Painting in Italy for two months, I’d wished to absorb the Tuscan lifestyle. I wondered what it would look like if it could seep into my paintings?
I think it’s finally beginning to show itself!
I painted these two small plein air paintings in my backyard garden of Mathews last week. I can feel the warmth and friendly nature ~ the joy of simply being here ~ in both of these paintings.
2 Backyard Garden Paintings in the Village of Mathews
A village landmark, this corner eatery is festive and popular with the locals. It could be in Tuscany? in Venice? in France? it’s in Mathews, Va!
I am so grateful to live in such a warm and friendly village.
Hunkered in the shade of the Halcyon building, I turned my easel 90 degrees for another village view.
Painting my backyard garden with a cottage silhouette gave me a new way of seeing a local landmark. The old Sibley’s Store takes on a joyful disposition juxtaposed with the corner garden blooming across the street.
Even the pole garden beside it lights up. I find myself wishing for blooming flowers cascading from the front porch!
What grows in my garden is never quite as awe inspiring as what I’d imagined it would be when I planted it. I’ve had this dream of a lush garden like Monet’s Giverny. Really? A staff of gardeners, volunteers/NOT!
Gardening and Painting have much in Common
I doubled the size of my sunny flower bed this past year. Tilling an oval shape out into the lawn, it is the only really sunny spot for flowers. Added leaf mulch from the compost, tilled it in, I finally got some flowers planted this spring.
You can see the pinks and magenta coneflower, and some shasta daisies in the foreground. Those glads are new too, along with some zinnia seeds I threw in below them.
Visiting Monet’s garden when I was in France was a dream come true. I am still thinking about the relationship between Monet’s paintings and his garden.
Structure plays a big role in any garden, especially true for Monet. The long horizontal facade on Monet’s house creates a wonderful backdrop for the entire Giverny Garden. Even this simple photograph shows off the purple flowers ~ more prominently than if the pink and verdigris backdrop were removed.
Painting in a Backyard Garden
This gave me an idea I’d been pondering about painting a series of cottage gardens. A pink cottage on my walk to the bay has been niggling away in the back of my mind for weeks. I still haven’t been back to paint it, the question about it remains and fuels this painting idea further.
I tested it out on my own backyard garden. Using the silhouette of my house as a backdrop, I painted the pinks and purple Coneflowers in the foreground.
This is a small painting, 16″ x 16″. Though I envisioned a larger one, I resisted the temptation to paint larger.
This painting captures how I feel about my garden, my dream of having that Monet garden by the pond. Dreams are way more tangible than we give them credit. Dreams actually fuel many of the real things in life. This painting has made me realize that I DO have my own “Monet Garden” ~ it looks like my heart, not Monet’s!
Would you like me to paint your backyard garden? If you live within 150 miles of my Virginia studio or somewhere that I travel, I’d be thrilled to paint your garden. Learn more.
Structure is a hot topic. I had lunch with two friends this week and osteoporosis was a topic of discussion in both conversations. One a writer, the other an artist, we chatted about creating both art and bones.
The Connection Between Art & Healing ~ Osteoporosis
I have been doing a lot of architectural paintings recently. Since my diagnosis of osteopenia in January, I now see the correlation to my attraction to painting buildings. This insight is helping me create a new daily structure of yoga, painting, eating well and enjoying friends. This is a healthier lifestyle than the workaholic one I was living without the support of exercise, friendships and regular meals.
Even my garden paintings are being impacted by this renewed awareness of structure. In the initial block-in, it’s easy to see the bones of this painting. Remember my post about the botanic garden last week? That’s where I first saw these tulips! To draw the tulip garden, I started with a gold ochre pastel on a 24 x 30 Ampersand sanded board.
Since artists are thought to be unstructured, these marks may appear random at first. So I will show you the structure I am using in this sequence, and how it is related to my osteopenia.
Pastel Painting Lesson
How Painting is Helping Rebuild my Skeleton
Drawing is an extension of one’s signature. Everyone writes or signs their own name without thinking, a calligraphic expression of one’s heart. Like my signature, the scribbling calligraphy of my lines creates the specific foundation suitable for my painting.
Think of my canvas as a mirror. As I adjust each color, shape, and intensity, smoothing out or ruffling up ~ the same is happening in my aura reflected in the mirror. Like DNA, the wavelengths of my colors and shapes correspond to my own. I don’t need to see or want to know all the details. See that the colors work together, smooth out the hair, check for something out of whack, a little lip stick and off we go.
Like a prayer, my painting is simply a request for help and guidance. For a split second I let go of my fears and concerns about it turning out well. Yes, I still have them ~ without them I wouldn’t be able to paint!
Drawing is like holding a live wire. I hope you can see and feel the charge of glowing embers in these simple, rudimentary drawings.
Once I have drawn the image I use broad cool shapes to connect the shadows. The side of the pastel is perfect as a wide brush. You can see the wide triangle of cool shapes anchored along the bottom of the painting, coming up the sides, then slanting toward the center.
The tip of the cool triangle is missing. Instead it forms a V-shape in the center. This shape is open for receiving light from above.
In the second photo, I have added lavender pink to the cool shadow triangle. These pinks are part of the same anchor triangle. The cool neutral greens and cool pinks are complimentary colors, opposites on the color wheel. Yet together they read as one dynamic cool shadow.
Again the V-shape is still open.
Shoring up the structure, I add a few more bones for the tulips and hyacinths with deep gold ochre calligraphy. At this stage, I am not thinking about all this structure as I am painting. That would be like focusing on how to create bones when I do my yoga! As I move from one yoga pose to the next, cells in my body are called upon to build strength and bone mass. Painting the shadow structure of the flowers does the same in my painting ~ establishing an hospitable plot for my healing garden.
An Important Note About the Shadow Side
Without the shadow side, the flowers would blow away. Without the dark side of this story (my osteopenia), there would be no story, no painting, no friends to share it with. I shudder to think what would become of me if my bones dissolve!
Integration of Light with Shadow
This third photo shows the highlights. Using a cool Nickel Yellow, I broadly stroke light shapes around the top of the triangle. You can see I have filled out the shadow with a few more cooler greens near the top of the triangle.
Notice how the light shapes begin to go in between some of the shadow shapes. And some of the shadow shapes reach up a bit to help define light areas. Without light, there is no color. It’s all shades of gray or pure intense pigment. I do not use black paint. White paint is only used when tinted with color. And with pastel, most of the color mixing is done on the painting itself.
Heart is the Healer
Now take a look at the placement of the three hot pink shapes ~ heart centers. These accent the shape of the triangle, tilting it back and open to the light. Seeing them now I realize they are my soul sisters. And the Deep Cadmium Yellow and Dark Gold Ochre calligraphy of the hyacinths brings the eye back down to ground in the lower right corner.
A bridge between earth and heaven, our heart connects us. A human being connects heart and mind day by day, moment by moment. No one stays connected all the time. The heart/mind/body/spirit connection is a pulse. Connect/Release, Connect/Release.
It only takes a split second to let this connection happen. Trying to stop it feels like holding the weight of the world on our shoulders.