Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Composing Paintings

Visual composition organizes space in the same way that classical music organizes time. All parts of a visual composition —line, color, value, shape, texture, size, and direction— are subordinated to a main idea. The idea is the intention expressed by the artist.

Compositional arrangements begin in a variety of ways. At times the artist may want to simply convey a mood with a decorative statement. Sometimes the idea is more complex and illustrative, such as expression of a myth, homage to a person, or historic era. Exploration of an elemental relationship, for example, the interaction of a certain combination of colors, shapes and lines can be the source on which to structure visual compositions as well. This aleatoric mode demands that the artist recognize a pattern, rhythm, or movement and what is evoked from that particular arrangement.

In still life composition, the artist arranges objects, choosing the lighting and color to best communicate the intention. In landscape painting, composition is the art of selection. It is essential to choose the vantage point that leads the viewer through the scene in the manner and at the pace intended to create a certain visual experience. In portraiture, a combination of arrangement and selection is required to best express the personality of the sitter.

Artful composition is quite abstract. The best representational painting isn’t judged on how well the artist emulates nature in paint; it is based on distinguished abstract structure. The way in which that structure affects us communicates certain ideas or moods much the same as musical structure does.

Fireworks may seem to be a decorative clutch of flowers and fruit amongst crockery. Compositionally, it is an exploration of the explosive nature of red in a field of its complementary color; and cyclical motion, with its relation to time and space. The whirling movement is balanced by triangular stability; the reverberating red echoes throughout, drawing the eye along melodically while the spots of light punctuate the darkness with a lively rhythm. The experience reminds me of watching a fireworks display, in which one attempts to follow one burst of light but is inevitably drawn to the next.

I “hear” this painting. The snap, crackle, pop against the sough and rattle pleases me. Still a work in progress, Fireworks is just moments from the finale.

Melody Phaneuf is a Boston artist, composing and painting at historic Fenway Studios. She is a regular exhibitor at The Guild of Boston Artists, 162 Newbury St, Boston. More photos of Fireworks in progress and the sight size method of painting can be viewed on facebook~ Become a fan and please visit


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Paying Homage To The Oracle

Uncertain times. The news is discouraging. Leaders arm-wrestle over stimulus plans and nuclear arms. I listen to financial and political analysts; I overhear conversations. Just now, I am within earshot of a group of teenagers in intense discussion. The answer to all our economic woe is revealed. Of course! They know everything after all, but they have yet to live in their car, as does Henrietta Hughes, who, just yesterday, threw herself on the mercy of President Obama.

Indecision wracks us all, causing sleepless nights and distracted days. I am intrigued by the historical use of oracles to resolve dilemmas. What mechanism of mind or will allows one to believe in the certainty of this answer? Why does the tossing of a coin, lighting of a candle, or shuffling of the deck ease the burden of decision?

We have our present-day Oracles. I recall a radio interview with a Major Ed Dames, former CIA guru of “remote viewing” during the cold war with Russia in the 50’s. The interview was a couple of years ago, when the real estate market was cooling off a bit. “Total world economic collapse coupled with worldwide pandemic,” he prophesied. Stocks were soaring then; the Major was obviously eccentric, but I am now taking vitamins, just in case.

The painting entitled Oracle pays homage to the idea that focusing on something external can unlock an internal gate, where the roadmap to destiny lies hidden. Deep, absorbent blue and dazzling golden stars whirl us into a hypnotic space where the veil is lifted and the Oracle speaks. It is a quiet consultation, still a whisper at the moment. I will be sure to keep you posted on what I find out.

Melody Phaneuf is a Boston Artist, well known for her evocative still life and landscape paintings. She has exhibited at Galerie Herouet in Paris, The National Arts Club in New York City, and with Art du Monde, a traveling exposition in Japan. Her paintings are regularly displayed at The Guild of Boston Artists, 162 Newbury Street, Boston, MA.

Phaneuf is a member of the Fenway Studios Cooperative, a community of artists whose historic north light building was modeled on the 19th century Parisian Ateliers. Visits to her studio are welcomed.

Oracle, by Melody Phaneuf, Oil Painting, 24 x 32

Related Links~

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Art of Hand-Written Notes

We keep them for weeks or sometimes years. We display them on the refrigerator, come across them in drawers and bookcases. Like revisiting a favorite place, we open and read them again. Hand-written notes touch us because they are expressions of caring.

How my spirit soars as I reread a note from a former teacher and much-admired artist:

Dear Melody,

Just a note to say how very fine your 3 winter rooftops appear at the Guild~
You have taken your gift for design into the landscape & done so with a handsome, restrained color scheme.

They are First Rate!!!

Best Regards,

Taking the time to write a short, kind note when it isn’t expected stirs us, opening portals of connection. I celebrate Valentine’s Day by writing notes to honor friendships and the work of others. Whatever the sentiments of the correspondence may be, the unspoken message of a hand-written note is “you matter to me.”

Melody Phaneuf is a Boston Artist, working at Fenway Studios. Phaneuf is well known for her evocative still life and landscape paintings and has achieved significant acclaim for portraiture. She has exhibited at Galerie Herouet in Paris, The National Arts Club in New York City, and with Art du Monde, a traveling exposition in Japan. Phaneuf’s paintings are regularly displayed at The Guild of Boston Artists, 162 Newbury Street, Boston, MA.

Melody The Artist Home, founded with photographer and color specialist, Martha DiMeo showcases the artist’s original paintings on tumbled marble tile murals and coasters, fine art prints and note cards. Online ordering at

Featured Above~ Rhythms And Red, handmade note cards, from the original oil painting by Melody Phaneuf

Related Links~