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Emerson Everett Glass  
(American Impressionist, 1916 - 1987)

Commentary on the Series "Approaching Storm on a Grassy Knoll"
This is a comprehensive narrative on our observations regarding the artist's thought process and evolution of the idea,
from the original concept of the drawing to the finished paintings...

Drawing (8 X 11 Inches)

Concept Painting (10 X 14 Inches)

Final Painting (14 X 20 Inches)

1.    A great concept begins with a great drawing.  This one was carefully crafted, with attention paid to the location and sense of space.

2.    Vision expands, developing the concept of an approaching storm.  Both background and middleground clouds take on the dynamics of the storm.

  Final foreground details brings attention to the grassy knoll as the primary focus of the painting.  The overall drama is created by the use of light against dark, movement against solidity and colors against grays.

4.  Transition of the clouds ultimately sets the stage for a dramatic setting.  The atmosphere is complete... and although the overall feel of the painting is somewhat darker, the final effect is much more dramatic.

5.  The use of the old master technique, "chiaroscuro", is developed.  Chiaroscuro (Italian, literally "light-dark") was an artistic technique developed during the Renaissance, referring to the use of exaggerated light contrasts in order to heighten the illusion of space and drama.  The term is also used to describe monochromatic pictures created by using several different shades of the same color.

6.  The chiaroscuro effect is most evident in the development of clouds in the upper right, where lie the greatest contrasts in light and dark.  Then the darkest darks of the painting in the large tree and the darkest storm clouds are set against the lightest lights in the distant clouds to bring to conclusion the highest dramatic effects.

7.  C
hiaroscuro is also defined in the two paintings by the use of common but color filled grays in the clouds.

8.  In the progress of the concept, shapes are repeated throughout to unify the composition... shapes in the trees are repeated in the clouds.  The same shapes are echoed in the rocks and mountain forms.

9.  The strongest color is developed in the foreground, giving it the most obvious focus.  The sense of sunlight falling on the knoll and the heightened detail attract the eyes to the foreground, making it the real subject, being faithful to the original vision as defined in the drawing.

10.  The smaller trees in the foreground are not so contrasted with the clouds of the background, thereby placing them appropriately away from the main focus, the large tree.

11.  The color of the grays in the paintings are of special interest.  In the smaller version, the grays are cool (blues and violets), emphasizing the distance.  The grays are made warmer (pale reds and yellows) in the final version, emphasizing the color of the hidden sun and giving the overall work a more warm and earthy feel.

12.  The background mountains undergo a transformation of their own.  As the concept was developed, the mountains, which were pushed back in the drawing, were brought closer in the smaller version.  However, the artist obviously liked the distance better, so pushed the mountains further back in the final version.  Also, the profile of Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker are more precisely defined, to give them a sense of place.

13.  The overall movement of these works, as with most of the work of Emerson Glass, is from left to right.  An interesting but important aspect of the artist's work... movement usually being in the normal and natural pattern of western thought and reading.  We read from left to right and orient our maps from north to south.  These create a "expectation" of movement in our thinking.  If our orientation is naturally toward the north, then the normal prevailing winds coming from the west will read naturally as from the left toward the right.

14.  Interesting contrasts in textures are applied throughout the paintings.  Colors are applied more thickly in areas of focus, and more thinly in areas of support.  The trees, rocks and heightened clouds are painted with greater texture and application of paint than the grasses, distant mountains and lower clouds.  Also in contrast, the areas of focus, such as in the clouds, are further emphasized by the sharp and stark effects of the brightest clouds against the soft and almost non-existent shapes of rain.  This can be most easily seen in the upper right of the large painting, where the soft shapes of rain are placed near to the brightest clouds, allowing them to retain focus without competing emphasis.

15.  A form of acceleration is noted in the darkest clouds, moving from the upper left to the upper right.  The clouds seem to separate and accelerate from left to right, an effect created by the distance between them.  In addition, there are interesting contrasts created by the effects of lower clouds, rising from updrafts, placed against the higher clouds lowering,  typically affected by downdrafts.

16.  The proportions of all these works follows the "golden proportion", first discovered by Pythagoras in ancient Greece... the 1:4 and 1:6 ratios are commonly used in mathematics as the standard proportions found in nature.  Formulas have been developed to define the most natural and common shapes and pleasing forms in the natural world, and these have been paid attention to by artists throughout history.  The best work of Emerson Glass follows the proportion of 1:4, and both paintings in this series are of that proportion.

17.  Also in mathematics, the diagonals placed within a square or rectangle play a significant roll in focus and emphasis.  Any element of a composition, when placed on or near an imaginary line running diagonally from corner to corner, takes a place of importance in that composition.

18.  Also in mathematics, elements placed in the exact center of a composition create a sense of imbalance.  Horizons placed at the center of a painting are not pleasing to the eyes for this reason.  You will not find any works by Glass with the focus at the geometric center of the composition.

19.  The use of the three primary colors is most significant in the work of Glass, as well as all the impressionists.  The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow.  Their complementary colors are the secondary colors of green, orange and violet (or purple).  The human eyes literally demand that all three primary colors be present in an artwork.  Without the primaries, our eyes begin to get restless and unsatisfied.
 In addition, when any primary color is placed side by side with its complement, it establishes an interaction that heightens the effect of both, and creates a vibrancy that brings great excitement to the human eyes.  In these paintings, as with all the work of Glass, you will find these color relationships.  Even in the grays, you will find subtle warm colors placed in relationship with cool colors, softer primaries in relationship with their complements.  These all create a sense of vibrancy that keeps an artwork interesting, even after years of study.

20.  The use of aerial perspective is beautifully crafted in the paintings.  The lesser contrasts of cloud and land forms are used at the horizon, pushing them in the far distance where they naturally belong.

21.  Similar devices are used in the trees and other elements to create depth.  The crossing of tree limbs, the more neutral colors for the underlying parts of the trees push them back opposite the brighter and thicker paint of the topmost and forthcoming parts.

22.  Another device used to create greater depth of field is the juxtaposition of elements.  The placement of one element in front of another, or overlapping, gives each element its own sense of importance in the compositions.

23.  Emerson Glass always prepared his painting surfaces with layers of gesso first and a layer of honey-colored underpainting second.  This underpainting is often allowed to show through, unifying the painting overall and giving it a warm intonation and feel.  In the right places, the underpainting offers a mysterious glow as if a light was place behind and allowed to appear amongst other elements.

24.  The sense of "place" and drama in these works are achieved in the details of the blown down pines, movement in the various elements and the feel of vulnerability of the knoll.  The effects of the weather is evident in the bannering, bending and twisting of the trees, so frequently painted by Emerson Glass.  The artist sought the high ridges, the lonely knolls and darkness of storm and night as his places of refuge (see the artist's biography).  Looking at the artist's paintings, whether of storms or of peaceful early evenings, one finds a deep sense of biography and life philosophy.  These are the heritage and legacy left by E E Glass... more than just fine paintings... a sense of freedom created through overcoming a life of struggle and the meeting of opposing elements.  Sometimes bent, but never broken.  Often in adversity, but never in defeat.  The persistence of greatness through great challenges.  These are all the life of Emerson E. Glass.