copyright 2009, Jan Blencowe
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Still working on this one. Tomorrow I tackle the last undeveloped area, lower left corner. The foreground is strewn with rocks and boulders. Rocks and boulders used to scare me, not climbing on them, painting them! lol! If you try to invent them they often end up looking like giant potatoes, and if you go out and try to paint them from life you realize how incredibly complex they are. It's not uncommon to end up with fragmented, chaotic rocks that often lack the solidity and strength of real rocks.
When painting them from life it is absolutely critical that you squint really hard to see a simplified version of all the complexity and get a clear handle on the value structure. It's not a bad idea to bring into the studio a few modest size rocks and arrange them in a natural way and sketch or paint them using 3 to 5 values. Once you get the values under control you can concentrate on texture and things like cracks,crevices, marbleing and moss. Rocks really do make a fascinating study.
The rocks in the painting above had to be invented in my imagination. Having painted my fair share of potato rocks in my life I am well aware of the pitfalls of doing this. I discovered an interesting thing a couple of paintings ago, the loosely created, underpainting often provides a good basis for creating rocks. As with most, if not all elements in a painting, both repition and variety is necessary to achieve a convincing naturalism.
The worst thing you can do is repeat an element, be it a rock, a tree, a mountain, a cloud, or a blade of grass in the same general shape and size over and over again. You'll need to keep the basic iconic outline so it's recognizable as what it is, but you really need to be cognizant of varying size, orientation, edges etc. The quickly and freely laid in underpainting provides enough randomness in brush stroke to provide the beginnings of rocks. I spend a fair amount of time looking into the underpainting searching for the shapes I need. It's kind of like looking at a Rorschach inkblot test and discovering something recognizable.
I would really love to finish this painting soon, but with the last painting I let fatigue dictate the finish and ended up going back and making a major revision to the foreground a week or so later. I am vowing to take my time on this. Patience is a virtue!