All posts by Judith Reeve

Multum in Parvo

Cloud Study, John Constable
Cloud Study, John Constable

Multum in Parvo is a Latin phrase which literally means, ‘much in little’. But what it really implies is a richness that speaks beyond and outside of an objects’ present confines. ‘There is more than meets the eye’. Phrases like these spark the imagination because the phrase itself is a  condensed expression that speaks of endless possibilities, inviting the listener to satisfy his curiosity by seeking more. I see multum in parvo as an invitation to a voyage, taking Baudelaire’s title from his poem. Like his poem, we are enticed into a personal dream of foreign voyages, of riches found and of creative engagement that spans two worlds, one that is conscious and one that remains on the shadowy edge of consciousness, wrapping us in deep emotions.

All poetry falls within multum in parvo and so does painting. In painting one can never express fully all that there is to say or feel. A painting just invites us to seek more, to look again. The medium of painting acts as the portico, the threshold one passes through, into a world one recognizes as their own yet is unable  to fully possess. A painting secretly whispers those things one cannot put into words, things too elusive and fleeting to be shaped into thought. Yet they are spaces of profound emotion and subtle insight.

I like to think of the pochade as a multum in parvo, par excellence. A pochade, a small, quick painting,  acts as window into a world where one can only see but a part, yet one knows intuitively that there is more. I love Constable’s small studies of clouds. He did hundreds of these. There is an illusion of an expansive space expressed in the movement of the wind and cloud formations. There is a vastness here that catches one by surprise. The frame cannot hold all this immensity in.

Multum in parvo also expresses a kind of ‘enchantment’ found in small objects almost like a miniature. In Medieval manuscripts, artists would paint small, beautiful images hidden between the pages. I can imagine how one felt that while they were reading a text, they would suddenly turn a page and come upon a beautiful window, a portal between their own world and the one they wished to have magnified within them. There would be a shock, a sudden awareness of grandeur and  immensity. I like to think of a pochade as these jewel like spaces that seek one’s attention away from the everyday particulars and embark on a journey to seek more.

I invite you to view my small pochades in my current show, Songs of Experience.

To the New Collector: Notes from an Artist

zA Beautiful Morning
A Beautiful Morning

Most of the people that buy my work are beginning collectors mainly because my work sells in the middle range, is affordable and of high quality. This is my first advice to collectors: make sure that the painting that you feel inspired to buy is well made fulfilling the requirements of permanence. The foundation of all artwork should be quality: oil primed linen for oil paintings, acrylic primed linen for acrylics, archival paper for prints, drawings, watercolors and pastels. The paints and inks should be light fast and permanent. Although pastels are permanent, they are not light fast and should be protected under UV glass.

As a collector, you should inquire with the gallery or the artist the materials that were used to create the piece. Don’t take it for granted that the artist has used the best because they are in a gallery. I once went to a beautiful gallery on the Cape and I was intrigued by this one artists’ work in oils. I asked the manager if I could look at the back of the panel. She gave me permission and to my surprise it was painted on the cheapest possible foundation of acrylic canvas on cardboard. Now this artist was very popular and was doing well. Why should she have used such cheap materials? As a collector, I would not have purchased this piece or any of her work because it will quickly deteriorate. So quality of the pigments in the oils is essential as well as the foundation on which it is painted. Sometimes a sealing varnish is important, but the look of the finished image is the standard. If a gloss finish is important, then a coating of Damar Varnish or Archival Synthetic Varnish is required. But this may not be necessary as some techniques add the medium, which may have varnish in it, throughout the painting process and therefore the painting surface will be hard without a varnish.

When I have spoken to my collectors, they each have expressed a particular interest as to subject matter as the main reason for their type of collection. One of my collectors has purchased over 25 paintings of small pochades. He is interested in these lively, expressive presentations of a moment in time. This is his real love. As a new collector, begin by choosing what you really love. Begin with smaller works at first, refining your collection, and then move onto more substantial images as your aesthetic for that type of work grows.

Another type of collector is one that takes a keen interest in the artist themselves, taking classes with them, attending the artists openings, corresponding and really getting to know the individual. Some of these collectors enjoy purchasing demonstration pieces that amplify the artists technique and spirit without the finish. These are records of the artists creative process left unresolved and in many ways reveal a raw form of that energy.

Sometimes collectors will concentrate on a specific locale previously inhabited and painted extensively by artists such as Monhegan Island Maine or Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One can also choose a school of painting such as the Lyme Impressionists of Connecticut.  Or one that I particularly like is the art of collecting self-portraits of the artists themselves. It gives one such insight into the creators of imaginative works. Many times the artist will use the vehicle of the self-portrait to explore new ideas or experimental techniques.

One can also invest in a series. Many artists work in series where they explore a certain subject repeatedly, allowing the image to fully evolve until the artist has manifested visually a fullness of expression. I work like this myself and find it really satisfying if the collector can be carried along as I was by the intuitive thrust of an image. I once had a collector purchase a series of river scenes titled, Glimpses, where I explored the idea of almost quietly and secretly coming upon a beautiful display of light and rocks in  the river. One had to peer through tree boughs attempting to get a better look and the images appeared more like a vision rather than a landscape of a specific locale. I built up the larger images from my pochades, attempting to get that immediacy of the moment as well as the spontaneous handling of the paint and color. All these images held together as a singular and unified vision.

This may give you, as a collector, a place to start. Remember to buy what you love and trust your intuition. While you needs to know what you buy is of the highest quality, more importantly, you need to feel an emotional connection to the piece. That is the only way that the artist’s intent can manifest itself. The image takes on a life of its own beyond the confines of the creator. It travels out into the world to have efficacy and find its place among those who are actively engaged in a search for meaning.

Do visit my current show : Songs of Experience

The Art of the Pochade, Color and Immediacy


The beginning of November is a period of time when I paint mostly pochades. The leaves have just fallen from the trees and the weather is fickle – rain one day , sun the next. These circumstances make it difficult to begin a larger piece. But these smaller pieces also give me an opportunity to do what I love best, experiment. I have been painting pochades since I attended the Lyme Academy. In fact, my first 6″ X 8″ box was made by an artist friend of mine and it is still the one I primarily use.

What I love about painting in the smaller format is it allows one to block-in the composition quickly and  see the whole easily, as an entire unit. When one blocks-in a larger image, it takes time, and your mind needs to hold onto the memory of that most evocative moment, the reason why you found this image exciting and dynamic. But the pochade is like taking that same intense moment and getting it on the canvas before its dynamic immediacy is lost. The moment is still vitally alive in the very application of the paint. It also gives one the opportunity to try to capture more elusive things.

Last week we had a really heavy frost in the early morning followed by a warm sun rising in the east. I went out to paint just above Fremont Center where there is a cornfield to the west. One can see the mountains in the distance and a copse of trees at the far edge of the field. When I arrived, I set up quickly and got to work. I was totally freezing but I knew my window of opportunity to paint the frost would be brief. The far trees were beautiful in the orange-yellow rays of the sun and the foreground was a beautiful cool blue/ blue-green frost. As I sat there, the sun began to travel toward me along the field and I could hear the frost sizzling up as it approached. Just amazing! 20 minutes later, it was all gone. This is an example of really living in that dynamic flow between execution and the elusive moment.

I feel the pochade as an art form, can stand on its own for this very reason. I have found from experience that I am more apt to apply color and brush stroke more freely, almost unconsciously. There is no time to think as I apply the paint. I need to depend on my intuitive feeling for color and form. I like to surprise myself and allow these experiments to stand on their own as statements of color and brevity.

In fact, I have even considering as of late, to title them differently. Let them stand, not as a rendering of a specific place, even though they are, but allow the mind of the viewer to venture into them in a new way.  This is something Whistler did with his titles like Nocturne in Gray and Blue. But I was thinking more in terms of Walt Whitman who composed his poetry like a ballad or song. I also liked the fact that in French songe is a word for a song but also a kind of reverie or dream. And that is how I would like the pochades to stand. As a statement on the edge of being spoken and dreamed simultaneously.

On November 20th I am opening a holiday exhibit of pochade paintings only here on Attentive Equations. I would like you to share in these brief but dynamic moments of experience and joy. Please invite friends and family through social media to see and hear these ‘songes’.

Visit my show Songs of Experience.

Related Posts with Thumbnails