This is a watercolor block study in sunlight that I painted as a demo for my students last week. The block study is the first step in learning how to paint using color to show form. The "colorist" or Impressionist movement is based on the premise that every time there is a plane change in an object, there is a color change as well. This is not a new observation; it emerged about 150 years ago in Europe. It is not a technique, it is a way of seeing.
As more colorful pigments were introduced to artists in the middle of the 19th century, color began to take a more prominent role in their paintings. New pre-mixed paints in metal tubes freed artists to paint outdoors, instead of being confined to their studios where they had to grind their own pigments. Claude Monet began to discover, by painting the same outdoor scene over and over again at different times of day in different weather, that the color and quality of light falling on the same object changed the color of that object profoundly. He realized he was actually painting the color of light instead of the object itself. Thus Impressionism was born. Although there have been many permutations and "isms" in the evolution of art since that time, the colorist tradition has been carried forward.
American Impressionists such as William Merritt Chase
, Charles Hawthorne
and Henry Hensche
kept the flame alive. Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art
in 1899. His protegé Henry Hensche became the director in 1930. Hensche died in 1992. I have had the privilege of studying, in oils, with several of Henry Hensche's students through the years. Along my path as a painter, this way of seeing and painting is by far the most exciting and challenging. My goal is to interpret in watercolor what I have learned in oils. Painting block studies in various lighting situations is the first step to glorious paintings filled with color and light.