To talk about the art of
Jacob Collins is to talk about his inquisitive "I."
Jacob Collins is a
contemporary realist artist. He paints and draws portraits,
landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes. Across the board, he imbues
them all with sensuous light and an aptitude for finely wrought
detail. He reminds me of a scientist who shines a light on an
object to see it to full advantage. And like a scientist, he
sees beauty in realizing his understanding of things. He told me
"I find beauty in observing and in furthering my knowledge about
light, the identity of plants and trees, and even such things as
the nature of the formation of rocks and land masses."
Currently, he is working on
completing a landscape project of 50 oil paintings and graphite
studies, with the center piece being a large landscape 50 x 100".
An exhibition of this landscape project will be on view May 8 -
June 13, 2008 at Hirschl Alder Modern in New York City.
In this graphite on paper,
Collins concerns himself only with the silhouette and shape of the
land and tree masses, leaving the sky and water blank. This
frees him to fully concentrate on details of the trees and land
masses, as well as their relationships. In other studies he has
concentrated on only the water or some other section of the total image.
In his student days in the
80's, aside from copying masterworks in Museums in New York and
Italy, he studied anatomy to fully comprehend the curves and
landmarks on the body's surfaces. Integral to his figure studies
is his need to see what the light is doing on the surfaces.
This drawing, a study for the painting Redhead, shows the
light and dark on her body. In addition, Collins has
made notations, commenting on how to further enhance the lights
and darks. A painter that is working with light has one enormous
obstacle to overcome: light in real life is about a hundred
times brighter than the re-creation of light with paint and
canvas. An artist, in paint, can't very well shine a 500 watt
halogen light in your face! One way an artist simulates light is
to show the reflection of light on objects. Think of the
Moon in relationship to the Sun. Another thing that an artist
can do, and which Jacob has done, is to fine tune the nuances of
light to the nth degree. Compare the different tones of
highlights of her forehead, breast, and thigh. Once viewers
have adjusted their eyes
to a painting that has a great range of nuance between light
and dark, their eyes will feel the brightness of the light.
I found it easy to talk
with Jacob. Perhaps, because he is also an educator and a man
who goes his own way. He is the
founder of the Hudson River School for Landscape in Hunter, NY,
the Founder of Grand Central Academy of Art in NYC, and the Founder of
Water Street Atelier also in NYC. He has also taught
at National Academy of Design, the Portrait Society of America,
and the New York Academy of Art.
Drawing is my
favorite Collin's painting. Spreading out in foreshortened
perspective are the paper
and tools for drawing. Even if you are not an artist, you might
have experienced the joy in going into an art store and seeing
and feeling the textures of the papers, looking at the pastels
and charcoals, and wondering how much fun it would be to make
art. Notice the different textures and subtle colors of the
papers in Drawing. You might notice the highlighted,
ruffled, and delicately torn edges of several of the papers. I
have fond memories of learning about different papers as an art
student. One lesson we learned was to tear a really good
acid-free 100% cotton rag paper to
size using a straight edge--it's a very sensual experience.
Collins gets that tactile beauty of the paper down exactly.
In the painting,
Candace, Jacob is doing several impressive things. One is
that the composition is powerfully divided between the light and
dark of the fabrics, which is echoed by the high contrast of
light and dark on her body. The modeling of her body is superb.
Notice the form of her left thigh, how the form rotates up to
the highlight on the iliac crest, and then gently descends onto
the plain of her taught belly. Her flesh-tone color is
natural, rich, and subtle. Notice the pinkish fingertips, the crisp pearl-color of her breasts, the cool blue
mid-tone of her ribs, and the ochre highlights of her thighs.
In Candace, and in
Collins' works in general, I cannot help but see hints of da
Vinci's attention to molding forms, Rembrandt's hierarchy of
light, and Bouguereau's delicate skin colorization.
A funny experience I have
had with musicians has been their use of the word "stagnant" to
describe painting. But Jacob describes light as it "bounces in
soft and hard ways." A good place to see this "bounce" is by
comparing the highlight on her forehead, to the shoulder's
highlight silhouetting her chin, and to the highlight on her
throat. Collins is "bouncing" the highlights through space.
The last aspect of this
painting I will comment on is the exquisite detailing of the
fabric. Collins painted her body first, then he set up the
fabric with a mannequin so that he could paint the folds of the
cloth undisturbed. By doing this, he could arrange the folds of
the cloth to bring out their beauty, even down to the smallest
details, and he gave himself all the time he needed do to them
Many people wonder why
artists go through all this work when they can simply copy a
photograph. Collins volunteered that "photos are not as rich an
experience as working from life." Let's take a cue from Collins,
and enrich our "I's" by looking more closely at his universe of
inquiry and light.
To find out more about
Jacob Collins visit these sites:
His schools' links:
Photos curtsey of Jacob
New York, April 2008