Thursday, January 26, 2017

Reaching for the Light

"When Trees Rest" watercolor

Reaching for the Light

In my last post I referenced the idea of chasing the light as the hours of daylight grow longer. I had been working with a series of winter paintings in acrylic and watercolor. The two paintings in the last post were very different in approach: one with a dramatic winter lighting, the sun low in the sky but still lending enough light to bounce colors off the snow and cast long purpley-blue shadows. 

The second painting was more subdued with a pale winter sun and limited palette. It also made use of some abstract elements which teased our perception of foreground, middle ground, background.

In the third painting I had planned on a towering tree with bare branches against a powerful gray sky. But somehow "gray" never happened. 

I had sketched the tree on watercolor paper, and instead of pulling out the Payne's Gray, murky blues, and a little Raw Sienna, I filled my palette with bright cheerful colors and began dropping them onto a piece of crumpled tissue paper spread over my wet watercolor paper. I wasn't sure how much color would soak through the tissue paper but there was certainly enough to create the vibrant sky in the final painting. The crumpled tissue paper I had painted over, left a wonderful pattern of crinkly lines and blotchy spaces. The pattern and the push/pull of warm and cool colors created a sense of depth in the sky. The use of atmospheric perspective (branches reaching endlessly to the sky) re-inforced that concept.

I realized at some point that the tree and sky reminded me of the these words by Greta Crosby: "When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light, 
They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against 
dawns and sunsets".

And so instead of a painting of a tree against a dark overcast sky, we have a tree at rest. Not growing, but still reaching for the light against a glorious sky filled with hope for the coming Spring.

The Art of Winter

You can see all three of these paintings in The Art of Winter at the Thousand Islands Arts Center, in Clayton NY. The show opens February 3 and runs through March 17.

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