Copyright 2009, Jan Blencowe, Connecticut, USA
Autumn Glory, 24x30, acrylic on linen
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Last week I posted progress photos of this large 24x30 landscape I was working on. When I thought it was finished I posted it here on the blog. I talked about how I had gotten stuck on the water and the difficult time I had getting it just right.
As it turns out that painting nagged at me all week. I knew something was wrong and I actually knew what it was, but I just didn't want to face the re-working process.
My intention for the painting was to create a large, dramatic sunset painting that would also evoke feelings of serenity. I planned to accomplish that by having a powerfully lit sunset sky, a long sweeping waterway to draw the viewer into the light, and to keep the landforms simplified in shape and filled with texture to suggest grasses but free from laborious detail. I also planned to keep values undercontrol with all the light values concentrated near the source of the light, the setting sun. The effect was meant to be bold and uncluttered.
Here's the underpainting I began with:
I liked what was happening in the drawing and underpainting. The foreground land mass didn't bother me at this stage, but that's what ended up being the problem.
Now here's the first version of the finished painting:
In the first finished version above, the foreground land mass lacks the texture that the underpainting had. However that was only a minor problem compared to the fact that the shape of the land acts as a giant pointer right out of the painting, rather than helping to direct the viewer's eye to the center of interest, the light and color of the sunset. Also the very simplified , smooth shape of the land is too fast, meaning that it propells the viewer's eye along a straight line much too quickly for them to linger and enjoy the painting.
Here is the way I fixed those problems. I widened the land in the lower right hand corner so it didn't shoot right out of the corner. It is now better anchored to the bottom of the painting creating a better sensation of stability in the foreground. I broke up the straight edge of the land with irregular clumps of grasses to slow down the movement. Finally, I bent the end of the land mass so it points into the painting instead of leading the eye in an upward diagnol and out of the painting.
Here's the final version of the painting once again: (Oh I should mention that I've made a few more tweaks since I took this photo. I added a little deeper violet to the sky on the right to really pop the yellow and I strengthened some of the darks on the near side of the new clumps of grasses in the foreground. Both changes are fairly minor but do make a difference.)
The question remains though regarding why I needed to make so many changes with this painting. I think a couple of things were in play. First, I did have a lot of frustration with the water and spent quite a few hours on it before I was satisfied with it. Even though I didn't tackle the foreground land until the next day I think I was still exhausted from the previous day's painting session and just wanted to get the painting finished. The moral here: haste makes waste. I probably should have done some watercolors for a few days or just taken a break altogether and then gone back fresh to finish the painting. The other thing is that I felt tied to the underpainting and stuck to it even when I began to have misgivings about the way the foreground was designed, probably because I was tired and was rushing to finish the painting. Planning is great but as Picasso said you have to follow the paint!
I've begun a new 20x30 and I'm experiment with some new painting techniques. It's been a rocky beginning, but I've learned my lesson, I'm not going to rush it! I'm going ton take Picasso's advice and follow the paint, take my time and let the painting develop. So it might be a week or so until I'm ready to post it. In the mean time I have some sketches to post and I'll be working on a few watercolors too.