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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Part 5 of Art's Influence on Motion Picture Design: J.M.W. Turner

The influence of J.M.W. Turner is so far reaching and ingrained in our collective visual memory, I think that many are unaware how that influence exists. Yet, it seems to be all around. I see it in the opening for Flash Forward, the ending of Ghost, in avante garde films, parts of Persuasion and The Perfect Storm, countless disaster movies. Turner is even referenced as an influence on the light in Thomas Hardy novels.

The angling of the horizon in Turner's painting The Slave Ship has been emulated in motion pictures, where it's called a Dutch angle. The Seaghbough Says blog in this eloquent post about Turner explains: "Turner's use of just such an angular distortion increases the viewer's discomfort and further enhances the nightmarish qualities of the painting."

The Grey Havens set from the Lord of the Rings was inspired by Turner paintings.

A New York Press article about Max Payne states that the visual aspects of the movie rates association with Turner.

Turner's paintings have inspired such filmmakers as Stan Brakhage, Jordan Belson, and Pawel Pawlikowski. This Josh Carr post quotes Fred Camper, an expert on Brakhage’s films, as he explains that Brakhage: "Discovers metaphors for landscapes in the patterns of reflection and diffraction: rivers, volcanoes, and mountains are suggested by images so delicate they’re worthy of J.M.W. Turner. The film is simultaneously a vision of the world’s creation and an inner landscape of spatial and light effects organized almost as if light were music."

And finally, a publication of the Jane Austen Society of North America, article by Lydia Martin, compares specific Turner paintings: "The same blue tones are used for the second proposal scene, but the ray of sunshine which pierces the fog brings to mind J. M. W. Turner’s aesthetics (Norham Castle, Sunrise, c. 1844; S. Giorgio Maggiore: Early Morning, 1819; The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, 1838)."


More posts about looking at the influence of Fine Art on Motion Picture design:

Part 1: Edward Hopper

Part 2: Andrew Wyeth

Part 3: Thomas Gainsborough and Antoine Watteau

Part 4: Michelangelo Caravaggio

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Outdoors: Santa Monica Beach, National Parks - and in the garden

First Day (of 2010) 16 x 20" oil on linen
© 2010 Katherine Kean

I didn't mean to, but I spent the whole of Sunday gardening; which means pulling up the dreaded grass, trimming branches, and mulching. I had the kittens out for probably the longest they've been outdoors so far. Bear too, and he's a great kitten sitter, rounding them up whenever they looked like they might be getting to close to jumping over the fence. The rain has been so abundant this year that there are flowers all over. The scent of daffodils, hyacinths, and orange blossoms is overpowering. Just wait until the gardenia, jasmine, and roses kick in.

I happened to see this post from the Judson's Art Outfitters blog that mentions artist in residence programs in National Parks. I'm not usually interested in artist residencies. I know a lot of artists who love to go to artist residencies, but I just never got the point. It seems like an extraordinary bother to pack up art supplies, lock up the house, and board the animals just to go to a different studio somewhere else. However, a residency in a national park is another story and until now I had no idea that these existed. Some of these places are extraordinarily beautiful and it makes perfect sense to me that it is beneficial, even necesary to immerse oneself into that environment for a period of time to get the feel for the place and discover the features that make it unique.

Here is the list of National Park Residencies. I will be looking into some of them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Part 4 of Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Picture Design: Michelangelo Caravaggio


This Senses of Cinema article quotes art historian Marilyn Stokstad's definition of a term for the dramatic use of light and shadow known as tenebrism as, "The use of chiaroscuro and artificially illuminated areas to create a dramatic contrast of light and dark in a painting.” Caravaggio's emphasis on light and use of chirascuro are evident in the Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane. The article describes how Caravaggio's work is referenced early in the film, just after the opening scenes.

Also referencing Citizen Kane, Lighting as Storytelling from Cinematography Theory and Practice by Blain Brown explains further how light is used to tell the story in the same ways as Caravaggio uses light in his paintings.

Carvaggio's influence can be seen in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in both Caleb Deschanel's cinematography and Maurizio Millenotti's costume designs. According to this article about the production, much of the film was shot in the dark to achieve the desired interplay of light and shadow. Caravaggio's sense of scale as well as his preference to portray the grittier side of realism is evident, as is the sense that the action is barely contained within the frames of the image, enhanced with the use of strong foreshortening of form.


The Passion of the Christ Trailer

Another film that looks to Caravaggio is The Black Dahlia. The American Society of Cinematographers Magazine quotes cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond's approach of looking to strong, real light sources to create his effect, saying that, "When you’re doing a crime film, you have to create shadows. The Black Dahlia was certainly that kind of movie, so I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to light it.”

A lesser known example, although striking in the resemblance to Caravaggio's work is this Greek film, Black Field.

Black Field demo trailer 3'30'' from Vardis Marinakis on Vimeo.



Thanks go to Katherine Tyrrell of Making a Mark for featuring this series on Sunday's Who's Made a Mark This Week post.

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Pictures: Part One - Edward Hopper

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Pictures: Part Two - Andrew Wyeth

Part 3 of looking at Art's Influence on Motion Pictures: Gainsborough and Watteau

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Smaller Stormy Sea



Stormy Sea 8 x 6" oil on canvas
© 2010 Katherine Kean


I brought this new small painting to the gallery yesterday. This is a smaller version of the wave action for a larger piece. Both paintings have a violet underpainting, which still shows through in the clouds and on the water's reflections. It will be hung tomorrow in the upstairs gallery at TAG Gallery.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Part 3 of Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Picture Design: Thomas Gainsborough and Jean-Antoine Watteau


Another example of a film heavily influenced by fine art is Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. In this case the film takes inspiration from 18th century paintings, particularly the landscapes of Watteau and Gainsborough.

From Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, An interview with Michel Ciment, Kubrick had this to say, “On Barry Lyndon, I accumulated a very large picture file of drawings and paintings taken from art books. These pictures served as the reference for everything we needed to make -- clothes, furniture, hand props, architecture, vehicles, etc. Unfortunately, the pictures would have been too awkward to use while they were still in the books, and I'm afraid we finally had very guiltily to tear up a lot of beautiful art books. They were all, fortunately, still in print which made it seem a little less sinful. Good research is an absolute necessity and I enjoy doing it.”

Gainsborough made his living painting commissioned portraits, however his favorite subjects were landscapes, which he painted for pleasure. Watteau's work was influenced by theatre and ballet, and seemed to depict idyllic charm tinged with a feeling of melancholy. Both artists had a sense of independence and individuality in their work and lives.


Barry Lyndon Trailer

The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Prussia. Interior scenes were lit and shot by candlelight which required a special lens, adding to the diffused, painterly, feathered edges look of 18th century paintings. The cinematographer, John Alcott and the art directors, Ken Adams and Roy Walker won Oscars for their work.

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Pictures: Part One - Edward Hopper

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Pictures: Part Two - Andrew Wyeth

Friday, March 05, 2010

Shallow Water, Deep Sky

Shallow Water, Deep Sky 6 x 6" oil on linen
© 2010 Katherine Kean



Here's another small piece from the Great Marsh recently completed that I just brought into the gallery to replace one that sold.

I'm still at that point where I'm completing final touches (and sometimes revisions) on work and painting edges, wiring, and titling, while making forays and explorations into new work. I enjoy both, and even enjoy the slight tension of going back and forth between the two, although at times I feel a little divided.

I'm sure to feel this even more so as we head into spring. I've got two apple trees to plant and lots of new seeds ready to go into the ground. The daffodills are already up and blooming.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Looking at Art's Influence on Motion Picture Design: Part Two Andrew Wyeth



Sometimes the influence of an artist's work on a motion picture's design is subtle. For an example that isn’t subtle see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. From the Wikipedia article about the movie, "Cinematographer Roger Deakins used palettes of brown and black to produce a bleak yet oneiric quality to the film, reminiscent of the paintings of Andrew Wyeth." The Wyeth influence was throughout; in the timing - in the way one's eye is lead through the compostion, as well as in the palette. More about this can be found in the Jesse James Meets Andrew Wyeth post by Eric Braddock. The visual comparisons in this post are excellent examples of Wyeth's influence.


The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Trailer

Another film influenced by Wyeth's artwork includes the American remake of The Ring (2002). Production designer Tom Duffield states that he relied on Andrew Wyeth paintings as his main visual inspiration for the film. I found Duffield quoted on The Ring World Forum production notes, "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones. It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."


The Ring 2002 Trailer

Andrew Wyeth lived and worked in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where M. Night Shyamalan filmed The Village. Shyamalan wanted the sense of loneliness and isolation that he felt from Wyeth's paintings for his film. According to this Rachel Abramowitz article from the Los Angeles Times, he was looking for "The perfect field, surrounded by dense woods, that he'd seen in his head".


The Village Trailer