Thoughts on Narrative Art ~ Michael Fitzpatrick & Willow Bader

Ballerinas_Blue_30x40_ oil on linen_9000Michael Fitzpatrick is one of the most talented figure painters of our day. Combining stunning realism with beautiful abstraction, he elevates figurative art to the highest level. His paintings are, in the purest form, elegant simplicity.
Bringing his paintings to life with color and vibrancy, he often paints ballerinas “because they are colorful, they tell a story, and using more than one figure works well. Ballerinas usually have attractive bodies, and it is possible to show figures in motion in a believable way. Plus they are romantic.”


Weaving narrative into his art “just seems natural [for me] to try to tell a story with a painting. An idea will pop into my mind and I just go with it, trying to add details that will flesh out the story. For example with the “Bonnie and Clyde” painting, putting stuff in like the flask in the stocking, or the male wearing a t-shirt and suspenders. In the ballerina pieces I bought costumes and had hair dressers at the shoot.”

We are delighted to introduce renowned artist Willow Bader to Cole Gallery – our first ever encaustic artist! On bringing the element of the narrative into her work, Bader said:

“I think a painting with a narrative has an added depth and richness, it becomes more than a painting. The hinged pieces I create are an exceptional good opportunity to create narrative- two to five paintings hinged together tell a larger story. I add to the narrative of my pieces with the titles of my work too. I like to invite and engage the mind of the viewer to enter into the painting, like how the first line of a good story pulls the reader in.”

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Willow’s Jazz & Orchestra paintings bring a unique perspective of the musicians and the music to the viewer, inviting the viewer to pause for a moment and indulge in a personal connection with the painting.

“It all started when one of the members of the board of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra approached me and asked if I had ever painted jazz musicians. At the time I had not. Very soon I found myself back and side stage at a Seattle Repertory Jazz performance taking photos of the musicians and listing to them play. It really excited my creativity- these paintings are from that evening.
When the paintings were complete I invited the orchestra members to my studio to see what they had inspired.”
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“The Art of the Narrative” opens on Thursday, April 21, from 5-8pm with a champagne and dessert reception. To see the entire show online, visit: our website.

Fine Art As Narrative ~ Susan Diehl

I was asked to write a little something about fine art as narrative for the show coming up at the Cole Gallery in Edmonds WA. First, what makes something art? One could say that art is unity…a balance of all the elements between chaos and boring. Another word for art is form. Art with a SDiehl_Mid Day Shade_9x12_oil_900 300 DPInarrative ‘tells a story’. Art without a narrative – in other words, paintings that exist without subject matter (pure abstract art) – relies entirely on form to make its statement.

Form is the ‘stuff’ in art that is not subject matter such as color, texture, value, line, edges etc. Form is the ‘stuff’ that creates beauty. Once an artist puts representational symbols or subject matter into their work one could say the artist has directed the viewer to an easier ‘way’ in to the painting leading the viewer to a conversation within his /her own mind, thus eliciting an emotion. This viewer response is a considerable and perhaps ultimate goal of the artist. Subject matter in a painting is to a painting the same as the lyric is to the music.

Now on to the narrative painting. Sometimes art is hard to talk about as it is visual communication. But let’s imagine a series of paintings. The first one is a large yellow canvas. The second is a landscape. The third is a still life with flowers. Yet another is a city street with cars and pedestrians. Now imagine one that has a little more for the viewer to use to step in to the paintinSDiehl_Warmth_9x12_oil900_300 DPIg, for example a little girl clutching a favorite stuffed animal.  That subject matter is giving a little more direction ‘in’ to the paintings meaning than, say, a pure landscape, although the goal of any painting is to elicit emotion. Now lets imagine a painting that has a little more narrative, or visual story – a man on a boat catching a fish and having a very happy look on his face while his hungry looking wife and kids look on. That is getting more toward a story line with less left up to the viewers own imagination; it is about a man happy to feed his family. Without the family and the happy look on the fisherman’s face, the painting would be less narrative. Imagine a man in a far away boat fishing at sunrise?  There is a lot more the viewer could imagine or make up on their own about how the painting should make them feel.

So when is a painting a narrative painting verses an illustration?  I think a good answer to that is that a painting is an illustration when the narrative is more important than the form of the painting. Norman Rockwell did paintings that were highly narrative, but when seen in person the form is incredible art.
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Narrative is on a sliding scale. One end of the scale is non objective, while the other end tells more of a story or is illustrative. In creating a narrative in painting, the artist is limited in some respects. We do not have ‘time’ as movies and books do. We do not have ‘sequencing’ as a carton strip might have, using many illustrations to tell the story. Our story is an image of one moment in time that has to keep the viewer engaged for the lifetime the patron owns the painting.

This show is themed narrative painting. Each viewer will enter into their own world of emotions reacting to the various paintings on the walls. You, the viewer will come to your own story within each painting. The artist is no longer present or needed. Once the painting is hung the artists work is finished…now it is up to you, the viewer, and your thoughts!


~ Susan Diehl

Artists On Demand: Susan Diehl

This weeks video was specially made by oil painter Susan Diehl for our April show, the “Art of the Narrative”. Susan articulately discusses the relationship of the artist and the painting to the viewer, and how narrative plays a key role in that conversation.

Also, don’t miss an in-depth look at Susan Diehl’s thoughts on narrative art in a follow up essay to be posted later this week!

The “Art of the Narrative” will open on April 21 with a champagne reception from 5-8pm and will be up until May 16. To see more works in this show, visit our website.

Stay tuned for more Artists On Demand videos posted weekly! You can also find our videos (and more!) on these platforms: | | |

Artists On Demand: Lori Twiggs

Congratulations are in order! Two beautiful and luscious paintings by Lori Twiggs have found new homes, ‘Winter Blush’ and ‘Tulips and Cherries’! We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to post a video of her showing the process of how she created ‘Tulips and Cherries’. Painting in the chiaroscuro style, Lori uses “bold contrasts between light and dark as a concept for a composition. Paintings that are atmospheric with a focus on light and shadow express the mood, mystery and quietness” she is trying to achieve. To see more of her work, visit her artist page on our website.

Stay tuned for more Artists On Demand videos posted weekly! You can also find our videos (and more!) on these platforms: | | |

Artists On Demand: Kimberly Adams

Happy Spring! The flowers are blooming and the sun is shining again – finally! If you’ve ever been curious about how to paint beautiful and vibrant landscapes (or how to paint with your fingers!) now is the perfect time of year to learn! Watch oil painter Kimberly Adams demo her technique for painting a lovely lavender field.

If you want to learn from her in person, check out her upcoming workshop this June “Finger Painting Colorful Landscapes” 1 or 2 day workshop with Kimberly Adams. To see more of her work visit our website.

Stay tuned for more Artists On Demand videos posted weekly! You can also find our videos (and more!) on these platforms: | | |

Artists On Demand: Barbara Childs

Video two of our ongoing weekly series to showcase our artists talents, tips, and tricks! Featuring ceramicist Barbara Childs, this video is ‘a documentary following the life of Barb Childs- A stay at home mom and artist’ directed by her daughter, Annie Childs.

Artists On Demand

The first video in an ongoing weekly series, Cole Gallery is proud to share videos of their artists at work! If you don’t have time to make it to any of our live art demos, don’t fret! you can see our fabulous artists demo their creative process here, as well as learn their tips and tricks.

Our first video is from Acrylic and Oil painter Angela Bandurka titled ‘Creating Soft Edges with Acrylics’. From Angela, “Painting in acrylics is fast, colourful and rewarding. But it’s not without its challenges. The main one I get from folks is how hard it is to create soft edges and smooth gradations. I rarely add mediums to my paint, instead I like to use a dry brush technique. See this video for details!”

Stay tuned for more Artists On Demand videos posted weekly! You can also find our videos (and more!) on these platforms: | | |