Lessons from The Farnsworth

Last week, we went to Maine to see the rocky coast, which we certainly did.

As advertised: rocky.

As advertised: rocky.

We had no real itinerary, but one thing that was on our list was the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, which serves as the center of all things Wyeth: N.C., Andrew, and Jamie. They also have a good collection of other American artists as well.

Today we’re going to look at three of Jamie’s paintings so that we can STEAL FROM THE BEST.


This is Connemara (1967) and is part of an exhibit of portraits of Jamie’s wife Phyllis, who died in January of this year. (Jamie is still very much alive.) She was an avid horsewoman; her horse Union Rags won the Belmont in 2012. Despite being disabled in a car accident in her 20s, she maintained an active lifestyle and is depicted here driving a team of her Connemara ponies.

The thing that is of interest here is the viewer’s perspective. We are behind and slightly above Phyllis, but not directly behind her. Indeed, she is turning away from us as we watch, guiding the horses to the right as the road veers away into the woods. STEAL: Try looking at your subject not straight on.


In Point Lookout Farmlife (2005), Jamie has painted a kind of medieval tapestry of all the animals that he and Phyllis collected at their farm. She is on the right on her motorized scooter, zipping along with her little dog. The animals are strewn haphazardly across the canvas; some don’t even fit in the frame. (Look at the white horse in front of Phyllis; would you ever paint a subject that crowded against the edge like that?) STEAL: Screw perspective. Go for energy and structure. Allow your painting to burst beyond the frame.

I forgot to record the name of this one:


It’s hard to see what I saw in the gallery—this is part of a full exhibit of Jamie’s paintings in the Wyeth Center, part of the Farnsworth complex—but look at the strong diagonals in this painting formed by the streams of sunlight. And then…


…down at the bottom of those diagonals, in the middle of the gray-brown granite rocks, there’s that one blue-black rock. Without your even perceiving it, Jamie has anchored all that motion. I can imagine his GESTALT here, realizing that he needed a focal point and then choosing the different color combo to create it. STEAL: Does your painting have a place for the viewer’s eye to stop? Does it need one? Where should it be?

Next: STEALING encrustation.