This the piece I showed earlier in the week, a 24″ by 48″ canvas started last weekend. As you can see by the image to the left, the composition of the landscape has filled in and the sky has began to take shape. I have laid in several layers of brushstrokes in the sky but probably won’t go back into it until I do more on the landscape below. The landscape will set the final tone and feel for the sky and I need more color in it to fully be able to read it.
I sometimes question whether I need to have as many layers of color in the sky because often in the final surface you can’t even discern any of these layers. For example, there is a layer with numerous strokes of violet in the sky here that you probably can’t make out in the picture above. When this piece is complete, you may only be able to see a tiny hint of violet at any point in the sky.
Could I skip that layer and several other similar layers?
Sure. It may not make a bit of difference to the casual observer. But for me, it is an integral part of the process, a slow development of the depth and complexity of the color that I am seeking, a color that I won’t know until it finally shows itself. That little touch of violet is necessary for me, an important step that, if skipped, would have me thinking that something was amiss in the picture.
Leaving the sky, I begin to lay in preliminary colors for the landscape, a variety of blues and greens for the trees and a brownish putty color for the houses and a bit of red for the roofs. It’s always exciting at this point because the color begins to bring real shape and life to the landscape. As each house comes to life with a little color as I work across the canvas, it is like there is a wave of light moving over it. The whole surface begins to feel animated.
After that layer, I begin to lay in the surface of the landscape with a multitude of colors, weighing each block of color as I place it to get a sense of how it fits into the rhythm of the whole. I begin to put on what may or may not be final touches on some of the houses, slashes of white that glows on the canvas. I really am beginning to feel the direction of the painting at this point and have a sense of where it may finish, starting to think how I will handle the blackness of the lake.
I know that this sounds goofy and I can’t really explain in any coherent manner, but there’s a good feeling around this painting at this point. I like it’s strength and think it will show dynamically in its final state. I really like it so far and like a few of the details in it that are new to my work. For example, this scene has a small church graveyard with a road circling it as it overlooks the lake. Although I sometimes reference death and the past in my work and have a great personal fondness for graveyards, I have never actually portrayed a cemetery in my work. But I really wanted to show it as part of the community of this painting. It somehow tempers the piece for me.
So, while the painting is beginning to take shape, there is still a ways to go before I can sit back. I am still trying to see what the final focus of the piece will be, what will give me a name that fits it. Perhaps I should ask you for some help.
Shall we have a Name That Painting Contest?