San Francisco artist George Post may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days but I have great appreciation for his work. He had the ability to make fresh simple statements with his brush while capturing the spirit of the California. While deceptively simple, his watercolors are masterfully composed and spontaneously painted with strong patterns of light, shadow and color that strike a mood. I also like the his subject matter which includes dockyards, streets, small towns and the hills in and around San Francisco.
Post was a skilled watercolorist and mostly self-taught. He worked on site and did very little or no preparatory work. He typically finished a painting in 1 -2 hours and relied on first impressions to guide his efforts. Post often used a large flat brush to establish the big shapes and bold lines over simple washes that made his work appear effortless and spontaneous.
BEGINNINGS & CONNECTIONS
George Post was born in Oakland, California and felt a profound connection to the land. He also traveled abroad but his roots solidly in the West. A lean and angular man, he decided on watercolor as his primary painting medium because it was easy to set up and paint on location. With supplies easily fitting into a small portable pack he would hike up and down the many hills of SanFrancisco finding subjects to paint. Colleague and painter Rex Brandt said that in the 42 years he had known Post he’d never seen him work in the studio once. Post developed a unique style that was grounded in modernism and traditional watercolor. He's considered part of the California School of Watercolor and exhibited in Bay Area galleries and museums, as well as nationally.
“ Painting should be quickly and easily tied together and accented with the individual shorthand symbols of the artist’s own particular calligraphy.” GP
I have great interest in work that is painterly and is a big reason I’m attracted to GP’s work. While calligraphy is known as the art of decorative handwriting I also view it as another way to describe the painterly or mark-making qualities of a painting. Post’s brushwork stops and starts with the precise control of a master draftsman. He also worked on a type of watercolor paper that was thin and hard to erase so I imagine he worked in a very thoughtful and deliberate manner before striking with his brush. One observer summed it up this way: “ Each brushstroke is well planned but spontaneously applied. “ He also did not mind tilting a building here or there in service of a more dynamic composition. Simple, direct, fresh and lovely color relationships also make his paintings, based on realism, poetic.
“ I think that first split second reaction, that first wonderful visual image, is the thing one must try to project on paper; not the very literal and painstaking eyeful. “ GP
George Post was an an artist who relied on first impressions to guide his process and execution of the painting. He was known to occasionally set up with his back to the subject and turn around only occasionally to confirm his first impression. In GP’s own words, the following is a description of his technical procedure:
“ First I consider the dimensions of the blank sheet of watercolor paper so that the subject will be scaled in proportion to the whole. There should be a large enough area to play against a small one, and all of the so-called objects of the subject matter should form interesting negative areas. The whole should form an interlocking pattern attention to maintain movement and rhythm unbolt the linear planes and in depth. Shapes should also relate to each other through the dark,, and light arrangements and buy cool against warm color and/ or clear and bright color complemented by neutral grade tones. Watercolor, however, is first and always a series of strong beautiful washes, clear and transparent, superimposed in and out, under and on top of each other. The painting should be quickly and easily tied together an accented with the individual shorthand symbols of the artist’s own particular calligraphy. “
Throughout his career George Post painted expansive cityscape views that captured the charm and mood of San Francisco and surrounding areas. His ability to eliminate large amounts of detail and focus on capturing the essentials of a scene brought him acclaim from fellow artists, critics and the general public. His love of painting outdoors shows through in his work. There is charm and visual poetry in his work that I find inspiring and refreshing.
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George Post by Gorden McClelland
California Watercolor by Gorden McClelland