitable for your temperament in nature. Pay more attention to the shape and color when observing, and don’t pay too much attention to the depiction of the sketch. The sketch that is too accurate is insipid, and can’t give people an overall impression, it will destroy the feeling in all aspects.’”
Xu continues, “If an excellent landscape oil painter wants to impress others, the primary point is that the author is moved by a certain theme of nature; the author should grasp the overall atmosphere of the picture, stand in one place, look at the overall situation, and distinguish the primary and the secondary. During the painting process, sometimes we must blend the painting—the line edges cannot be too dead, and we must find a third color between the two colors to transition so that the picture has a sense of unity. The strokes should be relaxed and arbitrary, [and one should] grasp the principle of using the pen according to the shape and structure of the depicted object. The aim is to ‘gallop under the pen,’ and if achieved ‘the heart is like a God.’” Xu adds that the final piece should not solely provide pure visual pleasure, but also an immersive resonance.
“We should also consider the final effects of the painting,” says Xu. “On one level, the layers of rich and subtle colors and the artist’s technique should be thought-provoking, while also [eliciting] an emotional or physical response, such as making the viewer feel relaxed. This is not to say that all parts of the picture should be painted very thick, but should be treated differently in thickness and density, with tightness and looseness complementing each other. Don’t be afraid to use gray,” Xu advises. “There are a lot of grays in nature. Pure color doesn’t exist. The purity of color is relative. Believe what your eyes observe. In doing so, what the painter depicts is no longer a tree, a flower, a cloud…It is about the relationship between color and shape.” —
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