Friday, March 10, 2017

A return to loose color

Wild Iris
One of my friends who saw my May Garden painting last year commented that she'd like to see it without the trees in the composition, and I've been thinking about trying that since then. I really didn't think I could make an interesting composition without the tree trunks framing the flowers, but after quitting work on the abstract, I pulled out a 16x20 panel and just started blocking it in. I switched from brights and flats to filberts for the rounded flowers and leaves. At some point in the second day I discovered how much adding stem-like strokes did to add both form and energy to the seriously overgrown foliage in the foreground.

From then on I just kept layering on subtle variations of hues over the whole painting. When I added the darkest greens I began to feel like I was channeling Vincent van Gogh and started really paying attention to my brushstrokes and how I was weaving the darker tones into the middle and lighter values.

When I thought it was finished this morning I started taking photos of it and immediately noticed little problems with it—mostly in places where I had unintentionally created the appearance of a straight vertical or horizontal line—just fixed two more of those. I've done about seven cycles of that and now I think I've fixed them all!

But other than than that, this has been a joy to work on. The scene is how I imagine a hillock and ditch overflowing with wild iris and other moisture-loving plants, with March-wind-blown fir trees in the background.

This year I switched from sitting down to standing while painting, and I recommend one particular item—an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. I had to trim it a tiny bit to slide it up into my easel base, but it was worth it. My palette stand is about 4-6" too short, but that's the only real problem. It took me a few days to get used to standing up for hours at a time, but I'm glad I did.

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