“I’ve Seen The Light” ,
Over the past 6 years, we've been going out to Ptown on Cape Cod. Friday nights they have a gallery walk, that have featured artists on these nights. I stumbled upon 'Hilda Neily Gallery' early on and was immediately intrigued. A few years later, in 2017 a living retrospective on H. Neily & this painting, ’HEAT', was in her gallery and felt, I had found an immediate kindred spirit in her work, as she was getting back to her roots and incorperating some drip work, as well.
~Hilda Neily started painting with Henry Hensche at The Cape School in Provincetown in the early 1970's. Hensche started The Cape School in 1933, carrying on and developing the ideas of his teacher, Charles Hawthorne, who started the first art school in Provincetown. It was Hawthorne's school that led to Provincetown becoming one of America's preeminent art communities.
So then this happened, last year May 2018~ Not at her gallery but several blocks away on Macmillan Wharf, I stopped to view some student work, at a hut, of The Cape Cod School of Art. I'm asking questions about the art and the person is asking questions about Blaze(our pup) and loving on him. The conversation goes on and we're talking more about art. She starts telling me, that the school and she teaches, ”color how to see color and that once you get it, it's like dropping acid." So I tell her that I'm an admirer of Hilda Neilys work, she seems to understand that, like none other. She says, "I am Hilda Neily." I've been stopping in at her gallery over the past five years, had only seen photos of her, always painting, from the back or side profile, but never met her. Our conversation went on and on, about art, dogs and our partners. What a kick and a thrill, would love the opportunity to study with her.
With that I decided I must study with this artist, so this year, August 2019, I attended the 3 hour a day, 5 day workshop. As an artist , there’s always more to be learned & explored. It's emphasis is color and light, Hilda had me at, "once you get it, it's like dropping acid" & so we shall see. BaHaHaa😀
So, it was, I set out with this goal in mind, too learn to see the light saturated color and add it to my more tonal/colorist palette in approach paintings, thus integrating that blast of light to my work. But keep in mind that while I’ve attended some classes, studied via book & dvd, various great artists painting techniques, that it has been about 25 years since I’ve taken a class or workshop. Within my studies, which have been to learn and find what made those artists successful, not to do what they do, but perhaps incorporate some small amount of that magic into my artworks. Which is to say not immerse myself in their discipline, but utilize it within mine. The last class I took being a Remrandt style painting class at the S.A.I.C.. That would be the extreme polar opposite in approach, for various reasons, one being the palette was only 4 colors, Titanium White, Ivory Black, Venetian Red & Yellow Ochre. Teach, the instructor that is, then, was surprised at the amount of color I could express with this limited palette.
*Note 1~How I see color. I’m said to be highly color sensitive. I’ve come to see it, not as big blocks of color, but more like all the colors that are reflected within the color, that make the color, thus I’ve tended to express it broken. Ones eye tends to average it all out, at least from a distance, to an uniform color, but up close a more complex variation appears and is expressed, at least from my perspective, intent & purpose.
My Background, a partial context~ I’ve drawn and painted, been involved with the arts, the entirity of my life. Over the past 15 years have focused, prolifically on creating & exhibiting my artwork. I’m mostly self taught as I have little formal training, thus am highly experimental, in the past, however, am more refined of late. I’ve also been in the custom framing and fine art sales business, since 1986, thus am said to have a keen eye for color. If you know what slant rhyme is, I’m a slant colorist. For further info, refer to my website, about the artist, blogs or Facebooks about me.
Day #1- A sunny day at the Cape Cod School of Art, a class of 16-18 peeps. We set up are easels outside to do block studies, to see how color and light interact upon each other. That is to say how different colors reflect and change color, depending on the intensity of light or shadow. I set off doing what I do, how I do and had a very nice painting going, as I tend to work fast and matter-of factly. As some of the students perused each others work, some viewed mine and I heard things like, “he speaks his own language”, and I thought, cool. Then instructor came by and started working the painting, knocking down my work, in fact scrapping it off, showing and expressing why it was not correct. I was mortified, for one, I do not scrape off paint, its expensive. I tend to take pieces to their completion, if they’re not successful, I move on, but keep them around awhile as learning tools, to see what was wrong. Feeling out of sorts, at this point, I realized that the persons involved in this workshop were all at various levels of painting experience, including myself, as I’d have to unlearn, or rather try to stop doing what I do, if I were to get anything out of the experience. Although, the instructor did like some of my color notes and said so. At the end of the 3 hours, we set up our paintings in the classroom for critique. Mine stood out from the rest, for one reason or the other and not necessarily for goodones, or so I thought. Once they were set up, a woman I had not met, pointed at my work and asked who’s is that. I kept silent, then ‘C’ asked again and I replied mine. She, ‘C’, then said it looks like a HENSCHE. For review, Henry Hensche was the Cape Cod school of art instructor whu trained Hilda Neily, my current instructor. I felt a shiny lining, a ray of light, if you will.
Day #2- Began with 3 hour workshop. Overcast, grey day, H. Neily did a grey day demo. Which should have been perfect for me and yet in order to learn this way of seeing, I must abandon my artist ways, so I can then integrate this new info into my artwork, moving forward, thus challenged. Challenge one, see in blocks of color. Challenge two, I primarily use brushes and palette knife is a sublemental tool usually. Now I’m only using palette knife. Challenge three, I tend to mix color on the canvas. Challenge four, the scrape off still freaks me out. Challenge five, My panels are typically toned iron oxide, prism violet or grey, some canvas, others smooth. I’m asked too paint on white smooth boards only. My initial thought is, Great, now even the panel will reflect the light and color, but, thought, perhaps that’s intended. As Hilda states to me, “Grey board saaaad, white board HAPPY.” Adding, “the world is so messed up,” and I finishing with, “why would we want to add to that?” A most challenging day, to say the least & had to set my ego aside for the remainder of the workshop.
Day #3- We all met at a dune crest that overlooks cottages, salt marshes, the Atlantic and Ptown, off in the distance. Also, this was near where we stayed and I already had fallen in love with the view. It started as a sunshiny day. Several of her assitants, would peruse the other painters, coach and give direction. Several of them, over of this & previous days would stop by me, like what I was doing, then Hilda would come over to see what I was doing, blend or scrape off. I was working on a painting, as I’ve stated before I work quickly, so by the time Hilda got to me I had built a great many details into the painting and had what I thought a top 25%. A top 25%, is a really, really good painting. She began to blend and knock down the sky, my heart sank and my eyes bulged out of my head as my stomach flipped over, no joke. She continued, and spoke of blocks of color then stopped, stood back, partially , I think realizing, sometimes regardless of getting the light right, a good painting is a good painting. I finished knocking the colors together and removing all details. Went to see what another painter and assitant was doing. He had built up a good painting, as well. I told him I thought I had something too, he had commented as much, just 10 minutes prior. When I told him of Hilda’s reaction to it, he said, it’s best to just follow the instructors direction and perhaps the meaning would become clear. I then looked & found an opportunity to tell Hilda how I came to the workshop and showed her some of my most recent artworks, to give some context and tell her what my goal was, to see and understand the light saturated color in which she painted. The day was done and I got back to the Hotel. I had taken some photos, I had every day since the workshop began. I had taken a photo of Hilda’s and my piece that day. Eureeka, side by side in the photos we had the same color range, I had got it. While my broken color had everything there it wasn’t until they were blended, could the instructor, standing right up on it, see if I had it correct. I was thinking painting, I should have been thinking color study and realised this way of seeing and the approach is just the opposite of my regular one.
Day #4-Before I left for the workshop, I had told Don it seemed that no matter how I painted, Hilda would correct it the other direction. I felt that she was perhaps challenging me. He said, “it’s like a zen riddle, to see what you got, go with it,” and so I did. Light is a fleeting thing, to say the least. The day began as a bright shiny one and so we, set up our easels & painted from atop the dune crest this time over looking the sea. I just love the view high upon the crest where we’re staying, ironically the crest, as it turned out, is also where we’re doing the last three days of our color studies.I painted the trees in the foreground, cottages, ocean & sky. No I was painting blocks of color and was told, “yes, that’s better.” Then our sunny sky closed in, an overcast one. That means my warm & cool color variations changed and that equals a scrap off and a start over. So I scraped off and began again. More relaxed and going with the flow, I painted the scene, light included and so 1 piece completed. But was told,” to think color study not painting, find the light.” I believe Hilda’s guidance has been so beneficial and I’m so psyched to have had this opportunity to paint with her.
Day #5-The last day, was a full sunny one atop the dune crest and I stuck, strictly to color studies and finding the fleeting light. They were a great bunch of people to paint with. I walked around easel to easel, to see what others were doing. Hilda and the group huddled around her as she corrected anothers painting, explaining what she saw, as she worked. I worked the patches of color in a minalimist way akin, in my head, to Rothko. Hilda made her way to me. Are you afraid of color, she said. No look, I responded. The painting at an angle, lined up the 3 layers of the scape perfectly. I squinted down and said, If you look all the colors are spot on. “Really” she retorted, “come now.” “Are you color blind,” she playfully asked, as she began to correct my piece. “no I have a keen sense of color” I said and another painter said, “That’s another kind of color. So it was as Hilda corrected the center areas of my color study, Within each of the centers of land, sea & sky, she left the correct color notes of light.I said, yes that’s perfect and I did another study and Hilda came by again and said, yes, that’s better and I responded ,”yes, I’ve seen the light!” To which she, with a smile on her face said,” that’d be a great title for an article, I said it will be my blog.
Rarely do the stares align, but, it’s always been my mission to seek and find those artists whom I have shared ideas with & who best encapsulate the finest qualities in art and study with them. Hilda Neily is such an artist of these qualities. It has truly been both a challenging & an eye opening experience. Hilda said, “See you next year,” another assitant said to come to some of the ‘drop ins’, & ‘C’ said, “you know you’re a really good artist”. As an painter/artist I am always studying and working out a new problem, it’s the nature of painting the painting & hopefully finding the light, Hilda is such a light.
as always your questions & comments are welcome.