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. 

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