Beauty in the Masses (Or Rearranging the Rubble)

I like how my study of Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit parallels so much of the rest of my life right now.  I wouldn’t have thought that enormous piles of dirt would relate to portrait painting, yet they do!  So does piecing together significant discoveries from my old journals, and the wonders of fresh recipes from an old Provençal cookbook.  Once you learn how to see it, all the parts come together as a whole. If only my portrait painting would come together so easily!  I’ve got a long way to go…


Insist then, on the beauty of form and color to be obtained from the composition of the largest masses, the four or five large masses which over your canvas.  Let these above all things have fine shapes, have fine colors.  Let them be as meaningful of your subject as they possibly can be.  It is wonderful how much real finish can be obtained through them, how much of gesture and modeling can be obtained through their contours, what satisfactions can be obtained from their fine measures in area, color and value.  Most students and most painters in fact rush over this; they are in a hurry to get on to other matters, minor matters.


It’s funny—ironic—how a young child’s drawings consist of large masses of form & color, yet an adult (even from age 14 or so), include a misshapen mass containing seemingly unrelated, complicated forms.  How does that happen, that we get all wrapped up in the details and overlook the bigger picture?  More importantly, how do we get back to what we know is important, and leave the minor matters to settle themselves?  Hang on, am I speaking of pictures or life itself?


In dealing with these four or five masses in portraiture, the mass of the face is the most important and should be considered as principal to the other masses, even through the other masses be more brilliant or striking in themselves.  Also the mass of the head should be considered as principal to any feature of the head.  The beauty of the larger mass is primary to and is essential to the lesser mass.


Let’s see, the family is the most important mass right here and right now.  The individuals come together to create a unified whole.  Are we working together in harmony?  We took on the responsibility of home ownership; are we caring for our kingdom?  There’s that dirt again.  I can’t wait to see it a green host for local wildlife, but I’d be a fool to rush ahead.  There are many important steps along the way: good soil, water, drainage…


What masses do you play a part in?  What can you take that aids your growth, and what are you giving that nurtures that relationship?  (Remember, fresh manure is often more harmful than helpful.  Be sure to do your stinky rotting elsewhere; then you can contribute the maturity of time and experience.)


AIXpounding upon Robert Henri's The Art Spirit 

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