How and why Magritte continues to influence everything I paint.
I’m a Rene Magritte fanatic.
I have four different books about his art as well as his recent biography which revealed a lot about the man that I never knew before. I’ve seen his work in four different museums and stood transfixed, contemplating his work every time I’ve had that opportunity.
I first discovered Magritte back in 1991. I have always been an art lover and always loved to draw and paint. My mom used to tell me that someday, I would grow up to be an artist. I’m still waiting to grow up.
When I was a kid, I took a few art classes outside of school – I learned to paint with watercolors (which I never really liked.) In grade school, I created the Comic Corner for our school newspaper and loved the Walter Foster learn to draw or paint books.
In high school, I was offered an art scholarship for college but it was only a partial one and I just didn’t think I could make a living at it. So, I pursued a career in advertising and went the writer route, getting my degree from Mizzou through their Journalism school.
I had a great high school art teacher and took two art classes while at Mizzou. When I got into advertising, I had the pleasure of working with some amazing artists/illustrators here in the St. Louis area and on occasion, beyond. I was developing an art appreciation – but not so much in the area of fine art.
When I would visit museums or galleries, I had that, oh-so-familiar saying when I looked at a lot of modern art – “I could do that”. Upon calling off an engagement with a designer who would often accompany me to those excursions, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and decided “I’ll give it a shot.”
She had given me an airbrush for Christmas and I decided I’d figure out how to use it. I went out and bought a book on airbrushing and began painting. I had no idea what I was doing – but quickly figured out that rather than just simply attempting to create airbrush work, the combination of actual brush work and airbrush gave my paintings a distinct look.
I kept painting and began to look for an artist that I could emulate – nothing too complicated – I knew I was no Michelangelo. Picasso? Probably not. I just couldn’t think in his geometric way.
Mr. and Mrs. Strangefellow, Tom Blood, 1994
But I did begin to explore the world of fine art. I had always been a fan of Guy Billout, a French artist whose work showed up in a lot of ad campaigns. His ideas were thought provoking.
I liked that.
I was a fan of the New York artist, Mark Kostabi who created mannequin like figures that were really cool. I tried emulating a few of his works.
Roy Lichtenstein helped define the Pop Art movement.
He was another favorite whose Pop Art style was bold and fun – and simple.
Then one day, I ran across Rene Magritte’s painting called ‘Personal Values’.
It stopped me in my tracks. The painting made no sense. It made perfect sense.
Everyday items that we all take for granted, put in an extraordinary new light. A bedroom with the sky for the walls. Two area rugs that are incredibly detailed and the comb – my gosh, the comb was (and is) amazing.
Who was this guy?
He was a Belgian surrealist.
Before I saw that painting, my idea of surrealism was totally Salvador Dali based. Melting clocks and elephants on stilt like legs were cool – but just not my cup of tea.
But Magritte – the more I explored, the more I liked what I saw. Magritte painted ideas.
He relied on his sub-conscious as inspirations for those ideas. But he also looked at the everyday items and simply imagined them as problems. Problems that he tried to solve through his paintings.
Magritte’s painting, “Hegel’s Holidays” is a perfect example.
In his own words, “How could I paint a glass of water with genius? Then I thought that Hegel (another genius) would have greatly appreciated this object, which has two opposing functions: not wanting water (repelling it) and at the same time wanting water (containing it).”
Magritte’s surrealistic paintings make you think. They challenge you to look at things in a whole new way. They are charming. They are unsettling. They’ll make you smile and they will almost always defy reality or at least, find absurdity in it.
All of those characteristics are things I love to explore.
And here comes the fundamental reason why I love Magritte’s work more than any other artist.
Magritte wanted to paint ideas. His goal was to never have technique get in the way of the idea. If he was going to paint a locomotive coming out of a fireplace, (Time Transfixed) both the locomotive and the fireplace would be so realistic in their depiction, that you wouldn’t question what they were, you would simply wonder why.
That, to me separates Magritte’s work from everyone else and it has become my own personal quest as well. I don’t want technique to get in the way of the idea. Magritte called it, “The Art of Painting”.
There are so many types of art – impressionism, realism, cubism, neo-classicism, abstract, Pop – the list goes on and on and I salute every single one of those styles. But for me, the art of painting is being able to express your idea without the technique getting in the way.
I have a long, long way to go. I invite you to follow me on my journey.
Tom Blood is a St. Louis based artist whose work has sold on four different continents. He has had numerous solo shows in the St. Louis area and is one of the featured artists in The Gallery, located in The District in the Chesterfield Valley. His work can be found on B_Extraordinaire’s website as well as on tombloodart.com
I recently participated in Mary Gilkerson's 5 Day Painting Challenge along with 2500 other artists. The challenge consisted of painting one painting a day in 20 minutes for five straight days and sharing (or not) on social media. It sounded like fun and a good stretch exercise for me. The idea is to help develop flow while painting by reducing the details, and shifting your attention to the overall shapes and colors. This exercise also helps get you back on track and creates a daily painting practice. I was skeptical at first, even though I paint fairly fast, 20 minutes goes by faster than I realized. We were allowed up to 45 minutes and encouraged to reduce the time each day until we reached 20 minutes. Canvas prep and paint mixing were not included in the time. Mary recommended determining composition and subject of your choice beforehand and to paint on a small canvas. I painted in oil on a 11"x14" prepped canvas. It was harder than I thought it would be. I used the entire 45 minutes on Day 1 and was only able to reduce to 25 minutes by Day 5. This was a challenge for me. Although I didn't make the 20 minute goal, I felt successful.
I learned that you really have to let go and rely on your instincts to paint so quickly. After competing the challenge and some minor touch ups I now have 5 finished paintings.
This can be used as a great warm-up exercise for a larger painting. Go ahead, challenge yourself and see what develops.
Below are the before and after paintings from the 5 Day Challenge.
Day 4- No changes
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