I have been busy in the studio preparing for my upcoming shows and find myself working on a new piece on a canvas measuring 16″ high by 40″ wide.
After the canvas has been prepped with multiple layers of gesso and a layer of black paint, I compose the painting by laying in the elements of the picture in red oxide paint.
This is my favorite part of the process, the time when I can just let my mind fall into the picture and roll around all the possibilities that it offers. Every stroke is a decision and most are made instinctively, letting the surrounding elements and the underlying texture dictate the next move.
As the piece progresses, the painting takes on its personality in a warm glow of varying reddish tones. At this point I decide where I want to place the focus for the painting. Here I want it to be all about the sky. Painting the sky at this point is not always the norm. Sometimes I go to work on the landscape first, letting it tell me how I will treat the sky. But on this piece the sky comes first, so I begin to lay in colors radiating from around the sun. Or moon. Nothing is really set in stone- or paint-at this point.
As the sky progresses , I veer off momentarily to lay in a little color on the houses and the flat fields that occupy the middle of the painting. I am now at a point where I still have work to do on the sky but the painting is beginning to speak plainly to me. I know what it is and have a fairly good idea of where it can go. I say fairly good because there is still a lot of decisions that will affect the final version. The colors of the landscape, for example, and their intensity and tones.
I am almost always at my most deepest level of infatuation with the piece when I am at this point in the process. The moodiness of the red tones have a shadowy effect that pleases me, that makes the sky contrast a bit more than it may after the colors of the landscape are added. I find myself asking this morning if I should forgo the colors I normally add and focus on creating a tonal composition based on the red oxide. It would be a darker piece than my normal work but if it works as I hope it might, it would carry that feeling that always hooks me as I am working.
So this morning I am sitting here looking over at the easel and deciding if I will spend the day in bright color or in shades of russet.
I like a job where that might be the hardest decision that must be made today…