Monday, April 23, 2012

Four Compositional Studies

Spring is a pretty time of the year. Too pretty. Pink cherry trees, yellow forsythia, crimson maples, pink and white dogwoods, purple lilacs, bright green grass, splashes of  yellow sunshine on the ground. It's all so pretty that paintings of spring run the risk of looking too sweet and sentimental, too unreal, as if there should be ponies and unicorns prancing though them, or they begin to look to nostalgic.

Don't get me wrong, I love pink trees and I'm determined to plant a cherry tree in our front yard next spring (or maybe this fall), and I have several dogwoods, a lilac and a crab apple. It's just that it's tough to paint them while keeping the painting, beautiful, powerful and authentic to the season without it becoming cliched and syrupy.

The scene I'm working with is the backyard of an historic home on Main Street in our downtown, with a gorgeous pink cherry tree and some other twisty trees full of character and strength. I decided to do these small compositional studies in my sketchbook to play around with the composition to see if I could come up with a strategy that would help me capture the feel of spring without falling into the pony-land trap.

Here's what my notes say about each sketch. Upper Left: A safe composition, but very predictable, plus I have a house ":face" (windows and door that look like a face) staring out from the center of the picture. Lower Left: The simplest of all the compositions, but perhaps too boring. Lower Right: Shadow and light pattern on the building in the lower right corner must be played up to balance the pink tree diagonally across from it and that may create a conflict of focal points. Upper Right: Has the most complexity and variety and keeps the amount of pink to a minimum so it doesn't take over the painting. I also think that one has the most potential for creating an interesting break up of and sense of space. With a few modifications (like extending the foreground) I chose to go with that composition.


Here's the modified composition sketched on linen with a raw sienna aquarelle crayon, sealed with acrylic spray and then glazed over with a pale yellow to eliminate the white if the canvas.

I'm actually thinking that the twisty fruit tree against the white buildings in the upper right is going to be the focal point (though it's not in the sketch) and the pink tree is going to be held down in intensity to play a supporting role, yet give that really spring-y feel to the painting. That's the plan any way. We'll see. These things sometimes take on a life of their own!

A couple of newsworthy items to share with you

My painting Experience is an Arch was accepted into the 4th Annual  International Society of Acrylic Painters On Line Exhibit.  

The Sea Runs Back was juried into the Academic Artists Association 62nd National Exhibit in Springfield MA. Opening reception is Sunday Apr. 29, 1-4pm stop in if you're in the area and say "hi" and see the beautiful paintings. 

Gray and Tender Rain was accepted by the jury of selection for the annual National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic Exhibition" Show opens May14th at the Salmagundi Club, NYC

The View from Blueberry Hill I was juried into the Connecticut Plein Air Painters Invitational Spring Exhibit at the Lyme Art Assoc. Opening reception Friday, May 4th, 6-8pm, Old Lyme CT

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