The process of painting can be likened to that of gardening. Beginning with planting a seed . . . where a seedling forces its way out . . . like a creative spirit and with time and growth moves into being its fully blossomed self. This is an unusual post for me and I hope you enjoy visiting this side of my mind. My plan is to do a monthly post on my exercises of painting my land and gardens. I hope you might be inspired to pick up a brush or palette knife yourself!
|Day One 'Underpainting'|
Each painting is like a seed . . . in that I just begin with an idea of how I want the composition to live on the canvas. Sometimes I might do plein-air or work with one of my photographs. I never wish to copy any photos, but more I try to capture the feeling of life and movement in the garden and landscape. I am only painting Flower Hill Farm these days . . . using my house . . . surrounded by lushness of land and gardens . . . to represent . . . my own sense of the relationship I share with the land. I start with a thin underpainting. Blocking out the forms with bold colors . . . that will in the end only glow through the final painting. I will most often use complementary colors for this . . . so if my final work will be mostly greens . . . I start by laying down reds, oranges and purples.
The painting slowly emerges from layers of oil paint. Light and dark marks creating dimension and forms.
Until the painter must decide to say "Finished!". There are a few paintings within this process. Photographing the various stages, like I do with my plants and gardens, is a fun way to see the growth of each painting. I am not at all sure that the final is the best. I lose some wonderful brush strokes in the process . . . the painful process of growing . . . akin to losses in the gardens. Sometimes I work on more than one painting at the same time. This post shows three paintings created last year . . . over the same period of time . . . using the same vista from the garden for all three. Each takes on a life of its own, similar to the way plants may grow in different parts of the garden, depending on the soil, competition and amounts of sun.
Again I start with my underpainting . . . covering the canvas with the complement of what will later be applied . . . with exception to the sky. I am not putting in the dormers that were added to the old farmhouse. It is fun to be able to build anyway I choose. It works great for pruning too. A painting can be anything I want.
I take a rag and rub out my forms.
Then applications of paint follows. My focus along with the farmhouse . . . (my alter ego) . . . is on a few trees that stand out in the gardens. Two giant Rock Maples (Sugar Maples) near the house . . . and one younger one . . . just in the right foreground. My Metasequoia and an Apple tree finish off the dialogue. The Crabapple orchard is mostly hidden mysteriously over on the far right.
The sun was magical this morning and created glowing pathways about the garden.
The finished, mature painting.
I gave more diversity of language to the arboreal conversation, by including an English Hawthorne and a Japanese Tree Lilac . . . which are standing over to the left . . . just before the blue range of mountains.
|Day One Underpainting|
This painting is quite different, as well, in that I have place the house more between the two giant Maples. I feel these old majestic trees are standing like guardians to the little farmhouse and try to convey that feeling here.
So another new life is spread across the canvas, as with the living canvas of garden . . . I plant and lay out my ghostly ideas and forms, as I do new seeds or small saplings, within my living composition of earth.
Then I nurture and watch my marks grow over the hours and weeks that follow.
Lines and forms are filling a space where they did not exist before. In nature a rabbit might decide he would rather enjoy digesting my seedling 'line' of verbena or a 'mark' of a young native rose. I might destroy a magical brush or knife stroke on my painting . . . and there it is . . . each will take on their own form depending on outside influences of will or elemental happenings.
Something new and alive will always come forth from any creative process. Painting is as personal as a garden and takes on the experiences and vision of its creator, along with their mistakes. I try not to judge myself too harshly . . . I am not a good painter yet . . . but I do dream to be . . . I strive to be . . . to find my way. That is what our lives amount to in anything we do . . . at least in part. We find our inner voice, for each of us is as unique as any snowflake. In order for a plant to grow it must be planted and nurtured. In order for a person to grow towards a goal . . . they must work towards that goal. Too often there are briars of criticism . . . mostly 'self' that keep us from branching out into creative beings. We have to be brave . . . to cast off self doubt and try not to care about what others think. We are all attracted to different styles in gardening and painting. The important thing is to create and keep creating.
Presentation is important too and perhaps this background color is not the best way to show these paintings to you . . . (of course they will look different framed too) . . . but . . . it is a wall in my studio and here they are . . . mostly finished . . . with exception . . . when this photo was taken . . . to the one on the left. It is more finished in the previous photo above. These paintings are simply reflections of me along my path of discovery . . . a young painter of only six years mostly during the winter months. I did study painting in college . . . an art major . . . but that was so long ago . . . I feel I am beginning anew. I have been a photographer for nearly thirty years and do not wish to be a realist or photorealist painter . . . though I love and admire that style of painting. I find these three paintings to be too representational and not showing the magical flow of movement I have captured in earlier paintings. Just now I am trying to learn more about the mixing of colors . . . my palette . . . and their application. I will hopefully be able to go back to the free movement . . . with the added knowledge of understanding color . . . when I am ready.
I am so thankful for the process of learning and my generous coaches/teachers, who give me feedback, while sharing their important knowledge of color, composition, and mostly their own discoveries along the way. I know the best way to paint is from nature. I must overcome the fear of biting insects . . . especially ticks, before I can set up outside again and truly learn to paint. . . not to mention continue to work with my garden, which is a living canvas that is never finished.
If you would like to see other paintings, you can visit my Paintings page at the top of my blog.