Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thinking Spring! A work in progress...

This is where I am today, about 1/2 way through this new painting. It's pretty bleak outside right now with most of the snow gone so I am thinking about spring! 

Like autumn spring can be a difficult season to paint. Both seasons with their remarkable colors can seem incredible, as in non-credible, when they are painted. 

Foster Caddell writes in one of his books that there are perhaps more bad paintings of autumn than any other season. The reason is the actual colors of the trees in fall are so intense that when faithfully translated to canvas they all seem to fight with one another in a garish parody of themselves. It is up to the artist to subdue many of the bright and fiery autumn colors to allow one to sing out with clarity in a painting.

Spring has a similar problem. All the fabulous pastel colors of spring that make our heart leap after months of barren gray and brown can come across as saccharine and sentimental and akin to a cheap greeting card if we are not careful. Pastelist Elizabeth Mowry  notes that she prefers to paint the seasons just when they are turning rather than when they are at their height. The anticipatory moment of a season just ready to burst forth or the solemn look back as a season withers away presents far more subtle and poetic subject matter than the season in it's fullness which may seem cliche for having been painted and photographed so often by so many. Focusing on the clues to a season's arrival or departure can make for a much more sophisticated painting.

This is the block in stage of the painting from a day or two ago. Notice that the large shapes are flat and broadly painted establishing the design and the basic value structure. If the painting is reasonably strong at this point it will not be difficult to develop it into a finished piece that is successful. 

Here we have the reference photo that I took last spring. This will serve as a model for the tree, and inspiration for the mood and feeling of an early spring day. It's interesting to note that the colors of spring are really the same colors we see in autumn but in a lighter tint.

Spring can be difficult to paint not only because of the abundance of fantasy colors: pinks, lavenders, yellow greens etc. but because spring encompasses a million tiny elements, buds, petals, twigs, new leaves the size of squirrels ears (that's how the native Americans knew it was time to plant, when the leaves on the trees were the size of squirrel's ears!) so massing is very important. Yet when you mass you must keep the feeling in the foliage light and airy, lest your trees look like petrified cotton candy!

I am hoping that this piece , which I intend to call Persephone's Arrival ( or Return, I'm not sure) will be a suitable companion for Persephone's Farewell, painted last autumn...

Both have  a similar composition and the idea behind the both pieces is basically the same, though I wish I had remembered to make them the same size! Persephone's Farewell, above is 16 x20  and the new spring piece is 20x24. Oh well!


Janelle Goodwin said...

Thank you for the key information on painting autumn and spring landscapes, Jan. You certainly captured these seasons with elegance. Also, I want to let you know how much I enjoyed seeing your new studio. I can only hope for such a studio someday. But in the meantime, thanks for allowing me to dream!

Vikki Bouffard said...

Thinking Spring--I love that! Also loved the video on your new studio--I wish you many happy hours of painting in that beautiful space..