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The Calm Sea (Gustave Courbet, 1869, oil on canvas)

The Calm Sea (Gustave Courbet, 1869, oil on canvas)

Gustave Courbet was preeminent among the realist painters of nineteenth century France.  Although he rejected the romanticism of the previous epoch of painting, there was often a certain robust drama to his paintings—which frequently portrayed dark hunting scenes, stormy waves, and tempestuous mistresses.  This painting however is a real exception: here is a delightfully undramatic summer beachscape. Hazy half-cumulus clouds melt into the aqua sky above a yellow strip of sand. Small practical fishing vessels bake in the sun as sailboats drift by on the offing.

Although this is a view of the beach as it appeared in the 1860s, there is something timeless about it.  In real life the simple painting seems alive with the sounds and sunlight of the Atlantic coast—you almost expect a seagull to fly out of it (hopefully that comes across from the digital image—it is hard to look at art online).  Courbet’s work was a bridge not just away from the tempestuous Romantic art of the first half-of the nineteenth century, but towards the liveliness and freedom of impressionism.   This simple but powerful work really shows how he could enliven a familiar landscape with bravura brushwork!

Whimsical Seascape (Wayne Ferrebee. 2015, watercolor, ink, and colored pencils on paper)

Whimsical Seascape (Wayne Ferrebee. 2015, watercolor, ink, and colored pencils on paper)

My New Year’s resolution wayyyy back in January was to show more of my art.  As with most New Year’s resolutions, I am having a pretty mixed record with that, but at least I have made a great deal more art, and I even had a couple of small local shows.  Anyway, to get back on track, I thought I would show you a piece from a big exciting project I have been working on.  I have been making an ornate & intricate art toy: this is one of the illustrations that goes with it.

I didn’t scan or format this properly. As you can see it’s just lying on my bedspread (I think my cat is just off screen waiting to pounce up and down on it).  However it should interest you because it has a surprising number of Ferrebeekeeper themes which got included by accident because they are always on my mind. A galleon is cutting through the azure waters off of some colonial trading post (probably in Indonesia, though this is really a fantasy piece, and it is hard to say anything for certain).  The European ship is passing a Chinese junk.  Both craft are menaced by a passing colossal squid as an oarfish undulates decoratively in the background.

The principle drama of the composition comes from a volcanic eruption which threatens the trading colony.  The spume of lava and dust from within the Earth is faintly echoed by a passing whale.  My favorite part of the composition is the pelican gobbling up a displaced moth (or maybe a fluttering soul expelled from the fires of the underworld by the eruption).  It is hard to tell whether this is a white pelican or a brown pelican—just like that infernal dress which took over the internet a few weeks ago.

I have no commentary on the frigate bird, the flying fish, or the canoe filled with hapless people being attacked by a giant shark.  You will have to find your own meaning for them.  Likewise, the Easter-egg colored balloon filled with aeronauts is a whimsical and fun addition.  Although I will say that maybe we, the viewers, are meant to identify most with the travelers in the balloon’s basket who are being whirled through this fabulous fantasy landscapes for pure amusement and delight.

Update: The way this is published hideously crops off the right side of my picture! I presume this is part of WordPress’ ongoing quest to make blogging a baffling anti-aesthetic nightmare (seriously, what is up with this new-ish GUI, “beep beep boop”?). Anyway, you can see the actual image (and bigger!) by clicking on it. Sigh…

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