Michael Rozenvain Artist Review
Landscapes in paintings has been a favorite subject matter for artist’s for thousands of years. The earliest pure landscapes are found in Greek frescos from around 1500 B.C.E. However, it was not until landscape paintings saw their beginnings in East Asian art when spiritual elements were included that drew from philosophical traditions such as Daoism. In these ink paintings, human presence was only glimpsed and the focus was entirely on the landscape. They focused on balance, harmony and the use of positive and negative space to create dreamlike landscapes that made the viewer see more that just a pretty place. These imaginary landscapes became the most prestigious form of visual art as the aesthetic theory of the region placed imagination above all else in importance.
“Spring Fresco, 1,500 BCE
The Western interpretation of landscape painting had new noticeable influences and major contrasts from Asian landscape paintings. Most notably was the low position landscape painting occupied in the Western art world until the 19th century. The natural world was certainly present in the art world previously, however the landscapes and natural elements always acted as secondary focuses for artists who’s primary focus was on the human influence in the landscapes they occupied. From these history focused paintings, landscape painting branched off and became its own valued artistic subject matter in the West. In the United States, the Hudson River School which was prominent in the middle to late 19th century is possibly the best-known native development in landscape art. This mid century art movement depicted American landscapes such as the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills and the Adirondack mountains. Similarly to Eastern Asian landscapes, these paintings were created to evoke an emotional response from the viewer and not to simply serve as a place for man to occupy.
A View of the Mountains Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains, 1839
Michael Rozenvain paints a in variety of subject matters, but always in the characteristic style that is recognizably his. Weather it be a portrait of a bear, a skier in action, or a dreamy landscape Michael paints in a way that ties them all to him in his style. Michael paints with a pallet knife and brush with bright and vivid colors. We will focus on Michael’s landscapes as an example, but the information will also stay true to his other subject matters as well.
Principals of Art:
Space: To create space in his work, Michael leads the eye to horizon lines with the river in Colorful Horizon. The viewer also finds more interesting details and brighter colors in the foreground, which makes the background recede and creates space to the composition.
Color: Michael uses bright and vivid colors in his paintings, one of the characteristics that help identify his work. These bright colors are balanced with soft pastels in the sky and river, as well as dark neutrals amongst the bright foreground colors in Colorful Horizon.
Shape: There is a variety of shape use in Michael’s work, some soft and curving and some sharp and jagged. These shapes juxtapose against one another and add visual variety and interest. For instance Colorful Horizon has sharp leaves in the foreground, and softer rounded leaves on the trees on the left.
Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. Michael add dimension and form through a change in value. Notice in Colorful Horizon how there are bright leaves where the sun is hitting, and dark leaves where they are in shadows, creating dimension and form to the tree.
Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a painting is to help create both dimension and a mood. The lightest of lights and the darkest of darks create strong contrasts in Michael’s work. Having strong differences in value help make the colors pop and add a dramatic mood to his paintings.
Texture: Due to Michael applying paint thickly with his pallet knife, texture is created on the canvas. The leaves in the trees pop off the canvas in an impasto style and the paint thickly lifts off the canvas creating texture and even more visual depth.
Principals of Design:
Balance: With so much color and so many subjects, balance must be achieved for the painting to not feel overwhelming. Michael expertly creates balance by counterbalancing the heavy items with smaller items. For instance, in Colorful Horizon you can see how the few heavy tree trunks on the right are balanced by the many leafing trees on the left.
Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. Michael’s painting style unifies his work. The continued thick application of paint as seen in the trees and smooth marbling as see in the river, work together and are found throughout the entirety of the painting.
Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. Micheal applies his paint thickly, allowing it to lift off of the canvas. He also smooths his paint in other areas with a soft marbling of colors. You can see this variety in style in Colorful Horizon where the leaves are textured and the river smooth.
Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. What grabs the viewer may change person to person with Michael’s work as there is a lot to see and appreciate. In Colorful Horizon Michael emphasizes the distant horizon line as a focal point through directionality of line and strong color use.
Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. All of the action of changing shapes and line add movement for the viewer to wonder though. The landscape of Colorful Horizon feels like a moment of time with leaves still caught in the air. .
Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. There is repeating pattern use in the tree trunks of Colorful Horizon as they move away from the viewer into the horizon.
Perspective: Perspective is what’s creates a three dimensional painting vs a two dimensional painting. Michael creates perspective with the river in Colorful Horizon. The descent in size, detail and color strength all make the background recede and creates perspective and depth.
Michael paints with oils on canvas, a traditional favorite for many painters. Oil paints, which are oil based as the name suggests, have a long drying time. This is advantageous to artists who will work on a piece for an extended amount of time. Oil paints are thinned down with terpenoids which can take the paint from thick and heavy to thin and light. An artist who uses oil paints learns over time their own tricks to work in a way that makes the most sense for their composition. It takes time, patience and practice to master this difficult medium.
Michael applies his paint to the canvas not only with the traditional brush, but also with pallet knives. Traditionally pallet knifes are used by artists to mix pigments on their pallets, hence the name. Increasingly though artists like Michael are applying paint to their canvas directly with the pallet knife. This compelling twist of application is hard to master as artists apply the paints wet on wet and must fight to not have the paints blend and become muddy. This loose application requires the artists to step back continually as they paint so unrecognizable shapes can be formed into a recognizable composition.
Michael creates texture through applying thick swaths of paint that cling to the canvas and jut outwards. He also creates a smooth marble look by applying multiple colors to the knife before it is smoothed, edge down, on the canvas.
Lastly, Michael adds a varnish once his painting’s are completed and dry. The varnish will protect the oil paints to last hundred of years.