Two months ago I started as oil painting based on a view of the vineyards below Volpaia. The 16th century hilltop village is home to a winery. We enjoyed a delicious lunch under the trees overlooking the surrounding landscape.
The food was wonderful. Yet it’s the landscape that I can still taste! So much so that yesterday’s pastel and today’s are both inspired by my recollection of it.
Frankly, I am surprised at how similar the two pastels are to each other. I am using both of them to finish work on my oil painting of the same view. I like the gestural calligraphy in this one. The other is more painterly. I am trying to capture both in the painting.
Memory is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to color. It’s not so much that I can picture it in my mind’s eye. It’s more of how it feels.
This is how it feels to be in Tuscany as the seasons change. It’s not just one day, or one view. Autumn in Tuscany is ripe, full bodied, sweet grapes, dripping from vines. Families in vineyards picking by hand, deep purple fruit. Olives coaxed from limbs with a good shake, collected in buckets. Bound for the table. Vin Santo, sweet and earthy.
Appreciation. I think the pastel says it better than words ever could.
I have been looking for something here in Tuscany. Some something indescribable ~ knowable only when it shows itself on canvas.
Autumn in Tuscany
Last week on our way home from a day of painting en plein air, I saw three golden trees against a backdrop of rich, freshly tilled earth. Late afternoon sunlight lit them against the mountain.
A triangle of trees standing on a patch of lush green in the middle of that deep lavender red earth ~ I couldn’t get them out of my mind.
The following week, I woke from a dream with a vision of middle ground. The neutral earthy hue that is both warm and cool at once. And with it a realization about painting.
I have been painting from the outside ~ in. I have been painting from the extremes of the spectrum ~ to create balance in each painting ~ to balance myself.
Suddenly, I feel myself at the center, a neutral place. From this center, each brush stroke swings wider out into the spectrum of light.
I scrubbed the warm/cool earthy violet neutral into my panel. Thinking of my paint as if it were pure pigment of pastel, I used a palette knife to paint back into the neutral tone. First shadowing the mountain with cool blues. Then warming the earth with reds.
The earth divided into warm and cool tones itself. Cool lavenders dropping into the distance, warm reds moving closer into the foreground.
The trio of trees followed suit in the green-yellow range of the spectrum. The last strokes of paint, pure Cadmium Yellow.
The entire process flowed as readily as if I had pastel in hand.
Revelation in Brilliance
I know it sounds bizarre for someone who paints as much as I do to say this. Yet I have wished for years that my oil paintings would flow like my pastels. I had given up the notion that it was possible to do in two mediums.
Yet here it is. And I am surprised at how dark the painting is, when there is so much light coming from it. This is what I came to Tuscany to find.