Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Along Cottage Hill Road

I have often heard writers say of their work, "Well it seems like the piece just wrote itself". I have had that experience with a painting many times. The last time was just a few weeks ago. In early October I was traveling throughout the countryside of Northern New York with my husband. He had business in Canton and Watertown, and since I also had business in Watertown, and our final destination for the day was our camp,in the Indian River Lakes, I was along for the ride. And was it ever a stunning trip! The Fall foliage was at peak in the North Country. Trees were gorgeous shades of gold, orange and red accented by the dark green pines against a sky that varied in color from shades of light blue to heavy gray. The clouds were massive and many times opened up to a shower, which only made the colors more intense when the rain cleared and the sun came back out. So of course all I could think of was, I've got to paint...NOW. Unfortunately, I did not have my painting supplies at camp... aka Windy Hill Studio North. My painting had to wait, but my head was full of the images I had seen and I was itching to paint! On Sunday night, when I finally returned to my studio I immediately began work on a painting based on a photo taken a few years ago. The photo however was just a starting point. The intense colors and shapes that I had seen while driving through the countryside (now known as my North Country Road Odyssey)all made their way into the painting. The photo was cast aside, and the painting took over. Many of the details in the trees were eliminated. Too much clutter and detail takes away from the emotion of the painting. The figure in the foreground is my husband; the colors of his clothing were changed to create a more unified composition with the colors in the painting. The figure gives a sense of scale to the painting, but does not become the focal point. The red hat calls our attention to the figure, but we tend to see the figure as secondary to the surroundings. The painting was about 3/4 of the way done when I brought it to my Tuesday night painting class. I usually have at least two or three paintings that I am working on and use as demos for my class. One of the topics I was addressing that evening was Hans Hoffman's push/pull theory of colors seeming to create movement as they either came forward or receded. Warm colors come forward, cool colors recede. Fall foliage against a cool blue sky, on a crisp autumn day certainly provided a good visual for the push pull theory. But as I looked at the painting in its nearly finished state, it seemed to be missing something. It seemed too calm and too orderly to be a portrayal of all that I had seen and felt during my North Country Road Odyssey. There was something that I needed to add. I grabbed a palette knife and began adding slashes and blops (my word...not a real art term) of color. It worked! I needed texture and movement and the slashes of paint in intense warm colors provided that. After a few minutes of adding slashes and adjusting intensities of colors, I was done. And happy. This painting, along with four of my other landscapes, will be part of the North Country Art Council's Juried
Fall Show, Nov. 3rd to 17th. The exhibit will be held at Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown NY., and open 9am to 6pm daily.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hangin' With the Buoys, no.2

Hangin' with the Buoys, no. 2 is the acrylic version of a subject I have painted three times so far. And, I can probably paint them again and again because this little still life at the end of the lake never seems to change much from year to year. The first two paintings were done in watercolor, one from a distance and the other a close-up view very similar to this painting. In the watercolor version of Hangin' with the Buoys, much of the detail is left out and some subject matter such as the rocks and water are implied, rather than painted. My goal in that painting was to paint the path of light that flowed through the trees and over the buoys. In painting the watercolor, I often painted the negative space around the main subject matter, allowing the focal point to emerge in the unpainted or lightly washed areas. The acrylic painting has a completely different approach to the very same scene. Again, the path of light is important, but the emphasis is on the whole scene rather than just the buoys. And the shadows in this painting play a much more important role than they did in the watercolor. Our eyes are led to the shadows which create a strong contrast to the light colored buoys, and they emphasize the focal point. In this painting, trees, rocks and water are more clearly defined; we are more able to picture ourselves in this scene where more information has been given to us. The emphasis however, is on the buoys and they have been given more detail than the surrounding trees, rocks and water. The white buoys reflect so many of the colors in their surroundings. I have to admit, I loved adding the shadows and sun-dappled effect on the buoys, adding bits of yellow, magenta, blues and greens. Looking at this scene and especially concentrating on the large buoy, full of blue/purple shadows and subtle streaks of yellow, I feel like I am back at the lake, sitting in my kayak, watching the sun and water send bits of reflected light onto the shoreline. Sometimes we have a goal which we hope to achieve in a painting; sometimes the painting just takes on a life of it's own. I had planned a more impressionistic look for this painting, but somehow, the painting took over and a more realistic look emerged. Perhaps it is because I am painting this scene in Autumn, usually a time of reflection for me. As the summer weather dwindles down to a few warm days here and there and the chill of winter approaches, I need to hold onto the memories of the sun on my back, the splash of my paddle in the water, the loon calling in the distance and the ever present still life at the end of the lake.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Painting the Path of Light

Painting the Path of Light One of the things that attracts me most to watercolor is the so called "path of light" created by leaving spaces either unpainted or with minimal washes of color. In the painting Hangin' with the Buoys, I have created a sun dappled scene not so much by painting, but by leaving areas unpainted. Some subject matter, such as the rocks and water are implied, rather than articulated. The rocks and water have very little detail; a soft wash of color here and there. Because their detail has been minimized, we are drawn to the collection of buoys hanging from the trees, which is the focal point of the painting. In painting the buoys, I relied more on painting the trees and foliage around them (negative space) and letting the shapes of the buoys emerge from that space. I later added soft washes of color on the buoys to create form and shadows. When we first bought our camp in 2007, I saw this scene at the end of the lake and knew that eventually I would paint it. I have taken several photos over the last few years and it's always a challenge when you are sitting in a kayak. As soon as you get your kayak into the correct position for the best shot, you float away as you are retrieving the camera from the camera bag. It usually takes me several attempts to get it just right, but I enjoy the process! This is the second painting done from this scene. The first painting was also done in watercolor, but included a much broader expanse of space. I like the tight, close-up version here, where the subject matter becomes more important than the entire scene. The third version of this painting is in acrylic paint and I am currently using that to demonstrate techniques to my Tuesday night painting class. It is interesting how our choice of medium can determine the outcome of the painting. The acrylic painting has a completely different mood and will be the subject of the next post.