Learning from Great Artists- Wayne Thiebaud

With this post, I hope to start a series of posts highlighting other great artists. The time period and prestige does not matter. These artists are chosen purely by their influence on my work and the respect I have for their visions.

So, today I want to dive into one of my favorite modern painters, Wayne Thiebaud, a genius of color and focus of gorgeous still lifes. If you don't know of his work, do a quick search for his cake or landscape paintings and you will understand. One aspect of his work that I love is the deep knowledge he holds over using color meticulously. Not transcribing what he initially sees but waiting and heightening perceptions of after images within the laws of subtractive color. For me, He is the modern Cezanne, in terms of palette. His exploratory nature of color use with exquisite color balance, never overpowering the viewer, is what I hope to adopt from his work. Many of his artworks balance vibrant tonal values extraordinarily well within a beautiful creamy or cool white background. The casted light still shows on the white space the cake is within. Not using pure white for reasons to softening the appearance to accent the dessert quality. Nor is he attempting to separate the focal matter from the surrounding space. When you look at what ties the the subject into the background we see:

First, the immaculate drop shadow that is filled with saturated colors. Second, the creamy light of yellow ochre in the foreground and a cool blue cast, a touch of ultramarine added to make the space recede. Third, the texture. My god, the texture. You want to touch his backgrounds just as much as the beautiful painted cup cakes. All incorporated aspects of the artwork are so consistent throughout his work, you can not help but respect his vision.

The works give you a visceral presence to the still life. Like you are peering into the life of the cake as it glows and radiates in a nuclear fashion. For me, this is the way still life paintings are made. Though I don't paint still life paintings currently, I am truly inspired by his work. His figurative "still life" paintings were my least favorite of his main bodies of work. There was good color involved, but it seemed dead compared to most of his work. My bias is based in the extrodinary resources I know of dynamic figurative artworks throughout history. But I need to remember and appreciate the fact that is was able to make a figure painting feel like a still life painting. Many artists have painted the sitter with the intentions of pumping life into the painting. Thiebaud pumps color in and sucks out the life. It is quite a juxtaposition. Though their facial expressions lean towards an emptiness, I wouldn't blame the emotion purely on that. The presence of the flesh tone drabs the color work I personally enjoy most. Please understand that I am still in awe of his figurative paintings! These are my floating observations. My next venture is to make a copy or two of his work to peer into his sensibilities of color. Thanks for reading as I hope Thiebaud pushes your care for color theory even beyond mine. Stay Tan...