Sunday, September 25, 2011

Painting from Memory

 New tonalist autumn landscape...
Angels on the Oak Leaves, 18x24, acrylic on linen panel, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2011
View it on my website here

Angels on the Oak Leaves, framed.

A couple of very late nights in the studio and this one is now finished. It still needs several isolation coats and then several coats of varnish, but that's about it. I tried it in the new frame style I've been using  and I like it.

Here's the reference photo

And this  is one of the  Bruce Crane paintings that I kept close by for inspirtion....

Bruce Crane, Autumn, 1901

The other is in a private collection and I couldn't find an image of it on the internet. Perhaps you can see some of the compositional similarities that drew me to this work based on the photograph. Two groups of trees left and right, forming a "gateway" and a third group of trees further back, plus a serpentine lead in (stream). Of course there are also many differences in the spacial arrangement, but enough similrities to provide guidance and inspiration. 

Because the panel was a different length to width ration than the photo, which was longer, I had to compress the scene and bring the viewer further into it creating a more intimate encounter, much like the Crane painting above.

All the perspective lines in the photo lead back to the end of the fence, left of center, yet that gorgeous red bush is far to the right so I transplanted it to that area to create a center of interest and a better compositional arrangement. 

Once my under painting was done, I put the photo aside and barely looked at it again, because generally 90% of my paintings are created from memory and imagination.

I recently came across this blog, Secrets of a Modern Painter, written by Gabriel Boray and I found a four part series about painitng from memory. This small excerpt is from Part 4 of the series:

"Working from photographs is completely different than working from memory; relying on only your mind and soul to call forth the vision will add more breath and life to your work than any increased facility with rendering that photographs may offer could ever come close to. Photographs are great for stimulating ideas, and useful for studying and memory of course, but try to keep them separate from the direct painting experience - they will only get between your mind and your memory." ~ Gabriel Boray

I really like this line of thinking. It's an aesthetic value that I have always embraced and held in very high regard.

In part 1 of the series I found this provocative statement... "In order to quickly gain confidence and develop your own painting style you should primarily paint from memory." ~ Gabriel Boray

For someone who has been bombarded with the plein air and classical painters mantra work from life, that statement is quite provocative indeed. Yet, I believe that he is right, to most fully develop your own unique style, and add power and authenticity to your work you can't be a copyist of any sort. Though I will say that copying from life is a thousand times better than copying a photo. 

Expressive and emotional content is my most highly valued aesthetic component in a painting and that can never be achieved by copying, but can only come when the subject is filtered through time, memory, your unconscious and the depths of your soul.

The title for this piece comes from a line in Saint Columba's The Prayer of Colum Cille...All full of angels is every leaf on the oaks of Derry, which I came across while I was on a retreat last week exploring the Celtic Saints of the church.

Now I have to decide what I'll do next. I feel like doing some drawings in charcoal or conte crayon. So maybe I'll take a little time and do one or two before moving on to another painting, and for some reason I feel like working small, go figure! Stay tuned!


Paula Ann Ford said...

Stunning piece, Jan!! WOW!!

oli said...

Beautiful painting, I'll stay tuned.