Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Gerda Mertens - A Way with Trees

Some years ago I was very interested in the English landscape artist Edward Wesson. Wesson was something of a cult figure with an enormous following and several books have been written about him and his paintings. One of the best known was by Ron Ranson and I remember Ron writing that `Ted', as he was commonly known to friends, had `a way with trees'. This lady also has `a way with trees'.

Recently I became aware of the artist Viktoria Prischedko and that led me, quite by chance, to Gerda Mertens.

Gerda Mertens - the lady on the left.

I'm not absolutely certain I've identified Gerda correctly but I think so. This is taken I believe at the Dum Pingo Vivo group that she runs in Balen, Holland, although when I say run it does appear to be a very co-operative organisation involving much discussion as well as painting. She runs numerous weekly courses in Holland and at least one in France.

Gerda graduated in 1980 as a secondary school teacher of Plastic Arts (what is that?) at the Sint-Maria Institute in Antwerp. Her education appears to have been comprehensive involving a 35 hr week and several different teachers, each a specialist in their particular field.  Still more education took place, both domestically and abroad, including a spell at the China Academy of Fine Arts, studying Chinese painting. 

She likes  a variety of subjects, buildings and landscapes predominating. She also favours painting plein air. What struck me most were her tree studies.

What do you think of that lot? I love them and already I'm pondering how I can incorporate this free and colourful approach into my landscapes.

What is her approach? Her drawing style is described (in her words) as  `a mixture of intuitive and analytical'. I'm not quite sure how I interpret that, perhaps someone can enlighten me. 

Gerda's preferred palette comprises 10 colours. Two yellows, two reds and two blues with cold and warm versions of each, making four of each type. That makes twelve by my calculation not ten and her signature colour is Burnt Sienna which she describes as `a must'.

Paper is either hand-made or machine made, and brushes a natural hair/synthetic  mix, both flat and round. No indication of what makes she uses nor, in the case of paints the specific colours. 

These are other examples of her style as applied to buildings. You have this slightly distorted effect, more obvious on some paintings than others. On Wetcanvas I posed the question about this rather different approach and a Danish member replied that this was a currently popular vogue in watercolour and there were many  Continental artists doing it. He gave a link to another artist called Voka  (Please note:There appears to be a problem with this link. When you click on it an `Oops this link appears to be broken' appears. Follow the suggestion it then gives to click on  and you should get there.   As with Viktoria Prischedko the approach seems to apply various degrees of realism with abstraction and even distortion. I like some of it and some I'm not so sure about. 

I confess I don't have permission to show the above paintings but as I have no commercial objectives, and am  highlighting the artist, hope this is acceptable. If advised otherwise I will delete them (and the post!). Her website which enlarges on the above is :


Mick Carney said...

Another great discovery Peter.

Yvonne Harry said...

Gosh, you do find some wonderful artists and their work, I will look at her in moredetail. I agree, the trees are very exciting!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting folks! I think there are more and more waiting to be found, not discovered exactly because they are obviously well-known in their own countries.

hap said...

she has very effective use of her darks, interesting compositions as well! Thanks for sharing Peter!

Peter Ward said...

Yes an interesting artist indeed Hap.

Zvonimir said...

If I may add, her way is efficient and suits the style because she does not fuss with the foliage and exact placement of sets of branches. She rather comfortably does mixes of colour, perhaps totally randomly in one particular place, and then just adds in tree trunks, which vanish here and there. Thus observer's eye is not judging the shape (which will always do if we muddle around and paint exact shape) bur rather enjoying explosion of colours in watercolour mixture and contrast made with several lines that define the trunk. She simplifies a lot, and that's the secret.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Zvonimir. I agree simplification is the key allied with a bold use of colour BUT this is easier said than done. Rather like `loose' painting. The difference between `loose' and just sloppy is very small. To simplify involves knowing what to leave out and this again isn't simple.

Jayelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Ward said...

Thanks Jayelle. Gerda is Belgian and so is Blockx. I love her way with trees.