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The painting (above) as it was last touched by John, now on my easel here in Mystic.

 

Finishing a John Stobart Painting

I am deeply honored to have been asked by John Stobart’s widow (and head of the Stobart Foundation) to finish a painting of South Street (at his request) he was unable to complete before his passing early this year.  I will be regularly chronicling my progress finishing the piece using John’s notes, research, methods and materials in a series of blog posts, below:

Chapter 1: An Introduction (previous post)

Chapter 2: John’s Methods & Materials (previous post)

Chapter 3: The Subject Matter Depicted (previous post)

Chapter 4: What Needs to Be Done (below):

Chapter 5: Starting the Painting Process (next post)

Chapter 6: Finishing the Downeaster (link here)

Chapter 7: Finishing the Black Schooner (link here)

Chapter 8: My Other All Time Hero (link here)

Chapter 9: From Blob to Barge (link here):

Chapter 10: Nearly Finished, And Discovering An Earlier Version Of The Painting (link here)

 

To the untrained eye, at first glance this may look like a finished work. But on closer inspection, and according to Mr. Stobart’s notes, it is “drastically incomplete.” Much of what he was able to finish shows the unmistakable hallmarks of a Stobart painting: the expressive sky and clouds (often with a large void acting as a compositional element); the atmospheric regression, minute detail in background areas; the classical brushwork and application of paint. Some elements which are missing, or only roughed in, are obvious when examined closely and compared to the high standards of his earlier works. Also, I am observant of the hand of a great master, but also the hand of one who was well into his 80s when he started this project, and perhaps less steady or committed to the incredible detail he was known for. It is importand to me not to completely paint over what is here; rather, build on and sharpen the image using what I know of his standards and techniques. I’ve documented those unfinished areas below, as a “checklist” of what I propose to add, bringing the work to completion:

Having seen a number of John’s paintings “in progress” and then comparing them to the finished works, much of the magic came from his choice of emphasis, often added late in the process. This usually came in the form of a dramatic lighting effect, a burst of sunshine, or moonlight, or illumination from a lamppost or other man-made source. This is probably the most obvious element missing in the Brooklyn Bridge painting. He had yet to decide exactly where and how to achieve that ‘magic.’ Given that, and based on the direction of the sun he’s established as determined by the cast shadows in the foreground, I’m going to bet he would have strongly illuminated the hull of the right-hand most schooner at the dock, and so too will I. Below, I have included several examples of his earlier works to demonstrate this effect — pure Stobart genius:

Next Chapter 5: Starting the Painting Process (next post)

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