Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lesson one:
Impressionism means impressionism.
Lesson two: Embrace the wildness!

Evening Reflections © 2011 Karen Mathison Schmidt
11 x 14 x 3/4 inches • oil on 3/4" cradled Gessobord
gloss varnish for UV protection • sides painted dark umber
can be beautifully displayed with or without a frame

Auction ends June 4

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Memorial Day holiday yesterday. We had a quiet time around the house, and so I had a good, long stretch of time at the easel. Wonderful!

I don’t know if it was the leisurely big breakfast, or maybe the four-plus cups of coffee, but I managed to finish this one (which I had already made a start on) and another little one of the pear tree yesterday.

This painting is a late spring, just-before-sunset landscape painting of the pond just down the road from us. I used a painting knife on the foreground grasses, and brushwork on the tree and sky ... lots of color layers and fun texture ... and somewhat different from the way I started out to make this painting!

Here were the work-in-progress photos as of the beginning of yesterday’s work:

First, the acrylic underpainting, consisting of the initial sketch in indigo, and glazes of color in the different areas. Then, more glazes: yellow in the sky, red and fuschia over the horizon trees and their reflection, and the foreground grasses:

Now I started adding the oil colors, starting with the sky and its reflection:

I kept adding oil colors; what I didn't realize at this point was I was getting far too attached to my initial sketch, not allowing for any spontaneity at all ...

... so by the time I ended up with this, at the end of the day ...

... I did not like the way it was turning out AT ALL! As a result, I was in kind of a grumpy mood at dinner time. I said, “Well, it’s over. I’m a TERRIBLE artist. I’m going to have to figure out something ELSE to do.” At which point Paul just started laughing, and kidded me out of my crummy mood.

So the next day before I sat down at the easel, I took two of my art books, which I often use to get “unstuck,” off the shelf: California Impressionism by William H. Gerdts and Will South, and Painting the Impressionist Landscape by Lois Griffel. I browsed through these for about half an hour while I finished my morning coffee, studying the paintings in detail and coming to the realization that I had been trying to be too controlling in my approach, instead of balancing that control with some spontaneity, a MUST when trying to capture the untamed wildness of the landscape around here.

I don’t have any work-in-progress photos from today, because once I picked up the painting knife I just went to work and got lost in the process. I did stop once for a lunch break, at which time I studied what I had done so far and made a few changes in my head. Paul always laughs at me when I do this ... just staring trance-like at the painting propped up on the mantle while munching on my sandwich. Then after we finished our lunch I couldn’t wait to get right back to it until I finished an hour or so later. It was kind of funny, a whirlwind of painting right there at the end, and then, quite suddenly, I stopped and looked at the painting, put my knives and brushes down, wiped my hands, threw my arms up in the air like a rodeo contestant just finishing up roping a calf, and said aloud: "DONE!”

Which made me laugh.

Then, because I wasn’t quite ready to stop for the day ... those creative juices were still flowing ... I did another little one, of a couple of ripe pears on the pear tree out back (no, it’s not quite harvest time; I used a reference photo of last year’s pears.)

Anyway, my two lessons that I already knew but were reinforced during the execution of this painting are:

1) The root word of impressionism is impression. Keep it LOOSE! Let the viewer’s brain complete the work of seeing.

2) Especially when it comes to attempting to depict the rural landscape of Louisiana, don't try to tame the untameable (we already get enough of that trying to keep our yard in shape)!

Oh, by the way, below is a photo of the actual scene of this painting. As you can see, although we do have plenty of irises growing wild around here, there are no waterside lilies beside this pond in real life; those just sort of appeared during the painting process, like a little gift, and I went with it.

Now who would want to tame this?

No comments: