Saturday, March 16, 2013


Jeffrey T. Larson is an artist from Minnesota. His work is done in oil color representing rural landscapes, still life and human figures.

Looking through his online gallery, one painting caught my attention: Napa cabbage.

Like many of his paintings, Napa cabbage is crisply executed with exquisite attention to natural color. It has an eye-catching ox-blood band around the head of one of two  Chinese cabbages placed in a dish. The painting captures a sense of locality and presence in a way that I rarely see.

What I also experience  is the partially visible drawer knob pulling the balance of the picture sharply toward the bottom left. It feels as if  my hair is being pulled by an unscrupulous wrestler. This could be because the painting is not fully represented on the online gallery. It may also have been painted that way. Either way, the pull to the left is distinct.

To see if I could re-balance the painting, I re-framed it to exclude the drawer knob.

That did the trick. The painting gains its balance and the vertical lines on the desk also help point the eye to a single focal point which is the red band on the upright cabbage.

This is a delightful work and just needed a slight trim to make it a perfect painting for me.

Another example of his paintings is Gravel Road. A human figure pauses on a gravel road to attend to a mosquito bite or something on her leg. 

The purplish gravel intrigued me because it is counter-intuitive yet it looks very natural against the bright green surroundings.  I then realized that Larson was painting the color that results when your retina is exposed to adjacent bright  green and brown/yellow surfaces. This is an effect caused by an optical phenomenon called image burn-in. Click on this link and do the experiment to see what I mean.

As Larson was out having the bright green foliage burning on his retinas, the brown/yellow gravel on the road was perceived as reddish purple or even cyan. This painting is the result of a great deal of attention to perceived color. 

I played with the picture slightly to match my taste in balance and perspective. I added atmospherics to push the background further back and turned the girl around to help concentrate the painting's focal point in one place. I also softened the figure's shadow to reduce its visual weight.

You may have noticed the problem I am left with. The figure occupies the dead center of the painting.

One way to correct this would be to trim the left side of the picture by a little over an inch. The result, as you can see, is not too bad.

The figure is now off-centered which is more pleasing to the eye. The two partial bushes on either side are now mirroring each other which seems a bit contrived but I like the way it looks.

Look at this other landscape by Larson. This painting, Blue Marsh, puts him squarely in the big leagues.

His use of color is truly amazing. In this painting, the painter shows himself to be one of the most sophisticated color interpreters I have ever come across.

The tangle of reeds descending into the water at the bottom right is breathtaking. Mortal painters will look at that one section of work in awe. 

The rest of the painting , dominated by the reflective surface of marsh water, is so well rendered that the painting technique disappears leaving only a transcendental encounter with a natural scene. 

Jeffrey T. Larson is a gifted craftsman of color and his treatment of surfaces is almost unnaturally good.

His layouts don't always match my admittedly narrow tastes but I enjoy his work immensely. 

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