Fauves and the pursuit of artistic inspiration

October 18, 2018

Alice Bailly was an unconventional Swiss artist drawn to the reckless use of color. French artist Raoul Dufy said, “My eyes were made to erase all that is ugly.”


He painted idyllic French life, racehorses and regattas in vivid, bold colors. Viewers and critics alike were shocked by Bailly’s and Dufy’s use of non-naturalistic colors. An art critic in 1905 called the artists “fauves,” or wild beasts, and the label stuck.


Henri Matisse broke through to Fauvism when he experienced light in the South of France as he had never experienced it. He noted the optics of light and saw color differently, paving the way for him to be the best-known Fauve.  


Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Venice-The Giudecca

Henri-Edward Cross, 1903


He’s quoted: “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges toward the things it loves.” French Neo-Impressionist Henri-Edmond Cross was a color-liberator and early Matisse colleague.  His friendship helped swung Matisse’s transition to Fauvism.


I don’t get too caught up in trying to find the perfect color. I splatter a bunch of paint onto the panel and use the texture and interplay between colors to create music for our visual sense.  ~Adam Swanson, Cloquet painter


Whether your studio is a kitchen table or a gymnasium, show up daily. When you consistently work, you develop a deeper understanding of what you’re capable of. Putting in the time leads down new artistic paths. Embrace this traction with consistency. Develop your unique style by changing things up: If you work at night, work in the morning. Paint in the rain. Write a manifesto.  Move your art equipment around and stir new thoughts.  


Create art on different days or in surprising ways and wake up energy. Set goals. Find your strengths. Read art history. Share your work. Scan older sketchbooks for turning-point drawings.  


Then start to create new work. Leave your comfort zone by working small if you usually work big.  Work with materials you’ve never engaged with, like drawing with oil pastels if you are a watercolor artist. Or if you’re a 3D metal fabricator, work with clay.


Pablo Picasso said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.” Or create like Andy Warhol, who said, “Art is anything you can get away with.”


AJ Atwater teaches studio art classes for women of all skill levels. AjAtwater.com 


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