Monday, May 30, 2011

Variations on a Theme, Part Four

So, I really should have titled this one "The Prequel" because here is the original image that inspired the other smaller ones.  All of the paintings in this series are acrylic on board, and this one is approximately 24" x 24", whereas the other paintings based on this one are only 12" x 12".

I was able to go this week and photograph this painting, and I enjoyed looking at it again for several reasons.  First, I used a purple under-painting on this one instead of my preferred reddish orange, and I can't remember exactly the reason for doing that other than just experimenting to see what would happen.  You can see the purple under-painting at the bottom within the grassy area.  Second, I love the little details in this piece like the the small appearance of the road in the distance that picks back up and leads out toward the mountains, the tree in the mid-ground with the shaded trunk and the highlights around it, the blue of the mountains that gives that punch of color the painting needed, and the scumbled highlights over the textured gesso in the distant fields. 

One of the reasons I switched to the smaller composition within the painting was the strong diagonal that cuts the painting in half in the foreground.   True, it is what I saw that day (this was painted on site, though with artistic license in varying the shadow and color in places to accentuate certain aspects of the landscape), but when all was said and done, the diagonal created more tension in the painting than I originally wanted.  So, I zeroed in on the middle portion of the painting, which took the strength away from the tense diagonal and gave the composition a more relaxed feel.  In doing this, the focal point of the blue mountains was taken away from the important "top-third" portion of the composition and the horizon instead was placed in the middle of the painting.  This also contributed to the more casual or restful feel of the composition, but then also required other aspects to be included in the newer paintings to create visual focal points to keep the eye moving through the paintings so they wouldn't become too dull. 

Here is the portion of the painting that inspired the smaller panels.  Looking at it takes me back to that day when it was painted--hot, humid, fighting bees and other pesky flying insects, and working and reworking the foreground and never really being satisfied with it. 

I enjoy both aspects of landscape painting--I enjoy being out in the field, working straight from nature itself, learning and relearning all the little nuances of what I'm seeing and experiencing all around me, but then I also love to take all of that in and then interpret it in different ways in the studio-- as I mentioned in a previous post, to simply create a personal response to my experience with the landscape.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Variations on a Theme, Part Three

If you have ever taken a moonlit stroll when the moon was full and the sky was clear, then you know the feelings that came along with this painting.  Having painted a lighter, more nostalgic version, then a darker, more turbulent version, here I wanted to paint the calm serenity of a night basking in the glow of a full moon, where the landscape is lit up almost like day, and the breeze gently stirs the leaves like secrets being whispered among the dark forms of the trees.  

I love walking at night--the fresh, cool night air waking the senses as the crickets go on with their rhythmic call and response chirping through the fields and the woods, the vastness of the starlit sky overhead stealing the show from the shadowed landscape beneath.  This makes me want to paint more night scenes.

The tree in the upper left corner was used again in this composition to help balance and temper the focus of the moon and the blue of the sky, as well as to aid the eye in moving through the painting.   Here again you can see in the detail the use of the dry brushing to accentuate the linear movements of the gesso drawing underneath the painting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Variations on a Theme, Part Two

So, as you can see, the basic composition is still there, but with several differences as well.  I wanted a darker, moodier feel to this one, with the storm coming and the threat of rain for the dry fields.  This time I included the tree which was actually there. 

This painting is a good example of how I sometimes allow the under-painting to show through.  The road is basically the under-painting, but you can see it also in the trees and sky and some in the background.  I prefer a nice red/orange earthy tone for the landscapes.

Again there is the movement with the lines in the gesso, giving a windy effect to the darker scene, as shown in the detail. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Variations on a Theme, Part One

Awhile back, I painted a series of small square panels in acrylic depicting a favorite scene along a road in Floyd County.  The very first painting was actually larger, double in size, but I found that I was really only interested in the center composition, so I took that basic composition and painted several variations both in lighting and color to play around with the possibilities.  Since I don't have the image of the first painting that inspired these smaller ones yet, I thought I'd go ahead and share these and hopefully later I will be able to show that first composition.

Although the first painting was completed on site, these smaller paintings were created in the studio.  Since I had the basic composition in place as the bones of each piece, I decided to paint more from my impressions of having seen this view in various times and lighting--to give more of my response to the memory of the landscape than just a record of the landscape itself.  

Here I was looking for a very warm, nostalgic feel to the scenery.  I call this my happy little painting.  Though it may be difficult to tell from this photo, the surface of the painting is highly textured.   Sometimes I will take charcoal, or sometimes even just a pencil, brush handle, or small stick, and draw in the gesso while it is still wet.  Since I like at least four layers of gesso, I would brush on the first two thinly, then the next two (or more) rather liberally, so as to allow for the ridges and designs to be felt when the gesso dried.  During the actual painting process, I would do quite a bit of layered dry brushing over these ridges to give more of a sense of movement to the landscape, to give more interest to the surface rather than just the image.

This detail shows the texture a little better.  I don't always use this approach, but with a landscape I do enjoy a certain sense of energy to the painting, because when you stand out in a field or near a stream or study a tree, there is always the sense of life surrounding you.  Sometimes I will try to portray this movement through a highly gestural under-painting that shows through in many nooks and crannies in the final piece, sometimes it's through the brushstrokes themselves, sometimes both and then some. Why make dead paintings of living scenes?  Why not try to add or capture some sense of the movement and wonder you feel when you are actually there?  I'm not always successful with this, but hey, it's painting, it's supposed to be fun, creative and playful.