Behind Every Good Painting Is a Good Still Life

18 May 2014

The Sensorium by Walton Ford, 2003, watercolor, gouache, pencil and ink on paper, 152.9 x 302.3 cm.
The Sensorium by Walton Ford, 2003,
watercolor, gouache, pencil and ink on paper, 152.9 x 302.3 cm.

Yes, that is a complete exaggeration. But my point is that a lot of times in the art world people tend to silo or separate genres of painting to such an extreme that it's as if they can never come together in a work, when in fact the opposite is true. Many genres dovetail nicely and artists use them in complementary ways. Figural depictions are incorporated into landscape paintings. Still life paintings come together with portraiture. These make for works of art with more visual interest and appeal.

For example, I love Walton Ford's work because it is so difficult to classify. Is it still life art? Animal portraiture? New surrealism? Naturalist watercolors with an edge? All of these could definitely apply, and that's what engages me. There's no one way or solitary vision. The references he pulls in are varied and unconventional, playful and sly.

Jack on His Deathbed by Walton Ford, detail, watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink on paper, 101.3 x 151.1 cm., 2005.
Jack on His Deathbed by Walton Ford, detail, watercolor, gouache,
pencil, and ink on paper, 101.3 x 151.1 cm., 2005. 
In his large-scale watercolor painting book, Pancha Tantra, is a strong display of Ford's skill in merging genres. Almost every painting reads like an Audubon print with an unmatched level of detail combined with still life vignettes that are as acutely rendered as any Dutch master could have done, but the content is all so wrong--and twisted. The artist is satirically poking fun at everything from Western art tropes to social mores, creating cunning allegories and visual feasts for the eyes.

And the fact is that the painting of still life objects enhances the drama of the paintings and further their stories. When I think of how I would like to compose my own works, I take inspiration from artists like Ford, who seem to make their own language with their work. Incredible!

For more artists who are creating art in unique and nuanced ways, consider getting the latest issue of Acrylic Artist. You are sure to find instruction on the fundamentals and practitioners who want to share their artistic passions and purposes--just like you! Enjoy!

 


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