Thursday, 25 October 2012

Memory, Time, and Place

Memory, Time and Place
24" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

This is for sale - contact me for price if interested.
The visual reference for this painting was a photo I took in British Columbia a few years ago. It's a very ordinary view of some trees along a road, shot from the car window.

The challenge was to paint something 'atmospheric', using only the basic layout of the landscape elements in the photo. I started by roughing in the shapes of the land, trees and road, painting quickly using a big brush and lots of paint. 

Because I wanted to establish the values at the start, I decided to use only coloured grays, i.e. black and white mixtures, with a little purple, blue, and yellow thrown in to jazz them up. 

As I was still in the joyful 'play' stage, I added some pastel lines for emphasis. And as often happens,  I really liked what had happened on the canvas in a very short time - particularly the strong, uninhibited graphic quality, sense of spontaneity and palette - but it also did not feel like a finished painting.

I have often experienced this situation and recalled a recent post-letter  (Sept. 4/2012 - 'Flushing the Rolodex') from Robert Genn that was all about great painting starts and why or how they lose their initial energy because of noodling. Robert wrote:

"How many times have we watched our first courageous strokes deteriorate into a cluttered mess that looks like the work of fussy ne'er-do-wells. This happens for several reasons and they're mostly psychological. You can go a long way toward fixing the problem by first lying down on your couch. 

You need to know that when you begin you're generally in "big-brush-layout" mode. Feeling yourself in the safe zone of "just starting," your painterly confidence temporarily triumphs over your natural human tendency to refine. 

In short order, all of this changes. When you see your start is not bad, a sort of guilt kicks in and tells you it can't be all that easy. This is when you start to compulsively add material, that is, you begin to give too much."

Great advice, as always. I tried to follow it and though the painting changed, I think it evolved appropriately. It now feels finished, and hopefully not overworked. I have to say that I (still) love the composition and the colours - together evoking a very restful and contemplative scene, that does exist, but is also a memory of another time and place.


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