DVD Review- Zbukvic's "Atmosphere and Mood"

This Zbukvic DVD is quite different from the recently reviewed Castagnet DVDs.  It runs only 60 minutes long, and he does fewer paintings (3 in total), and perhaps spends a few minutes more on each one (17 or so?), with a small section in his studio on his materials, as well as a 5 minute stint where he does a quick watercolor/gouache sketch.  Here’s the paintings-

-looking back at, I believe, Melbourne, over the water


-looking at the Melbourne skyline form a bridge


-a rough sketch in Venice,


Where, by the way, he uses a Winsor and Newton’s Watercolor Field Palette, which is a pretty cool little kit.  You can see it up close here-

-and, finally, a water scene in Venice

In general, compared to the Alvaro videos I’ve been watching, Zbukvic’s work is more detailed and realistic, and that comes through in the video.  He seems more interested in exploring/ paying heed to the details of what’s in front of him, even when he veers away from it, whereas Alvaro seems much more interested in evoking the feeling of the place with gestural brush strokes.  I’m sure they’re both aiming for the same end point (commitment to what is “real” and “true” about the location), but are coming at it from slightly different perspectives.  You can decide which you prefer; I love them both.  Zbukvic’s colors are often less saturated, as he pushes the use of his greys a great deal.  The same goes for his use of tone—it is far more natural in range, whereas Alvaro’s paintings have a tendency to go “dark” much faster.  Zbukvic’s paintings tend to have a full range of perhaps more realistically “bright” values, where he reserves his darkest darks for far smaller applications that Alvaro would.

Perhaps as a subtle expression of all of that, it seems to me that the camera cuts much more frequently to the actual scenes Zbukvic is painting than I think it does for Alvaro.  For Alvaro’s DVDs, there is a great deal more focus on his palette, the mixing of colors, and the wetness of his brush- what I call “technique”.  There’s some of that for this DVD too, of course—Zbukvic even goes over his palette and what not—

but he doesn’t spend much time talking about the specifics of which color he picks or how it’s applied.  As he himself says more than once, he’s not really interested in different pigments and colors.  Instead, he tends to just think of them all as basically warmer or cooler hues.  This was interesting to me, particularly after everything I’d just written up about Alvaro’s use of opaque pigments done wet-into-wet in my review of “The Passionate Painter in Antwerp”.  A lot of this stems, IMO, from the fact that each commonly uses a different kind of “plan of attack” for their painting process.

As I see it, Zbukvic tends to paint what I call “geographically”, whereas Alvaro uses wet-into-wet layers aggressively.  (edit- 10/15- having recently taken a workshop with Joseph, I can see that, IMO, although he definitely often does his first wash top to bottom, like Alvaro, for subjects that have more complex shapes, he does still build the shapes "geographically" much more often that I've seen Alvaro do). This difference in their approaches has a variety of ramifications, one of which is pigments. By “geographically”, I mean that Zbukvic often paints different objects/ shapes in sequence, focusing on their hue and value separately, each one after the other.  Compared to Alvaro, he spends a lot more time cutting edges, and then going back in later and painting the adjacent object.  You can see this at work most strongly in the Venice painting, but it’s there with the boats in the first painting as well.  Whereas the opacity of Alvaro’s pigments is important (which I go over in this blog post), comparatively, it doesn’t play much into Zbukvic’s paintings in the video because of his “geographical” plan of attack.

If you’ve seen Alvaro paint, or have watched his DVDs at all, I thought it very instructive to compare how the two of them approach similar subjects differently- not only because one is looser and one is more representative, but also because you can begin to see how their different decision-making processes have a variety of other “ripple effects” (such as pigment choice!).

Beyond all of that (or perhaps in direct relation to it?), Zbukvic tends to talk a lot about broader subjects, like composition and simplifying the subject, the importance of sketches, etc.  “Indicate, don’t state,” he says in the video. He also talks about the different phases of the painting as he does them, and it’s very reminiscent of his book.  In many of the paintings, he brings up, for example, the “jewelry” phase towards the end, as he puts in those last bits of detail that make his paintings shine.  In truth, if you’ve read his book, or gone over my blog post “Cliff Notes” on his book, you can see a lot of the pedagogy repeat in his videos, which is helpful.  The video is well worth watching, although his other, longer, videos (which I’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks) are also excellent.