One of the two things that hit me while enjoying the recent Curran exhibit at the Frick was his obvious masterful talent at rendering radiant light. One way he achieved this effect is through his treatment of edges. Varied types of edges are supremely important in a good painting.
The image I shot below shows just a small part of one of Currans female portraits. Even in this small portion you can see a variety of hard and soft edges.
Part of how he achieves that glowing radiance with edges, is by raising the values of the background areas that are right up against the lit subject. This gives the effect of the light on the subject “spilling” into the background, much like what happens if you’re in a dark room looking at a window or door to the outside. Finally he also dragged the semi-dry brush (scumbled) with the lighter values right into the dark background, mainly in the hair.
Other than the radiant light, the second point that I kept seeing as I looked at the exhibit was the fact that much of the paint was applied so thin, yet was so effective in rendering three dimensional form. All great oil painters can achieve this, and it is something which is best seen by looking at original paintings, but I tried to shoot an example for you anyway.
The below image is a small portion of a very small painting done in Paris:
You can see many of the lines of Currans underdrawing right through the paint. In fact much of that color and value making up the pedestal is probably raw canvas or very thin paint.
When you look at some of Norman Rockwell’s originals close up as well, you see that his drawing skills were the foundations for the relative straight forward application of paint.
Even in the first image above (of the woman), her hair is rendered with a thin application of paint, some of which is so transparent you can see raw canvas. Yet when you look at it from a distance it looks like full-bodied hair rendered with thickly applied paint.
For a glance of how I try to capture the radiance of light in one of my own still life paintings click here.
To see more fantastic oil paintings by Charles Courtney Curran click here.